Carmen Busquets, the Venezuelan luxury-goods investor who made a profit of almost £100m from the sale of fashion website Net-a-Porter last year, is to plough some of her gains into social networking clothes design business Lookk.com.
Ms Busquets, 45, is taking a 5.1pc stake in the company, which was founded as Garmz.com in 2008 but is relaunching under the Lookk name on Wednesday . She will also take a seat on the Lookk board.
The lead investor is venture capital group Eden Ventures, while other backers include Kima Ventures, the investment fund co-founded by Xavier Niel, the French internet billionaire and owner of Le Monde newspaper, silicon valley investor Dave McClure and angel investor Sherry Coutu.
Lookk, which has 17 staff in London, Vienna and in Bulgaria, says it aims to connect designers directly with customers through an open network in a way that is “authentic” and “refreshing”.
Ms Busquets, the daughter of Jose Busquets, a Spanish industrialist making copper and electrical wire and pipes in Venezuela, disclosed the new investment in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph.
“When I was young I would spend more money than I should with my credit card but my father cut it off,” she said, “so I had to find creative ways of making money.
“My solution was to hire a professional couturier to work for me so that I could design unique clothes for me and my friends. That business alone kept me in all the luxury I needed. Since then I have always believed that students who were creative like me could support themselves on their own.
“When I met the team from Lookk, I thought this concept could create an online community that could replicate the same business that I had for all creative individuals around the world.”
Ms Busquets has also recently increased her stake in online jeweller Astley Clarke, in which she has co-invested with Index Ventures.
She is an investor with Accel Partners in Go Try It On, a New York-based digital forum enabling people to share their look online, and is also in the process of investing in Josephine, a company providing linen to top-quality hotels.
In addition, she is the founder of lifestyle e-commerce site Couture Lab, which she wants to build into the world’s best gifts website and is relaunching next month. She holds 33pc of JEM, a company sourcing “ethical gold” from Peru and has investments in jewellery marketplace Caratime and technology venture fund Parkview.
In total, she said she has invested £10m into all these companies over the past two years.
Ms Busquets entered the fashion industry while she was studying for a marketing and advertising degree at the University of Miami. She returned to Caracas to open a fashion boutique at the age of 23. Five years later, she opened a second shop.
Realising that people were prepared to buy fashion from pictures, she then began attending the European catwalk shows, photographing the looks and then posting to her customers to take orders.
When the internet era dawned, she took this business online. “To me, it was very easy to understand the internet,” she said. “It was a tool to sell a service.”
Ms Busquets met Nathalie Massenet and her husband in 1999, when the former Tatler fashion editor was setting up Net-a-Porter and recruiting investors but had raised only £350,000 of the £850,000 she needed from 30 different backers.
“They had an idea and a business plan,” she said. “I invested £250,000 and afterwards I invested another £250,000. I knew the project would take at least £12m-£16m but I kept reinvesting because I really believed.”
Ms Busquets ended up investing a total of £5.9m for a 30pc stake in the company, which was sold to Richemont, the luxury group that controls Alfred Dunhill and Cartier, for £350m last year. She retains a 2pc stake.
“I have always believed in the new economy,” she said. “The new economy gives opportunities to new jobs and new people and new ideas.
“My creative side is identifying all these great entrepreneurial creative people that come up with great ideas, whether they are in fashion or technology or a new tool to improve ourselves.
“I decided that if I made enough money I would reinvest it and risk it on new ideas and new companies, rather than have it in my bank and then have somebody lose it.”
Source : www.telegraph.co.uk