There are few things in my life that seem less exciting than razors, but a new startup called The Dollar Shave Club thinks it’s time for a little disruption. And some of the big names in the venture world, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Andreessen Horowitz, are backing its vision.
Dollar Shave Club was first founded in April 2011 by Michael Dubin and Mark Levine, and it’s relaunching today and announcing that it’s the latest company to emerge from Science, Inc., the incubator whose partners include former MySpace CEO Mike Jones and Color co-founder Peter Pham. The basic model is simple — at pricing that starts at $1 per month (plus $2 for shipping and handling), customers get a monthly shipment of razors delivered to their home.
Michael Dubin, who’s also the company’s CEO, argues that the high-end of the market has gotten ridiculously overpriced, with “a vibrating handle, a back-scratcher, and all of that stuff.” On the low-end, he says that people with “well-developed self images” don’t want to walk into a K-Mart or Wal-Mart to buy a pack of cheap razors. (I buy disposable razors at my local Walgreens, but I’m a tech journalist, so my self-image is screwed up in all kinds of ways.) When it comes to price, it’s hard to beat $1 a month, and when it comes to convenience, it’s hard to beat a delivery to your doorstep.
Strangely, Dollar Shave Club isn’t the first startup to offer razor deliveries — the memorably named Manpacks is offering a monthly package that includes razors as well as other necessities like underwear. Dubin argues that Manpacks is looking at things “a little too broadly,” because it’s hard to predict exactly what you’ll need from month to month. Shaving, on the other hand, is “one of the most regular things we do. It’s a no brainer.”
Dollar Shave Club has raised more than $1 million in a Series A led by Kleiner and Forerunner Ventures, with participation from Andreesen Horowitz, Shasta Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Shervin Pishevar, Dennis Phelps, and David Honig.
So what makes this a venture-backed business with big potential, rather than a novelty? Well, there’s the size of the personal grooming market, which Jones estimates at $2.6 billion (in the press release). Dubin says he can take a significant portion of that market by building a memorable brand. The company’s first promotional video is a good example of the “very irreverent, smart, fun, very Internet” identity that Dubin wants to create. You can watch the video below. I kind of love it — it is, after all, titled, “Our Blades Are F***ing Great.”
Dubin also hopes to create a stronger relationship with consumers as Dollar Shave Club expands the product line. It’s already adding new types of blades with the relaunch — the 4X blade for $6 a month and The Executive for $9 — and when it gets into shaving cream, the company will actually ask people to vote on the formulas on its website.
“I want people to see us as one of the first online-only power brands in the category,” he says.