Make It

The secret to Dollar Shave Club’s success—and why I was an early investor founder & CEO Michael Dubin.
Alberto E. Rodriguez | WireImage | Getty Images founder & CEO Michael Dubin.

In 2011, Dollar Shave Club's founder and CEO Michael Dubin came into my office at Science Inc. to pitch his now-successful razor membership to our team.

While the business model was promising, I wasn't wholly persuaded by the profit margins on the just-a-few-bucks-per-razor concept. Michael, however, being a visionary who also happens to have a great sense of humor, showed me a rough cut of the video he produced that was intended to amplify attention around the company's launch by discussing Dollar Shave Club's mission. After viewing the video, I knew that Science Inc. needed to come on board and back the brand that was stirring up the pricey men's grooming marketplace.

At Science Inc., our main goal is to build and invest in technology businesses by coupling great ideas, strong talent, necessary resources and financing through a centralized platform. We were able to see the potential in Michael's start-up, and in the five years we've been working together, Dollar Shave Club (DSC) has produced some of the most authentic customer relationships and communications in e-commerce. These past few years have proved that strong brand-customer conversations are what made DSC stand out in the saturated tech industry in a short period of time, and why Unilever, a company that is looking to elevate its online-purchasing presence, took note.

"After viewing the video, I knew that Science Inc. needed to come on board and back the brand that was stirring up the pricey men's grooming marketplace."

Back in 2012, we invested $100,000 into Dollar Shave Club and the brand saw $65 million in sales a mere two years later, in 2014. Now, in the five years since its inception, the brand's appeal has the European consumer goods company making one of the largest deals that we've ever seen in Los Angeles.

This specific case study proves that we are living in a post-technology world where company building isn't binary. Now, brands aren't either tech or retail; the two are not incongruous. What we've been seeing is that technology is no longer the main competitive starting point for new companies. To see success, new concepts must have a strong understanding of data in addition to masterful customer service and effective marketing on digital platforms.

At DSC, Michael is a branding ace and bold in his marketing approach. Take, for example, the magazine inserts, aptly named "The Bathroom Minutes," that are mailed to members with their monthly DSC packages. The publication reached circulation numbers that eclipsed other magazines such as Time, Sports Illustrated, Cosmopolitan and US Weekly. That's the thing about Michael — he always went the extra mile because of his attentiveness to consumer ethos. By providing quality products with highly entertaining content, DSC was able to continuously grow its customer base at a rate faster than most e-commerce companies.

Start-ups take note: Technology is rapidly moving away from traditional parameters, and I look forward to seeing big changes that deliver bigger results. Silicon Valley may be the beating heart of tech influence, but it's certainly not the only influence. We've remained in Los Angeles since we started Science Inc., along with other brands that have escaped rising real-estate prices and set up shop in Southern California. By breaking away from traditional notions of what begets success, companies have more opportunities to catch the eyes of those with cash.

It's time to think outside the bubble.

Commentary by Michael Jones, co-founder and CEO of Science Inc., a venture-capital firm and start-up studio that builds and invests in successful technology businesses by bringing together the best ideas, talent, resources and financing through a centralized platform. Through Science, Jones has helped build pioneering start-ups disrupting traditional industries from consumer products and commerce (Dollar Shave Club), to marketplaces (DogVacay), and media (Wishbone) companies. Previously, Michael led Userplane from start-up to its acquisition by AOL and was the CEO of MySpace, where he held board and strategic roles with joint venture partners in Myspace China and Myspace Japan / Softbank. Follow him on Twitter @mjones.

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