Explore our new Generative AI Database, featuring 35+ companies leading the sector.Read more

Nov. 19, 2022 7:00 AM PST

Mike Cessario, co-founder and CEO of canned water company Liquid Death, arrived in Palm Desert, Calif., sporting a Slayer hoodie, designer stubble and the effortless chill of a movie star. He had driven from his home in Los Angeles to the Coachella Valley to give a talk about the meteoric rise of his brand at Summit Series—a 1,400-person gathering of artists and entrepreneurs, many of whom already seemed to be customers. Tallboy cans of Liquid Death lay discarded on the lawn of La Quinta Resort & Club and lined the conference’s beverage cases. Everywhere, harsh desert sunlight lit up the cans’ metallic slogan: “Liquid Death—murder your thirst.”

Cessario, a Delaware-born former advertising creative director, started the company in 2019 and has rapidly grown it to over $100 million in annual revenue. It’s become a staple at concert venues, convenience stores and even at Whole Foods, where it intimidates nearby cans of LaCroix with its brawny 16.9-ounce size and tattoo artist logo. Cessario has raised $195 million in venture capital at a recent valuation of $700 million—a number that left plenty of people scratching their heads. “Even at the brink of a global recession,” one Danish management professor tweeted, “late capitalism roars along.”

In the desert, Cessario seemed indifferent to these critiques. He rolled his eyes at the idea that Liquid Death is some kind of drinkable memestock. “Everybody says to me, ‘What makes your water different from other water?’” he said. “They don’t ask Gucci, ‘How is your cotton T-shirt different from Target’s cotton T-shirt?’”

Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
Art by Clark Miller
The AI Age e-commerce ai
How to Grease a Chatbot: E-Commerce Companies Seek a Backdoor Into AI Responses
When Andy Wilson’s company received its first successful client referral through ChatGPT, he was shaken to his core.
Chris Britt, co-founder and CEO of Chime.
Exclusive startups Finance
Chime’s Slowdown Highlights Limits of Bank Disruptors
Chime found a way to offer zero-fee banking services without being a bank itself. But that approach is starting to show its limits.
Art by Clark Miller.
Exclusive startups crypto
MoonPay CEO, Other Executives Cashed Out Before Crypto Business Dropped
In November 2021, just as crypto prices were hitting all-time highs, MoonPay—a crypto payments startup that celebrities including Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton had praised for its non-fungible token “concierge” service— announced it had completed its first ever outside fundraising: an eye-popping $555 million round at a $3.4 billion valuation from investors including Tiger Global Management and Coatue Management.
Art by Clark Miller
The Big Read markets Finance
The Master of Destruction Rides Again
In the spring of 2022, the irascible Wall Street short seller Marc Cohodes was in a particularly foul mood.
Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. Photo by Bloomberg
semiconductors ai
Why Nvidia Aids Cloud Rivals of AWS, Google and Microsoft
Nvidia’s business of selling chips for artificial intelligence is going gangbusters, but the company faces a looming problem.
Tim Cook. Photo by Bloomberg
Exclusive apple ar/vr
Apple’s Learning Curve: How Headset’s Design Caused Production Challenges
If Apple unveils its long-awaited mixed-reality headset next week as expected, it will represent the company’s riskiest gamble on a new product since the iPhone.