Anna Ohlsson-Baskerville

Director, Unilever

How did you start working in eCommerce?

Being at Unilever Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of Unilever, I don’t work directly in eCommerce but am fortunate to work closely with the exciting portfolio of companies we have invested in, many of which have a very strong eCommerce component to their business.

When we first defined the scope for our third fund, which launched in 2014, we chose to focus on digital first brands as well as enabling technologies. We saw how eCommerce continued to disrupt the FMCG market, breaking down traditional distribution barriers and creating new opportunities for brands to engage directly with their consumers. Today, I primarily look after our investments in beauty and personal care. We have backed some amazing entrepreneurs, and I work with exciting brands such as Trinny London in the UK and True Botanicals in the US, both of which are digitally native brands that live and breathe through their eCommerce and social communities.

I have huge respect for eCommerce companies that truly make the most of the insights they can get from their cohort data — the companies that crunch the numbers and continually test, evaluate, learn and adapt. Never before were brands able to see so quickly the impact small changes can have on conversion rates, loyalty, or purchase basket.

At the end of the day, the consumer is the fundamental driver of changes.

Anna Ohlsson-Baskerville

Director, Unilever
Anna Ohlsson-Baskerville

What does your typical work day look like?

I have been with Unilever Ventures for an amazing 15 years now, and the joy of venture capital is that there is no such thing as a typical day.

Starting my week, I will plan work around doing sector deep dives, identifying and reaching out to new companies and entrepreneurs that catch my attention, and looking at how to help our investee companies prepare for and take part in board meetings. However, those plans are almost always disrupted by whatever new impromptu requirements come up, like catch-ups with the founders, CEOs, or CFOs of our portfolio companies. I will switch from doing financial analysis to strategy to HR to marketing to legal reviews several times in the same day.

In addition to all that, I am also the proud mother of three young sons, and I will always aim to plan my days to ensure I can be present for them. I am lucky that I am able to flexibly combine my work with family.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the opportunity to interact with and learn from so many amazing entrepreneurs. They come with bold visions and authentic stories, and they set out to change the mainstream. I am lucky if through my work I can be a small part of their journey and guide them as best as I can on how to turn their vision into reality.

What advice would you give to others looking to work in the eCommerce industry?

Spend time looking at eCommerce brands and websites you admire. Identify why they are so appealing and understand what is going on behind the scenes. Investigate which enabling technologies have helped them stand out in brand building and commerce. At Unilever Ventures, in addition to investing in consumer facing brands in beauty and personal care, we also back enabling technology companies. Our digital investments span from Ad Tech and Data analytics to CMI and AI. Technology is reshaping the consumer experience, and using the right tools and services can make a huge difference.

What do you think is the next big trend that will define eCommerce?

I think it will be interesting to see the emergence of new businesses leveraging eCommerce models.

Given my focus on beauty and personal care, I am also very interested in seeing how social commerce develops, i.e. the rise of community and influencer-based sales models powered by technologies. We’re seeing some very adventurous and experimental companies out there. It’s an exciting and dynamic landscape. At the end of the day, the consumer is the fundamental driver of these changes. In today’s environment, they are looking for communities of like-minded people and personalized recommendations from people they trust.