By Somesh Dash, General Partner, and Alex Lim, Associate
Today, IVP announced that we are investing in Walker & Company, a health & beauty company founded with the goal of making personal care simple for people of color. IVP is the lead investor in the company’s $24 million Series B financing, and we could not be more excited to be partnering with Tristan Walker (Founder & CEO) and the rest of the Walker & Company team to help build the next great brand in health and beauty.
For those of you not familiar with IVP, we are a leading later-stage venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, CA, and have been fortunate enough to partner with talented entrepreneurs to help build truly disruptive consumer-facing companies, such as Dropbox, Dropcam, The Honest Company, Netflix, Snapchat, Supercell, and Twitter.
So what is the massive opportunity for Walker & Company, and why are they the company uniquely positioned to tackle it? Here are a few key reasons why we invested:
- People of color are an under-served portion of the population when it comes to personal care: When IVP began researching the personal care market, we quickly realized that the established consumer-packaged goods manufacturers have not innovated on products targeting people of color. Next time you are in your local drugstore, keep an eye out for products targeted at ethnic minorities – you will see a small selection of unappealing brands that were designed decades ago, and are failing to serve the specific needs of these consumers. Walker & Company is filling this gap in the market by creating clinically-tested, premium products that actually work for people of color, then packaging and marketing them in ways that genuinely delight the modern minority consumer. We’ve seen similar approaches work for companies in other key consumer segments and think the go-to-market for Walker & Company is truly innovative within personal care.
- Walker & Company’s flagship brand is experiencing exceptional growth: Walker & Company started its first brand, Bevel, with an ambitious goal: to eliminate razor bumps (or pseudofolliculitis barbae, if you want to get technical…), giving men of color the attractive, clean-shaven look they want. The current trend in the shaving market is towards multi-blade razors that are designed to pull facial hairs and cut them below skin level, creating ingrown hairs and unsightly, painful razor bumps, especially for men with coarse and curly hair. Ouch! Bevel is a complete shaving system that uses a single blade safety razor, and expert-formulated balms and shaving creams, and is clinically proven to reduce bumps and irritation. Since razor bumps are an acute problem for men of color, and since Bevel is the only product proven to help, men have been signing up for Bevel’s convenient subscription service in droves. The service launched less than a year ago and we are seeing high renewal rates and low churn among existing users. This, coupled with strong organic word-of-mouth customer acquisition, has helped Bevel become one of the most successful new CPG launches in years. It was abundantly clear through our diligence that Bevel has really struck a chord with its target audience. Go to GetBevel.com and try it out … you won’t go back to your old razor!
- Walker & Company is on its way to becoming a household name: The incredible team at Walker & Company is not satisfied by just creating the best men’s shaving solution in the market, they also have ambitions to become the personal care brand of choice for all ethnic minority consumers. Walker & Company has not yet announced which segment of personal care they are going to disrupt next, but they are already laying the groundwork for success by building the Walker & Company brand. Partnerships with celebrities, media product placement, distribution agreements, and the BevelCode.com blog are just some of the innovative ways that Walker & Company is creating a pervasive, relevant brand in the $290 billion personal care market.
- Remarkable team and experienced/relevant co-investors: IVP has a long-standing relationship with Walker & Company’s Founder & CEO, Tristan Walker, and jumped at the opportunity to invest with him. Somesh and Tristan met at the Stanford GSB almost a decade ago and have had a long-standing relationship. When Tristan developed the idea for Walker & Company, it was abundantly clear that he had found his calling. Not only was Tristan passionate about solving these key market issues, he was uniquely qualified to solve them given his personal story and previous Silicon Valley startup experience. Tristan is a truly visionary leader and has assembled a world-class management team to help make his vision a reality. Tristan has also chosen to partner with an excellent group of venture investors, including Andreessen Horowitz and Upfront Ventures, who we’ve co-invested with before in hypergrowth companies like Github, Slack, and Tanium. We’re delighted to be working with such an amazing group of co-investors and look forward to helping them advise and support a truly disruptive company.
- One Last Thing…: Bevel is only the beginning. Walker & Company aspired to be a multi-category, multi-brand company with a family of products servicing specific consumer needs across the globe. Tristan and his team deeply researched a number of key beauty and health categories and while we can’t announce the upcoming product releases here, trust us, they are awesome! Stay tuned for exciting new announcements from Walker & Company over the coming months!