Simon Enever and Bill May think they've figured out a way to get Americans to actually brush their teeth twice a day. But the Brooklyn, New York-based start-up had to overcome some big challenges on the way to landing a $10 million Series A funding in November.
"I'm a Brit who's trying to improve oral health in America, which is the reverse of how it should be," said Enever, the CEO and co-founder of Quip in an interview at the start-up's headquarters. (For the record: He won't show his teeth when smiling for a photograph.)
Quip officially launched in November 2015. By the end of 2016, it sold 100,000 toothbrushes. Enever said they are now on track to have 1 million customers by the end of 2018.
Consumer product companies that have long dominated retail sales with little competition or pricing pressure have been under attack in recent years by venture-backed start-ups selling direct to consumers online, from razors to eyeglasses. It's not only start-ups that see opportunity in the slow-moving dental market: Amazon is attempting to cut out dental supply companies.
At the time of its launch, Quip was entering a competitive market with brands that had been selling electric toothbrushes for decades, including the duopoly of Sonicare and Oral-B, which together command as much as 70 percent of the online sales market, according to a recent analysis that looked at data in the one-year period up to January 2017.
While the toothbrush sales sector is ripe for competition, the Quip founders had to convince investors they could compete even though they didn't come from a background in business or marketing. "I think there's a lot of nervousness when people start thinking about investing in a designer's company," Enever said. "It didn't really matter how great they thought our idea was necessarily or the business plan, but ... trusting someone that wasn't from their world."
Investors in the November round included pop artist Demi Lovato and Sherpa Capital, whose founders invested in luxury eyewear upstart Warby Parker, as well as Facebook and Uber.