For this month's venture capital spotlight, Ryan Sanders of Mercato Partners writes about investing in Stance.

Why Mercato Partners invested in Stance

For this month's venture capital spotlight, Ryan Sanders of Mercato Partners writes about investing in Stance.

More than a decade ago, most dresser drawers were awash with plainly-colored, dystopian-looking socks that included white, navy, black, and—if you were bold—perhaps a pinstripe. Otherwise, mundane. Boring. Common. Until a few mold-breaking founders set out to build a brand and transform the category into a beacon of self-expression and creativity. 

The very genesis of Stance came from the founding team’s trips to local department stores with a checklist of must-have product attributes in hand. Amidst the aisles of tech gadgets and everyday home essentials, the sock section stood out. It was a sea of monotony and opportunity. Colorless and homogenized, it bore a striking resemblance to the early 2000s headphone aisle—a category that would be transformed by Skullcandy, the first-ever growth investment of Mercato Partners and one of Utah’s most successful brands. 

Inspired by Skullcandy’s success in ushering in a new era of headphone innovation, Stance was founded in 2009 with plans to upend the over $20 billion casual and performance sock market. By infusing creativity into the design process and focusing on relentless technical innovation, Stance’s founding team not only turned an everyday item into wearable art but built a loyal, loud community of Stance enthusiasts along the way. From Dwayne Wade to Rihanna to Jimmy Chin, an eclectic, forward-thinking following of athletes, artists and cultural icons were attracted to the company’s unique approach to brand building. Collectively known as “Punks & Poets,” this group helped elevate Stance from footwear to fashion and propel the company into the pop culture zeitgeist of the late 2010s. 

Mercato rallied behind the company’s bold vision and unique brand-building approach. We not only recognized the immense growth potential in challenging the status quo of a tired category but, more importantly, Jeff Kearl’s (Co-Founder and Chairman) and John Wilson’s (Co-Founder and CEO) proven ability to execute against this vision with playbooks and methods that deliver value. As a firm, we believe in the power of creativity and grit in any founding team we back, and Stance stands out from any crowd. It was precisely this belief that led us to invest in Stance’s $30 million Series D growth financing and continue our tradition of backing innovative market leaders that are building better. 

Today, Stance has sold over 110 million units, been named the official performance sock for the NBA and MLB, and expanded beyond footwear into underwear, apparel and headwear. While its offerings have grown, every product line—from socks to hats—carries the same unmistakable Stance DNA: a commitment to toe-to-head quality, creativity and individual expression that is “Stitched Different.” 

A Kauffman Fellow and accomplished investor, Ryan Sanders is a managing director of Mercato Partners, a globally recognized institutional growth equity fund focused on leading Series B to pre-IPO investments. As a former founder with a deep entrepreneurship, operations and growth background, Ryan’s passion for venture capital comes from a desire to partner with and advocate for founders and their teams. In his role, Ryan serves on the board of directors of Atomic, Lendio, Lambda Labs, ObservePoint and Stance and invests in the South, Southeast and Pacific Northwest.