Jeff Vinik invests in another tech startup focused on health and wellness

Published October 19 2018
Updated October 19 2018

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has made a series of investments in companies focused on health, wellness and technology in industries ranging from construction to medicine, and from fitness to radiation protection.

He’s at it again. This time it’s skin care and clothing, and it’s one of his bigger personal investments.

Vinik is the lead investor in a $30 million round of fundraising for Silk Inc., a Boston-based company with a line of skin care products, Silk Therapeutics, made with non-synthetic chemicals and minimal ingredients. You can find it at Harrods in London.

The company also says it is poised to expand into the textile industry with bio-friendly replacements for petrochemical treatments and coatings used on fabrics.

Silk’s approach to skin care and clothing "is both innovative and creative at a time when these sectors desperately need more of both," Vinik said in an announcement released by the company.

"This is the sweet spot in what I look for in an investment," Vinik said in an interview this week with Forbes, "to make money and to have an impact on society."

The size of Vinik’s investment was not disclosed, but he told Forbes that it is among his largest personal investments.

"I have a handful, which means less than five, investments about this size, and obviously I size my investments based on my confidence in the risk/reward equation," he told the magazine. Comparable Vinik investments include his stake in Hissho Sushi in Charlotte, N.C., which supplies supermarkets, cafes and universities, and Delos, a New York-based real estate company that tries to build health and wellness strategies into its projects.

Vinik, who is on Silk’s board of directors, and was joined in this round of fundraising by Silk board member Roy P. Disney, whose great-uncle was Walt Disney, and the Kraft Group, known for making paper products and owning the New England Patriots. One of its executives, Daniel A. Kraft, is on Silk’s board.

Silk was founded in 2013 by two silk experts, Gregory Altman and Rebecca Lacouture, who have doctorates in biotechnology engineering and biomedical engineering, respectively.

Their patented technology, known as Liquid Silk, is biodegradable and not harmful to living tissue, which the company says makes it an effective alternative to petrochemicals commonly used to a wide range of consumer goods.

The $30 million will help Silk move into a growing market, estimated at $886 million, for safe or green chemicals and scale up to bring its products to the trillion-dollar fashion and textile industry. The result, founder Gregory Altman said the company’s announcement, should be to help the clothing industry "rid itself of harmful chemistry."

"For years consumers have been obsessed with what they put into their bodies through the food they eat," he said. "We are now on the doorstep of a public health movement where people ask questions about what they put into their bodies through the clothing they wear."

Liquid Silk is made from the thread of non-genetically modified silkworm cocoons. The company says it can replace fossil fuel-derived synthetic coatings used to make clothes feel better, wick sweat away, resist odor and hold their colors.

Vinik’s stake in Silk is consistent with other investments he’s made related to health, wellness and technology. They include:

• Delos, which is working at Water Street Tampa, the $3 billion mixed-use development that Vinik is launching with the Bill Gates company Cascade Investment, to create the world’s first city district designed to make those who live and work there more healthy. The effort includes, among other things, air filtration, minimal use of materials containing volatile organic chemicals, managing pollution during construction, minimizing noise, adjusting lights from day to night, having plenty of green space and offering healthy eating options.

Peerfit, a digital platform that makes it easy for insurance carriers, brokers and employers to offer boutique fitness classes to their clients and employees.

StemRad, an Israeli company with a Tampa subsidiary. It makes a personal radiation shield to protect troops, first responders and nuclear power plant workers from deadly high-energy gamma radiation released by atomic bombs, nuclear meltdowns or similar catastrophes.

electroCore, a New Jersey company working on a non-invasive, self-administered therapy to relieve migraine and cluster headaches by stimulating the vagus nerve.

Dreamit, a startup accelerator where health care technology is one of three main focuses.

In addition, Vinik is one of the local investors in FBN Partners, which has loaned $12 million to help refinance the Times Publishing Co., the owner of the Tampa Bay Times.

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Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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