Stitch Fix gets a close look from consumer VC firm Goodwater Capital ahead of IPO

With Stitch Fix’s IPO on the horizon, Wall Street — and the rest of the tech industry — is going to be keeping a close eye on this next big consumer IPO as both a signal for the future of e-commerce startups like Stitch Fix and the consumer IPO market as a whole heading into the back half of the year.

So one of the big metrics Wall Street and others will be focusing on is how Stitch Fix’s business is going to look moving forward beyond just their current financials — which look good — according to Goodwater Capital partner Eric Kim. After surveying around 3,000 people over the past few quarters, the firm found that while a tiny fraction of the people surveyed are Stitch Fix users, more than half of those people expect their use of Stitch Fix to increase. It’s a rounding error compared to Amazon, of which 91% expect to increase their usage, but it’s still a positive signal going forward for the company. The company focused on that, among a large number of other data points, in a big report it released today ahead of the company’s IPO.

“This benchmarks pretty well and is pretty high compared to other startups and late-stage e-commerce companies,” Kim said. “This is a key customer sentiment number we’re gonna pay attention to over the quarters, this has been getting better according to our data. But we know the best-in-class is 91% with Amazon, and Stitch Fix is at 54%. What we’ll be paying attention to as a leading indicator is Stitch Fix’s ability to create this positive NPS.”

Kim said based on their research that the retention rate can be as high as four times that of other fashion-oriented e-commerce startups. But while the ramp looks good for Stitch Fix right now, the consumer IPO market is still more or less in hangover mode following Blue Apron and Snap’s poor performances. They’re obviously different businesses, but Stitch Fix is going to test Wall Street’s appetite for consumer IPOs, and that’s going to require selling the company’s future potential versus their current performance, Kim said.

Stitch Fix is showing aggressive revenue growth right now based on its S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which companies release before they are about to go public. Stitch Fix showed a slight dip in its net income, but that’s mostly a product of beginning to invest in new businesses to increase the total addressable market for the company — which needs to be big if it’s going to impress Wall Street.

Another big data point is that a majority of its users also give some kind of feedback to Stitch Fix, Kim said. Stitch Fix, while an e-commerce company that at the end of the day leans on stylists to send personalized clothing, is very much touted as a data play alongside an e-commerce business. But that means it also has to build a defensible data set for the company that makes it able to outmaneuver other competitors like Trunk Club, and that requires a lot of feedback from its user base.

“What they really need to do as a company is set expectations well with Wall Street,” Kim said. “They’ve been growing so fast, everything is working right now, they’ve seen operating margin increasing, they’ve seen gross profit margin increasing, and I think they’ll likely be messaging to the street they’re gonna be investing in the business for the long term. They can’t be short-sighted on just profitability in the future or maximizing profit. They just need to message it so the street’s expectations are not sky high on a dimension that would be in the company’s best interest to make sure they have enough leeway to invest in other categories.”

Stitch Fix is also nearly break-even on the first purchase, which gives it a lot of freedom to maneuver into new businesses without having to worry too much about profitability, Kim said.

Goodwater Capital invests in consumer startups, but Kim said it hopes by releasing reports and information like this will help “bridge the gap” between Wall Street and founders in Silicon Valley. Indeed, many founders and investors look at these upcoming IPOs closely as they look to set their expectations for comparable markets and startups — and where they should value those startups, especially as they approach IPO status. It’s similar to the kinds of reports that most banks issue with ratings for the stocks, which themselves can sometimes move the stock price of those companies.

Stitch Fix set the price range for its initial public offering last week, setting a potential valuation for the company at nearly $2 billion at the top end of the price range.

Correction: the previous version of this story said that Goodwater Capital invests in consumer IPOs. It does not, and invests in consumer startups.