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Brit Morin on making it: 'Martha Stewart of tech' raises millions

June 26, 2013|By Jessica Guynn
(David Butow / For The Times )

SAN FRANCISCO -- She may not have made it quite yet, but Brit Morin is well on her way to crafting a lifestyle brand that resonates with Silicon Valley engineers and stay-at-home moms alike, do-it-yourselfers who share a longing to be creative in an increasingly prefabricated world.

The 27-year-old San Francisco entrepreneur, who's been called "the Martha Stewart of high tech," has now raised millions of dollars from investors (including Morin's former high-powered boss, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer) who are backing her vision of bringing this "maker movement" to mainstream America.

On Wednesday, Morin announced that her company, Brit + Co., had closed a $6.3-million round of funding led by Oak Investment Partners, with participation from Index Ventures, Lerer Ventures and Cowboy Ventures. The round includes previous angel investors, including Mayer and Aileen Lee, a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In April 2012, Brit raised $1.25 million in a seed round.

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With her combination of technical know-how and homespun craftiness, Morin says she's filling an unmet need: showing people that they too have the creativity and the time to make cool stuff, say a summer sno-cone garland or hack an old dress with custom stamps and some fabric paint.

"There is definitely such an emotional response when people start talking about their experiences doing creative things. Some people have one or two hobbies or crafts that they are proud of. But I’d say a majority of the country feels like they aren't creative. That drives me even more, to prove to them that they are and they can be creative," Morin said.

Morin says she tries to make projects more accessible by pointing DIYers to an app or gadget that makes a project faster or easier, cutting down the number of steps or the number of tools a project requires, or selling supplies or kits with all the materials needed and step-by-step instructions.

"That's the goal for us inherently as company is to enable people to be more creative even if they think they aren't," Morin said.

Morin's company is one of several, including handmade product retailer Etsy and online bulletin board Pinterest, riding the wave of interest in becoming craftier.

Brit + Co. now has a staff of 16, a stable of mobile apps, brand partnerships and a growing e-commerce business, Morin said.

The editorial content on the site is being shepherded by a former editor from Real Simple. The former chief revenue officer from Funny or Die is leading sales and partnerships.

Morin won't say how many users Brit + Co. currently, has but since launching her company about 18 months ago, she says millions have joined her DIY fold. That audience has grown eleven-fold over the past year and boasts 60% of its traffic from mobile devices.

Morin says she is spending a great deal of her time trying to get to know her users, whether jewelry designers in Los Angeles or goat cheese farmers in Nebraska. She plans to hit the road this year to meet more of them in person.

"This year we have been focused on building community and getting to know our users at a much deeper level than most companies do," Morin said.

Brit + Co. is bursting at the seams in a trilevel penthouse loft near AT&T Park, so it's planning to relocate to new and larger digs in Union Square, San Francisco's retail center. Morin said she hopes to set aside space for the community to take part in workshops.

"We figured we have all of these cool machines and materials we use to make stuff, we should teach other people to do it, too," she said.


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