Science Inc., the incubator founded by former MySpace CEO Mike Jones that launched last year with $10 million in funding, is playing the part of proud parent today as it announces the first outside funding any of its backed startups has received. The funding, which is a $1 million seed round co-led by Kleiner Perkins and Forerunner Ventures, goes to Dollar Shave Club, a startup that aims to be a disruptive force in the shaving industry.
Dollar Shave Club, founded by CEO Michael Dubin, takes the currently popular model of subscription goods delivery and applies it to an admittedly pretty universal pain point: the cost of razors and replacement blades. Gillette, Schick et al. currently hook customers by providing a relatively inexpensive, but also supposedly feature-rich razor which then requires regular refills of much pricier blade head packs. DSC does its subscribers one better, providing the razor for free and replacement blades for as little as $1 per month (plus shipping and handling), delivered to their door.
Picky customers can also opt for different plans, which range from $6 to $9 depending on how many blades they want. It should still provide a savings compared to the popular options from big companies like Gillette, and DSC even provides a dashboard for members that visualizes those savings over time. Science Inc.’s Jones points out that the grooming industry represents a huge market, and that its domination by companies offering relatively little for a big markup leaves a lot of room for disruption.
BetaKit asked Dubin in an interview about the potential baggage subscription-based businesses face as a result of the days of Columbia House, which made abandoning your commitment to the music and movie-based club difficult. Dubin says times have changed. “Business has come a long way ethics and transparency-wise since those days,” he told us. “And not just because consumers have gotten a lot smarter, and demand more from businesses.”
At first, DSC is targeting its product primarily at men, despite the fact that its business is based on a value proposition that is really gender neutral. Dubin said that the company made a conscious decision to focus its appeal out of the gate. “In general, men shave more regularly than women, which also means they’re more familiar with (and sick of) the price of brand name razors,” Dubin explained. “Men, at first, offer a bigger target to tell our initial story.”
But it’s a story that doesn’t necessarily have to stop there. “The men’s and women’s grooming market is worth $2.6 billion,” Jones said in a press release. “And big shave brands are charging too much for too little, which has created an opening for Dollar Shave Club to disrupt the market with a ‘much cheaper, much easier’ proposition while maintaining quality.” Providing what for many men and women is an essential element of daily life delivered to their door with a commitment free, inexpensive monthly commitment is no joke, even if DSC’s marketing hype about “Ninja Blades” sounds a little hard to take seriously.
Since DSC is one of Science Inc.’s early highlights, we asked Dubin about the experience of working with Jones and his team. “Everyday I get to work with people (i.e., Science partners and employees) who have built, run, and sold companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “Their experience in areas from design, to financing, to architecture is invaluable, and their networks are blue-chip.”
There’s also the benefit of sharing space with other Science-backed ventures like Eventup. “Equally special is getting to work side-by-side with some of the best entrepreneurs in California,” Dubin noted. “Even though Science companies are separate entities, there’s a wonderful, cross-pollinating effect happening everyday between them.”
DSC’s subscription shaving is available to U.S. residents only at launch, but international expansion is a possible future goal. The company definitely plans to expand its offerings to include other men’s and women’s grooming products in the near future, meaning DSC could just be using shaving as a jumping-off point for a much bigger play.