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December 14, 2023
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VC Rakesh Narayana: Investors shape the future of consumer product trends.

Key Elements:

  • Rakesh Narayana, general manager of Access VC, believes investors have a responsibility to envision the future of consumer products.
  • Access VC, Reckitt’s corporate venture capital (CVC) firm, has invested over $50 million in more than 30 startups since its launch in 2020.
  • Narayana views corporate venture capital as a way to bridge the gap between large consumer packaged goods conglomerates and innovative indie brands.

Over the past five years, corporate venture capital (CVC) has gained substantial traction in the startup funding landscape. Access VC, Reckitt’s own CVC firm, intends to spearhead this change. Established in 2020 by Rakesh Narayana, the firm observed that most consumer venture funding was oriented towards traditional food and beverage brands rather than the less-populated sectors of sexual health and hygiene. Narayana also noted a lack of brands catering to or led by people of color, alongside a surge in consumer demand for healthier product alternatives.

Since its inception, Access VC has invested over $50 million in more than 30 startups across a broad range of sectors and stages, counting sexual wellness brand Maude and men’s wellness brand Asystem among its portfolio.

Narayana’s journey began in India, raised by a single mother and later moved to London for higher education. His professional career includes a stint at Boston Consulting Group as a consultant before delving into the consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector. The tactical interaction with consumer brands and their influence on customers ignited Narayana’s passion for the CPG niche.

Narayana highlighted the role of CVC in drawing a bridge between large CPG conglomerates and more innovative indie brands: “There is a large difference and gap between big companies being able to do disruptive innovation and the startups and universities and laboratories that have real cutting-edge innovation. Corporate venture capital, in some ways, is meant to bridge that gap.” He further outlined the mission of Access VC, differentiating it from traditional venture capital and emphasizing investors’ role in promoting innovation.

Access VC is keeping a keen eye especially on women’s health and metabolic health products, sectors where Narayana believes there’s a lack of leading brands. The company is eager to identify those who will break the mold in these targeted sectors. This strategic approach and the company’s understanding of startups as a window into the future of mass retail, are integral to its success in providing growth capital to innovative startups.

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