New York entrepreneur Tristan Walker has just announced a princely $7 million Series A investment for his ecommerce firm, Walker & Co.
The twenty-nine year-old former Foursquare business development lead and Andreessen Horowitz entrepreneur-in-residence launched his personal care products firm Walker & Co last year. Intrigued ecommerce managers who know how crowded this space is may be wondering how Mr. Walker persuaded Andreessen Horowitz (who led the round) to invest in his project, which has so far focused on marketing a single core product.
An uphill struggle that paid off
The product is Bevel, a shaving system uniquely designed to prevent the skin irritation frequently experienced by African-American men with coarse, curly facial hair. The high-end, single-blade Bevel razor prevents the irritating skin bumps men of color suffer from when using multi-blade razors (the latter tug at hair follicles, cutting them beneath the skin, whereupon newly growing hair tends to re-enter pores and become ingrown). The Bevel system also includes shaving creams and salves, plus a stylishly-designed shaving brush.
Walker had something of an uphill task ahead of him: an astute ecommerce analyst could probably predict that mainly white investors would have little familiarity with this type of skin irritation, and Walker certainly encountered this. When he likened his solution to Proactiv’s anti-acne range during a pitch, one investor expressed skepticism that razor bumps were as big a social issue as acne.
Walker told her, “If you talk to 10 of my black male friends, eight will tell you this is a problem.”
But his message got through eventually, and he now has $6.9 million to play with (other participants in the round included Collaborative Fund, Upfront Ventures and Ron Johnson).
Andreessen partner, Jeff Jordan, who will join the Walker & Co. board, said, “The personal care market for people of color is a multibillion dollar market that is underserved.”
The new cash will be ploughed into developing both existing and new products and to move the Bevel system into bricks-and-mortar settings like specialty stores and barber shops. As he was never taught to shave himself and was forced to learn through painful experience, Walker also plans a series of in-person video-conference tutorials (the “Bevel Code”) to help other African-American men to shave without risk of bumps and irritations.