A few years ago, entrepreneur Andrew Dudum, 29, was taken aside by his sister at a family dinner. The elder Dudum had issues with her brother’s appearance, so she grabbed his credit card and declared, “‘I’m going to buy you skincare products and you’re going to look a lot better,'” recalls her brother, “‘and you’re not going to be as ashy, you’re not going to have pimples, and you won’t be as wrinkly.'”
Dudum later saw a $300 bill on his credit card, which he agrees was “an outrageous price point for a normal guy.” All the products he bought during that shopping spree were women’s brands.
This intervention later inspired Dudum–who previously cofounded a productivity app called ever.com and San Francisco-based venture fund Atomic–to remedy what he considers a deficiency in the men’s wellness space. He recognized that not every dude has “an opinionated sister” (as he affectionately calls her) to help him find good beauty products, and that the internet is a hodgepodge of unverified reviews. And it wasn’t just skincare that he found challenging to navigate–it was also personal hygiene, haircare, sex, and health. Like women, Dudum says, men also care about these topics.
“These are all issues that I and my friends thought about or struggled with at some point in our lives,” reflects Dudum. “Inevitably what happens is we Google-search really scary stuff at 3:00 a.m. and the results are either WebMD or snake oil products.”
So this month Dudum launched Hims, a wellness brand crafted just for guys. Much like Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous Goop, Dudum’s newly launched site offers dozens of articles on a multitude of health-related topics, as well as a handful of direct-to-consumer products. His venture raised $7MM in a seed round led by Maverick Capital, Forerunner Ventures, Thrive, Harry’s, SV Angel, Amity Supply, and Cherubic Ventures.
There are, of course, already plenty of stores and resources for men to educate themselves about wellness-related products–be it GNC or Livestrong–but there aren’t enough sites that offer the same advice as women’s resources, says Dudum. Where, for example, would he discover the best moisturizer for his dry skin?
“Most guys who want to take care of themselves have to walk into Sephora,” he says in a less-than-enthusiastic tone.
Dudum says Hims takes a holistic approach to men’s wellness, starting from one’s teens all the way through their senior years. That’s why topics on the site range from cholesterol to the early stages of male pattern baldness. “It’s meant to grow with you,” says Dudum of Hims, adding, “but always in a very authoritative and medically driven way.”
And with the global wellness industry worth $3.7 trillion of the market, according the Global Wellness Institute, Hims wants a piece of this ever-growing sector.
“There is significant opportunity in the men’s personal care category as men are increasingly taking more ownership of their shopping habits as well as their own personal routines,” Forerunner Ventures founder Kirsten Green tells Fast Company. “There are men out there looking for solutions across the board to that end, and trying to make their own relationships with brands.”
Targeting All Men
Currently, Hims sells products in two categories: hair loss and sexual health. The balding treatments include finasteride, minoxidil, and DHT shampoos, and their prices run from $11 to $28. Hims also sells sildenafil, a medical solution for erectile dysfunction, and sells it for $2 a pill–which is significantly less expensive than competitors like Viagra, which runs about $25 per pill. Hims manufactures its own products with FDA-approved active ingredients once patented by and exclusively available to big pharmaceutical companies, at upwards of 80% off what the big guys were selling them for. The brand intends to expand into other health and beauty categories in the coming weeks, all within a reasonable price point, Dudum says.
Affordability is key for Dudum, who says Hims will ideally appeal to men of all backgrounds and socio-economic status. Even the generic, adjective-less name of his company is intended to create mass appeal, as it is meant to portray a fuss-free, for-all-men philosophy.
“We’re going to offer straight talk,” Dudum says, “we’re not going to make it complicated.”
Hims ultimately wants to address “the full spectrum of men’s issues,” says Dudum, who launched Hims e-commerce with a hair loss product because it’s an issue that targets males equally. Roughly two-thirds of men suffer hair loss by age 35, and it can extend well into one’s 40s, 50s, and 60s.
“We really want to be a brand that targets guys of all generations,” reiterates Dudum.
Likewise, 40% of men experience some degree of erectile dysfunction by the age of 40, reports the Cleveland Clinic. While ads for Viagra often feature affluent senior citizens strolling the beach in white linen pants, Dudum says that isn’t an accurate picture for all men. Often, he says, “”the reality is the guy that is actually suffering is much much younger and makes far less money.”
Dudum says these topics are difficult for most men to talk about or are uncomfortable to access. An in-house Hims survey of several hundred men found that only 10% were comfortable talking to a general practitioner about these topics. Most don’t even have a doctor.
“Men suffer in silence,” says Dudum, who hopes Hims can serve as a safe space of sorts. As such, the site’s articles range from informational (“What to Expect From Erectile Dysfunction Medication”) to supportive (“The Top Reasons Men Go Bald and How to Deal With It”). Other topics, however, do seem straight out of the Gwyneth Paltrow pseudoscience guidebook (“Does Masturbation Cause Hair Loss?”).
Still, Dudum claims Hims is subject to greater scientific oversight than most men’s lifestyle publications and that Hims’ products and articles are reviewed by a team of physicians who serve as consultants. They include Justin Ko, MD, MBA, medical director and service chief of medical dermatology for Stanford Health Care; and Peter J. Stahl, MD, director of male reproductive and sexual medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and assistant professor of urology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“While lifestyle content is great, I think what we’ve seen is men really value doctors’ opinions,” says Dudum, noting that with many of the blogs out there, it’s often “really hard to know what is fact from fiction.”
The Hims site’s melding of lifestyle and health content does leave the door open for controversy and criticism (much as Goop has found). For example, when I question Dudum about Hims’ claim that “baldness is now optional,” he agrees such statements are more editorialized than necessary.
“That is a fairly bold promise,” he concedes, although he quickly asserts that he believes balding is mostly an option for men. “There are things backed in science that work–if they start using them early enough, they actually almost always [do as promised].”
There’s another rather scientifically gray area that Dudum plans on exploring in upcoming launches: nutritional supplements. Dudums would not confirm specific product plans, but did mention an interest in selling supplements targeting general wellness, anxiety, and sleep. Supplements are a $37 billion industry, though they are not FDA-regulated and the medical community’s opinions have been split on their use; some researchers suggest they have few benefits.
“We’re taking [research] pretty seriously,” says Dudum, who claims his medical team is doing its best to “provide the best of the market that we know of exists.”
Pretty In Pink
For all Dudum’s desire to make Hims simple and give it broad appeal, the site’s millennial pink-tinged design undoubtedly veers more towards elite, urban, hipster tastes. A quick scan shows perfectly groomed, diverse men smirking, with a dab of moisturizer marked on their face, or blankly staring ahead as a woman washes their hair. The brand’s precious photography looks more like an Allure spread, or as one of my Fast Company colleagues called it, “Glossier for the boys.”
Dudum explains that design-wise, he really wanted to differentiate Hims from other male-centered brands, such as Axe. From his experience, he saw men’s companies lumped into one of two categories: upscale gentleman (“everything is forest green and dark blue with mahogany, with men sitting on leather couches smoking cigars”) or raunchy frat boy (“X-rated humor appealing to the lowest common denominator”). Instead, Dudum endeavored to create an elegant site and classy products that the consumer wouldn’t feel intimidated by–or attempt to hide when a romantic companion slept over.
“I really believe that there’s an opportunity to build beautiful products that men actually appreciate … and also speak to them in a way that I think most guys want to be spoken to, which is just directly, not a lot of bullshit, with a little bit of wit and humor,” says Dudum.
That humor is exemplified with the product’s messaging, which oftens borders on the intersection of informational and cutesy. The promo for the sildenafil, for example, reads “treat ED, ’cause you should get erections when you want them, not when it’s convenient for your penis.”
Moving forward, Hims plans to use the same glib approach for upcoming launches, including mouth and body hygiene (“There’s a lot of anxiety around sweating and bad breath” in the male community, Dudum says), and especially for skincare. The Global Wellness Institute estimates that $999 billion encapsulates skincare and anti-aging spending (while preventative and personalized medicine, in comparison, account for $534 billion in spending each year).
Dudum points to makeup blogs, which make it easy (and even enjoyable) for women to proactively seek out solutions that affect their appearance, and subsequently, their confidence.
“It’s really just not something that is pretty standard for men yet,” said Dudum. “In general, it’s a little bit less culturally acceptable to say, ‘Hey guy, we know you’ve got something that kind influences your self-esteem, maybe have a pimple, and here are all the ways to fix it.”
Dudum plans on tackling each issue “one at a time,” leaving the door open to selling products that can help address anything and everything that impacts the American male. But unlike Goop, you likely won’t see any crystal healing guides or mediums offering up woo woo-centric advice on the site. “At a super high level, the brand is intended to be very mass market,” stresses Dudum.
“I can’t even tell you how many guys have secretly texted me at a different point, asking, ‘Hey, what was that thing you were using for wrinkles on your forehead?'” says Dudum. “It was a back alley conversation when it shouldn’t be … We’re going to try to educate these guys on how to take care of themselves.”
Read more about how Hims’ branding approach over on Co.Design.