When consumer goods company Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club (DSC) in 2016, it was heralded as one of the biggest venture-backed e-commerce deals in history. It was also an acknowledgment that Dollar Shave Club had completely disrupted the men’s grooming market. In less than five years, the company had built an online community of millions of men who subscribed (literally) to the authentic mission of co-founder Michael Dubin: creating an alternative to going to the store for razors.
Dubin disliked everything about the experience – the locked case, waiting for the key, the high prices – and he knew other men felt the same way. So he launched an online subscription for well-priced razors and related products, delivered to your door. After nearly a year in beta, Dubin had another epically good idea: he would take his story directly to men on social media, starting with a sly YouTube video starring himself, his bare-bones warehouse, and a guy in a bear suit.
The video went live the same day Dollar Shave Club did, on a March morning in 2012. It promptly went viral. A rush of orders crashed the website in the first hour. By the next morning, Dollar Shave Club had 12,000 new members.
TCV saw the potential based on its experience in helping scale up other e-commerce portfolio companies. When TCV reached out to Dollar Shave Club about a prospective investment, Dubin recognized the opportunity. As he said in an online interview in 2013, he wanted “investors that can help you beyond just writing a check – the type of investors [that can] bring talent to us, and also had seen a lot in the e-commerce space and could help us avoid pitfalls they had seen others fall into.”
Dollar Shave Club’s equity funding from TCV made sure the young company could keep up the pace of customer acquisition at even higher efficiency, build out new product lines, bring distribution in-house, hire executive talent, and build an infrastructure to cope with rapid growth.
TCV also delivered on Dubin’s ask for value beyond funding. TCV General Partner Woody Marshall joined the Dollar Shave Club board of directors, and the firm brought in additional talent from its e-commerce portfolio companies. Dan Murray, the former CFO of Fandango, became Dollar Shave Club’s CFO. Andy Rendich, former head of operations for Netflix, advised Dubin on logistics and distribution, and marketing mavens from Netflix and Zillow offered veteran advice.
“Dollar Shave Club has built a great brand and is a category leader in the e-commerce space,” notes Marshall. “Michael himself has remained authentic to his consumer, has continued to deliver great products, and has shown that he is an exceptional team builder and leader of people.”
“TCV has been a great advisor and believer in what we are trying to do. They have a great network of experts who’ve always been available when I needed them. Working with them has been a terrific experience, and I would refer them to any CEO looking for a partner to help grow his or her business.”
– Michael Dubin, CEO of Dollar Shave Club
By the end of 2015, Dollar Shave Club had more than 3 million members generating more than $150 million in revenue from razors and other grooming products. That prompted Unilever to engage Dollar Shave Club in discussions that ultimately led to the acquisition in 2016. It also proved once again that when a determined entrepreneur with an authentic mission teams up with smart investors with an eye for fast growth, good things can happen.