For his second startup, a shaving company called Harry’s, Warby Parker co-founder Jeffrey Raider has, you might say, put a lot more skin in the game. "Literally, I’d come out of the bathroom with the little tissue rips all over my face," Raider’s co-founder, Andy Katz-Mayfield, says about the time he spent testing every shaving product on the market. "My wife would be like, what did you just do?"
Harry’s, which is launching Wednesday, aims to do for shaving what Warby Parker did for glasses: provide a direct-to-consumer boutique experience for mass-retail prices.
Like Warby Parker, the shaving company has given its products cute names (one razor handle is called "The Winston," another "The Truman"), set them on a clean, intuitive website, and built a business model around reducing prices by disrupting a near monopoly. Harry's even has an equivalent for Warby Parker's policy of donating a pair of frames for every pair purchased. For every blade sold, it donates another, or its equivalent dollar value, to an organization that "helps guys look and feel their best."
These are two businesses clearly cut from the same cloth. But what makes Harry's most different from its spectacle-selling cousin is that it only sells four products: razors for $2 or less each, two different types of handles, and shaving cream. People chose glasses to express their individuality, and Warby Parker has hundreds of style and color combinations. But shaving is largely about getting a chore done. That's one reason other shaving innovators, like Dollar Shave Club, have focused much on convenience.
Can Warby Parker's strategy of bringing a boutique experience to the masses work as well for a less personalized product?
After hundreds of bad shaves in the name of competitive analysis, Katz-Mayfield and Raider are betting yes. Early on, they turned their bathrooms into laboratories, conducting A/B tests by using different products on each side of their faces. It only took a few weeks of testing to realize that shaving equipment is a different game than eyeglasses. Very few players dominate the high-end of the shaving industry, and Harry's founders didn't like any of their products. Instead of redesigning the experience around the product, they've also redesigned the product.
It took them six months to find a manufacturer that used a "gothic arch" process, which makes blades sharp but not brittle. For Harry's two handles, they hired an industrial design firm that took its inspiration from old pens and knives.
Warby Parker doesn't promise its glasses will help you see better. It doesn't have to. Making it easier to find glasses that fit through at-home trials and less expensive to buy them is enough. Harry's product, on the other hand, doesn't gain points for perfect fit and competes with equally inexpensive options that will get the job done, if not without some tissues, and even ship replacements to your door on a regular schedule. Its value lies squarely in doing the job better. "With Harry’s," Raider says, "I think we care about customers a lot, but it’s more about respecting them and giving them a product they really like, but not overwhelming them with choice—just sort of giving them a shaving tool we think will work really well."
[Images courtesy of Harry's]