Groom­ing: Mav­er­icks’ ruth­lessly ef­fi­cient ap­proach to skin care tar­gets tech bros

Mav­er­icks thinks it has a bet­ter way for tech bros to keep their pre-IPO glow. By Kyle Chayka

Bloomberg Businessweek (Europe) - - CONTENTS -

Douglas Jar­dine, the 36-year-old co-founder of Airdna, a com­pany in Los Angeles that tracks data on Airbnb reser­va­tions, got ac­cus­tomed to a skin-care regimen af­ter mov­ing to South Korea in 2010. “South Korean so­ci­ety is looks-ob­sessed, and it’s much more ac­cepted for men to use prod­ucts there,” he says. But when Jar­dine re­turned to the U.S. in 2013, he says he found the wide-rang­ing prod­uct lines of up­mar­ket brands “be­wil­der­ing.”

So Jar­dine was re­lieved to find Mav­er­icks, a new com­pany in Sil­i­con Val­ley promis­ing to op­ti­mize skin care with ruth­less ef­fi­ciency. Like Soy­lent, Bul­let­proof Cof­fee, and CrossFit, Mav­er­icks plays to the modern cult of techno-util­ity. There are only three prod­ucts: a cleanser named Wash; a mois­tur­izer, Re­build; and a sun­block, Pro­tect. They’re pack­aged in min­i­mal­ist, all-black pump bot­tles, each with an “ob­jec­tive.” (Wash’s ob­jec­tive is, not shock­ingly, to “re­move ex­cess dirt, oil, and dead skin cells.”) Tech bros such as Jar­dine are the tar­get cus­tomer. “This three-step process ap­pealed to me,” he says. “Maybe it’s par­tially due to my en­gi­neer men­tal­ity.”

Mav­er­icks founder Brad Yim was a one­time tech bro, too. The for­mer soft­ware en­gi­neer jumped ship from a fail­ing com­pany in the dot-com bust of the late ’90s, then went to grad­u­ate school at MIT and the Whar­ton School be­fore spend­ing a dozen years in fi­nance. As hap­pens when you’re in fi­nance that long, by 2013 he no­ticed cir­cles un­der his eyes and the be­gin­nings of a fore­head crease. He wanted to take bet­ter care of him­self but wasn’t sure how. “In the age of the selfie, how you look is kind of im­por­tant,” says Yim, 40, whose skin has a dewy sheen.

It may be more than just kind of im­por­tant: The men’s per­sonal-care mar­ket grew 15 per­cent from 2010 to 2015, reach­ing $4.2 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing

to Min­tel Group, a mar­ket analytics firm. Still, only 22 per­cent of guys use skin-care treat­ments, re­ports con­sumer re­searcher NPD Group. Sales vol­ume “could be 10 times more,” says Karen Grant, NPD se­nior vice pres­i­dent. “There’s a big op­por­tu­nity.” Yim agrees: “Male van­ity started with slim­mer-fit­ting pants and dress shirts 10 years ago, and now it’s the hair and beard. The fi­nal domino to fall is skin care.”

Mav­er­icks is po­si­tion­ing it­self as a tool to re­duce your groom­ing rou­tine to its most bi­nary form. The three, 1.7-ounce tubes in the $90 Face Kit, avail­able only at get­mav­er­icks.com, con­tain in­gre­di­ents widely used in other skin-care lines, such as al­pha hy­droxy acid, which is good for ex­fo­li­a­tion, and retinol, for min­i­miz­ing wrin­kles. The sell­ing point is that the for­mu­la­tions de­rive from sub­stances with peer-re­viewed ap­proval—think of it as open source groom­ing—not that they in­cor­po­rate weird-sound­ing al­gae. Yim’s part­ners in­clude doc­tors such as Ed­ward Jung, a for­mer re­searcher at the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health who’s now a skin can­cer spe­cial­ist at Mer­i­tus Health in Mary­land. (Oth­ers re­main anony­mous be­cause their in­sti­tu­tional af­fil­i­a­tions prevent moon­light­ing.)

Even in an un­der­tapped mar­ket, Mav­er­icks faces com­pe­ti­tion for core cus­tomers. Dol­lar Shave Club, the di­rect-to-con­sumer ra­zor brand val­ued at more than $600 mil­lion, in­tro­duced its skin­care line, Big Cloud, in Jan­uary. So far, Yim has raised $500,000 in seed fund­ing from pri­vate in­vestors in Asia and the Bay Area who want him to ex­pand to China, which has a $30 bil­lion-plus skin-care mar­ket.

It won’t be hard to trans­late how you fol­low the Mav­er­icks rou­tine: You rinse your face in the morn­ing and ap­ply the Pro­tect sun­screen. At night, you cleanse with Wash, then ap­ply the Re­build mois­tur­izer. Af­ter test­ing Mav­er­icks for a month, my skin felt softer and looked smoother. The prod­ucts are un­scented and light­weight. Yim says, “It’s cheap to make stuff that’s heavy.” Then, of course, he quotes Steve Jobs: “Sim­ple can be harder than com­plex.” <BW>

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