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
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 Cross Fit, 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>