The gig: Michael Dubin, 35, is chief executive and co-founder of Dollar Shave Club, a subscription service that delivers razors and laughs. When Dubin released a YouTube video in March 2012 introducing his company, where members can get razors starting at $1 a month (plus $2 in shipping) delivered to their door, he had no idea the replenishable razor blades were going to be such a big hit. The goofy video went viral, orders poured in (12,000 in the first two days) and the company’s website, DollarShaveClub, crashed in the first hour. The subscription-based business model is nothing new, but it’s the convenience, price and cheeky slogan — just profane enough that it can’t be printed in the Los Angeles Times — that make the company stand out from big razor brands such as Gillette or Schick.
Growing and grooming: Today, a little over a year after that video’s debut, Dollar Shave Club has attracted more than 200,000 subscribers. The company raised $9.8 million in funding in November from Silicon Valley venture capital firm Venrock, on top of $1 million in seed funding. Dubin has expanded the 30-employee Venice company beyond razors, adding shave butter and disposable wipes for men (with another video). He says he wants to own the entire bathroom.
Going by feel: After graduating from Emory College in Atlanta, Dubin moved to New York and became a page at NBC. Later, he worked at MSNBC in news writing and production. But his editorial ambitions drifted away after two years, and Dubin took to digital media and marketing instead. “I’ve never worked for an agency, but I’ve always created content,” he said. Dubin got a job at Time Inc., creating custom content for big brand advertisers such as Gatorade, Nike and Nintendo. He also worked in video marketing for a while, creating branded reviews on YouTube for the likes of Ford, Capital One and Gillette.
Happy accident: The idea for Dollar Shave Club came at a holiday party in 2010, when Dubin met his future company’s co-founder, Mark Levine, who was the father of a friend’s fiancee. The two started talking razors. “I don’t know how we got on the subject of shaving, but we started talking about what a rip-off it is,” Dubin said. Levine, whose background is in manufacturing, said he knew where to get affordable twin razor blades. The two realized that Dubin’s experience in branding and digital marketing paired nicely with Levine’s network, and they struck a deal.
Going for it: With Levine’s assistance, Dubin began working on the company in January 2011. “He wanted to just sell razors on the Internet, but I wanted to build a brand,” Dubin said. Levine helped connect Dubin with manufacturers to create the product. “I did the rest,” he said. Dubin invested his life savings, about $35,000, to build the website, which launched in July 2011. He spent the first six months driving around trying to connect with media to spread the word. Dubin signed up his first 1,000 members without spending anything on marketing. “Then we made the video to attract even more investors,” Dubin said.
Funny factor: “Even if you are not funny there are certain principles of comedy that you can cross pollinate between two different areas, especially in marketing,” Dubin said. His dive into comedy started at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, where he performed and studied improvisational comedy as a hobby. It was there where he met Lucia Aniello, who helped shoot the promotional video for Dollar Shave Club. “I have always believed in the power of videos to tell stories,” said Dubin, who spent about $4,500 to film the video in the original Dollar Shave Club warehouse in Gardena in October 2011. “This is the first time I’ve integrated my comedic training into a brand that I’ve built.”
The X factor: Venture capitalists “look for a couple things. One, a strong business model with good margins, then they look for a bold vision and they look to see if the team has the experience to carry out that vision. I think once they saw that video, they understood that I was a guy who understood brand and marketing and how to speak with a clear voice about our core offer,” Dubin said.
It’s always personal: “Being an entrepreneur is a certain personality type. It’s a choice for sure, and there are a lot of entrepreneurs that can’t help themselves, they have to do it. They have no other choice than to start something of their own. You’re a creator, you want to build.”
TV personality: Dubin has gained fame from his viral YouTube videos and TV ads that have been placed on national cable outlets such as ESPN, Spike TV and Comedy Central. “The Millionaire Matchmaker” has even approached Dubin to appear as a bachelor for a date, but he turned the offer down.