Dehydration is a major issue affecting us and no one is immune to it – from elite athletes to everyday citizens. Liquid I.V., the hydration-focused startup launched in 2012, uses Cellular Transport Technology (CTT) to deliver the company’s range of drink mixes directly to the bloodstream. Following the World Health Organization’s strict guidelines for Oral Rehydration Solution, the company’s flagship product, Hydration Multiplier, delivers 2-3x more water into users’ bloodstream than just drinking water alone. For every purchase of Liquid I.V., a packet is donated to someone in need around the world, and there has now been a total of 1.54 million servings of Liquid I.V. donated to people in need in areas where potable access to water is constrained.
La TechWatch sat down with CEO and founder Brandin Cohen to learn more about the inspiration for creating a 360-degree wellness brand, the company’s future plans, and recent star-studded funding round, which brings its total funding to raised to $10M.
tWho were your investors and how much did you raise?
It’s our CTW (Change the World) Partner Round, a small exclusive strategic round post Series B. $5M raised in the round from investors that include Scooter Braun, Demi Lovato, Kendall Jenner, Hailey & Justin Bieber, Kevin Hart, James Corden, Gary Vaynerchuk, Steve Aoki, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, DJ Khaled, Usher, Yes Theory, Jake Kassan, Elle Walker, Moiz Ali, Freddy Wexler, and Serena Ventures.
Liquid I.V. is a health-science nutrition company created to fuel life’s adventures. Our line of drink mixes stands out in the market because they’re powered by Cellular Transport Technology (CTT™), which delivers hydration and other key nutrients rapidly into the bloodstream. Essentially, we help our consumers feel better, faster. Our flagship product, Hydration Multiplier, is known for delivering 2-3x more water into your bloodstream than water alone.
All of our products utilize CTT because it’s the fastest and most efficient way to get water and key functional ingredients into the bloodstream. We recently launched Liquid I.V. Sleep, which has received strong reviews from consumers who are amazed at how quickly they’re able to fall asleep. All our products are natural, non-GMO, free of artificial ingredients, and taste delicious.
What inspired you to start Liquid I.V.?
My first experience of making a positive impact was when I started a business in college to send over 20,000 meals to Haiti after a devastating earthquake in 2010. I realized how passionate I was about helping other people live better lives. That has remained the fuel for me.
The concept behind Liquid I.V. came together when I was a sales rep for the Arizona Diamondbacks. I became close friends with a few of the players on the team and saw firsthand the lack of clean, truly effective products they were using to perform at the highest level. Seeing professional baseball players drink hydration products like Pedialyte that are marketed for babies and contain artificial stuff was eye-opening, and I recognized a need for adults looking to hydrate with clean ingredients for their healthy active lifestyles.
How is Liquid I.V. different?
The main thing that sets LIV products apart is our science, Cellular Transport Technology (CTT). Other products are not capable of delivering water and key functional ingredients this rapidly and efficiently into the bloodstream. Our formulas follow the guidelines set by the World Health Organization for Oral Rehydration Solution, and we can actually get ingredients other than water into the bloodstream as well.
We combine powerful science, clean ingredients, great taste, and a prominent giveback mission to create a customer experience that encompasses key aspects of why consumers want to buy and support a brand.
What are the biggest challenges of building a hydration-focused company?
We were one of the first to introduce the idea that proper hydration is the ultimate life hack. We’ve built our brand on hydration and we’re leveraging it to launch our next chapter as a 360-degree wellness company. We had the challenge of being one of the first electrolyte brands to use more expensive, healthy non-GMO ingredients, and scale fast enough to have a sustainable business. When we were starting out, Gatorade, Powerade, and Pedialyte were the main hydration products on the market, and none of them put an emphasis on clean ingredients
What market is Liquid IV targeting and how big is it?
Hydration is for everyone. Whether you’re an elite athlete, a mom with 2 kids who does not drink enough water, someone who suffers from sleeplessness, a person with an autonomic disorder seeking clean electrolytes, or a business traveler, we’ve created a line of products that help you achieve optimal wellness.
What’s your business model?
We have a modern-day omnichannel business. Between our 20,000+ stores and our rapidly-growing direct-to-consumer business, we’ve created so many ways for our consumer to find our product and give back. Our giveback mission is built into our model… for every purchase of Liquid I.V., we donate a serving to someone in need around the world.
What was the funding process like?
This round was different from rounds in the past. Cash wasn’t the top priority, bringing in the best partners was. Scooter Braun has been an incredible business partner and a key force behind this round. He had invested early last year, and after a huge year of growth for the business, Scooter and I started talking about how we could take the business to the next level. A few months later, 20 of the top celebrities in the world had invested. Having all these leaders believe in our brand and mission is special. From having strategy sessions with visionary business leader Gary Vaynerchuk, to hearing that Kendall Jenner loves our Passion Fruit flavor, to creating custom flavors for Steve Aoki to throw at his shows, the entire process has been surreal.
A few months later, 20 of the top celebrities in the world had invested. Having all these leaders believe in our brand and mission is special. From having strategy sessions with visionary business leader Gary Vaynerchuk, to hearing that Kendall Jenner loves our Passion Fruit flavor, to creating custom flavors for Steve Aoki to throw at his shows, the entire process has been surreal.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
As our business has scaled, outside capital has been available, but that wasn’t the focus. Our main goal was finding the best people in their fields who wanted to help us change the world. The challenge was in selecting who would be the best fit for our team moving forward. We actually turned away a fair amount of money this round because we really wanted our investors to be the right fit, and our current investors are an absolute dream team. From personally selling one stick at a time at Whole Foods demos in 2016, to now strategically picking A-list partners to join our mission, it’s pretty incredible.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
They each had their own specific reasons, but generally speaking… our rapid growth in combination with the opportunity to be a part of something larger. Our investors have been drawn to our mission to help people live better lives everywhere. Our sales growth is a natural draw, but seeing our dedication to defeating dehydration globally and our commitment to changing the world seemed to be the piece that brought people in.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We will surpass 2 million sticks donated worldwide to those in need, we will start the blueprints for the first CTW School to bring better education to Nepal, launch our 3rd product line, continue to build upon our strong culture as our team grows, and most importantly, we will continue to create great products that fuel the adventures of our incredible LIV community.
What advice can you offer companies in Los Angeles that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
One of the pillars of our giveback mission is “You have to start somewhere,” meaning that doing anything on a grand scale is going to take relentless effort and persistence. Having the courage to just start, and keep taking the next step, is really powerful.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
It’s important to us that Liquid I.V. is synonymous with creating the highest quality products and giving back to those in need. We’ve already established ourselves as one of the fastest-growing wellness brands in the world, with great products that fuel life’s adventures—now we are ramping up our giveback mission even more. We’re building out a plan to bring higher education to impoverished communities like the one we visited in Nepal, and we couldn’t be more driven by this.
What is your favorite restaurant in LA?
Scopa in Marina del Rey