Birchbox, the New York City-based startup that provides a monthly delivery service of beauty and personal care product samples, seemed like a lark to some when it first came on the scene back in September 2010. At that time, web startups aimed at the female demographic existed, but the space has grown to be much stronger since then. And Birchbox’s business model itself was a bit confusing to some people. Would anyone really pay $10 a month to get a box full of stuff they didn’t specifically ask for?
Since then, of course, Birchbox has been validated a few times over. Female-oriented websites have skyrocketed — Pinterest, anyone? — and the subscription commerce space has taken off as well, with the debuts of companies such as Kiwi Crate (kids’ toys), Babbaco (educational products), StitchFix (women’s clothing) Citrus Lane (baby products), and a number of others. Today, Birchbox now has more than 100,000 paying subscribers, a staff of 60 full-time employees, and has raised nearly $12 million in venture capital funding.
So when we heard that Birchbox co-founder Katia Beauchamp (pronounced “Beechum”) was in San Francisco this past week, we invited her to swing by TechCrunch TV to give us an in-person update on how things are going at her company. You can watch our full interview in the video embedded above, but here are some of the topics we touched on:
Going Beyond The Makeup Space
Earlier this month, Birchbox debuted its first ever offering aimed at males, “Birchbox Man.” At a higher price point ($20 per month), Birchbox Man boxes contain a wider variety of items beyond personal care and grooming products: Gadgets, snack items, games, and the like are part of the package.
According to Beauchamp, this is just the first step in Birchbox’s goal of using this platform for items that go beyond makeup. In fact, she said, that’s been the plan from day one — it’s why the startup wasn’t called something like Beautybox. “That’s why we named the company Birchbox,” she said. “It could be more. It’s really exciting in beauty, but it could be more.”
The Tech Underlying The Pretty Exterior
There is some real technology underlying Birchbox’s pretty products and presentation — and Beauchamp says the company is working hard at making that better and deeper by adding to its full-time tech team (currently at 10 people.) “We have an obscene amount of data about our customers and that is all going into the delivery of the box and what our customers are experiencing,” Beauchamp said. “There’s never been a platform that allows you to be a subscription service, have a content CMS, and also have a full e-commerce service, all blended into that with a backend that knows who you are. So, it is complicated.”
Thoughts On The F Words (Female Founders)
Since most venture capital partners are male, the average VC was not exactly in Birchbox’s target market. But that does not mean that female-driven companies should feel intimidated by the fundraising process, Beauchamp said.
“What I’d say about being a female is that it’s not something to worry about so much. I think it’s really important that if you have a product that’s geared towards not the people you’re pitching to [for VC investment], you can still really focus on having a conversation around just the facts and your logical interpretation [of them], and around how you’re going to create demand for something new and change behavior,” she said. “It’s important to try to make it resonate for them based on those things, and not just the attributes of, ‘Wouldn’t you like to get a fun new lip gloss every month,’ which is not going to resonate so much.”