Razor and Blade Startups / by Dan Weingrod

The best thing I’ve seen this week has been the launch, and irresistible launch video, of Dollar Shaving Club. With all of the hoopla around the new, battery draining, connection apps debuting at SXSW when we look back next year we’ll probably remember DSC first. We may even be using its blades by then because because of how the video has redefined social spread by taking the typical hockey stick growth curve and turning it into something that more resembles a flagpole.

Dollar Shave Club popularityDollar Shave Club popularity

Dollar Shave Club Popularity

But what’s even more interesting for me is what this launch says about startups and how we need to think about them. All too often startups are synonymous with mobile apps, interesting data viz and disruption of spaces where information, utility and entertainment are controlled by worn out standards. DSC has done something different here, actually getting into the grimy world of physical products and using innovation in its business model to take on the long-standing razor & blades sales paradigm. By recognizing that blade manufacturing technology has become commoditized, and cheaper, they had the smarts to layer over a subscription model that likely came from understanding the problem and some careful customer development. DSC isn’t the first to do something like this, Airbnb’s approach feels very similar although it sits more in the collaborative consumption space. Pointing startup thinking onto the more mundane world of physical products may be a little more boring, but the opportunity can be huge. And nowadays, when we hear the most inspiring talk at TED exhorting us to focus less on technology and more on the real world, a dose of razor and blade startup can be very instructional. A really good video helps too.