Q&A About P&G Ventures

Betsy Bluestone, commercial discovery leader, and Lauren Thaman, vice president of communication, explain more about at P&G Ventures.


Betsy Bluestone

How does P&G Ventures work to advance innovation for Procter & Gamble?

Bluestone: Every P&G employee is responsible for innovation in whatever work they do, and every one of our business units has a process and a team that is dedicated to upstream innovation. P&G Ventures exists to create new businesses in new categories for the company. For example, we wouldn’t work in beauty and skin care – we obviously have Olay, SK-II, First Aid Beauty – but we would work in medicated skin care, and we [introduced] a brand in medicated skin care a couple years ago to help treat eczema and psoriasis.

Thaman: We see a tremendous amount of innovation in the marketplace and pass leads on technologies back and forth [with the company]. They are focused on innovation in, say, fabric care, where we might work on personal performance or active aging and other things that are not specific to our core business units.

What is your general approach to bringing products to market?

Thaman: Every one of our products goes through discover/create/build/scale phases. At the build phase, we make the decision as to whether it stays within P&G Ventures or does it go into a business unit or does it go into a launch pad like the partnership we have with [the third-party] M13 Launchpad. All businesses we work with – if they are successful – are expected to roll over into a [P&G] business unit.

Bluestone: We have a skincare product called Opte [which uses inkjet technology to even out skin tone] that goes into market later this year. We have three other businesses in the public domain, and those products are all available for purchase direct to consumer. For [insect spray] Zevo, we have been incubating that DTC as well as with The Home Depot and Target.

How strictly do you evaluate the performance of new products?

Bluestone: Using lean principles allows us to move much more quickly and less expensively. We have specific gates along the journey to in-market that the brands need to meet. It’s kind of like ‘Do not pass go’ until you’ve achieved these milestones. I’d say there is the appropriate amount of rigor that allows us to move quickly and less expensively but still ultimately to have the proof and confidence we need to move to the next phase of development.

What is the rationale for focusing primarily on DTC?

Bluestone: The idea in starting every one of these businesses direct-to-consumer is the amount you can learn without having massive excess inventory at your retailers. We’re amassing awareness and believers in the brand before we ever get to that point.

How do you identify the categories it wants to explore?

Bluestone: We always start with who will be consuming and how they will consume. In which markets do we see the biggest growth, then what are the pain points [and] grappling with those that have not been solved to the consumer’s satisfaction. If you take a look at a topic like sleep – there’s falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up feeling rested – all these different jobs to be done in that space and understanding why consumers are struggling within each area.

Thaman: We’re also excited about the work we’re doing in active aging. There are multiple factors that affect one’s ability to age in place. We’re looking at all of those things that happen – whether it’s incontinence, hydration, mobility – to cause cognitive decline.

Lauren Thaman

How would you say P&G Ventures is unique in its field?

Thaman: I sat at a roundtable last year with 60-70 other companies that are working in venture areas. The difference with us is our accountability to the board.

Bluestone: One of the things we’re focused on as an organization is making sure we’re seeing diversity in deal flow. Less than 3% of all venture funding goes to female founders, and we have been very deliberate in partnering with all types of VCs, specifically those whose thesis is to invest in female founders. That’s something entirely authentic to P&G and its commitment to gender equality.

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