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Hawthorne Unlocks a New Wave of Men’s Grooming and Self Care

Brian Jeong and Phillip Wong

Comcast Ventures invests in Brian Jeong and Phillip Wong’s next-generation men’s personal brand

It’s no secret. Men do care. They care a lot about how they smell, look, and feel. Direct to consumer brands aimed at men sell on convenience, pricing, and coveted products, and they’re getting better at it. Case in point: Comcast Ventures unicorn portfolio company, Dollar Shave Club, started with razors and grew its product line fast. It was acquired by Unilever in 2016. Same year — Enter Hawthorne.

Hawthorne started off by using biometric tailoring, lifestyle, and personal taste to deliver a consumer’s perfect scent. When the NYC-based startup started smelling success, co-founders Brian Jeong and Phillip Wong expanded into customized personal care products. And today, this next-generation men’s personal DTC brand is really taking off with a fresh round of funding. Comcast Ventures participated in Hawthorne’s Series A $8M round.

Here’s more from Brian on what this means for the company:

What does this round of funding mean to Hawthorne?

We started Hawthorne because men’s personal care interests and needs were evolving more rapidly than the brands, products, and retailers that served them. Men are left to consider only either antiquated ‘dad brands’ on drugstore shelves or expensive luxury brands in department stores. Phil and I set out to create a new brand and a new experience that would help men discover and use not only high quality products, but ones that actually worked specifically for their skin, hair, and body.

When we launched this company, we started with cologne, an expensive, top shelf product that most American men did not use today. We knew if we could prove our model with cologne, we could expand our brand and experience to other parts of the men’s personal care routine. Now, we offer fragrance, deodorant, soap, body wash, shampoo and conditioner — all personalized based on our algorithm that has an over 97% success rate. This funding enables us to continue to take over the entire men’s bathroom with this approach of premium quality, tailored formulas, and differentiated convenience — for men’s needs today and tomorrow.

We’re also incredibly excited to continue working with Comcast Ventures and begin our partnership with Imaginary Ventures. Both have a proven track record in consumer goods and personal care. Comcast Ventures bet early on Dollar Shave Club, and can now help Hawthorne lead the next wave in men’s care. Imaginary Ventures backed huge successes like Glossier and Everlane from early on. We’re thrilled to have them on the team.

What have you learned about this industry and what men want when it comes to personal care products?

As a society, men are caring more about how they look and feel and doing more about it. Thus, most men are at the very beginning of their journeys in personal care. We’ve learned that just because men use certain products or buy them in certain places, that doesn’t mean that they are satisfied with their 3-in-1 or with making the 10–15 minute drive to the grocery store.

Through our early journey, we’ve found that with the right brand and experience, we can create journeys that compel and educate men and, in turn, get them to confidently switch away from brands they have been using their whole lives and even get them to buy into new personal care categories they’ve never used before. Convenience is key, but it is only one of the many keys that will shape the men’s personal care buying experience of the future.

How big is the market for men’s personal care?

The men’s personal care market is expected to reach $166 billion by 2022 with digital brands at the forefront according to an Allied Market Research report. With a unique blend of convenience, an algorithmic buying experience, and accessible pricing as well as entire collection of premium products, Hawthorne is elevating men’s personal care out of the drug store aisle, out of the medicine cabinet, and out of the 3-in-1 bottle.

How does Hawthorne customize the process and the products?

Hawthorne is a brand-enabled business, but we are first-and-foremost a data-driven company. We’ve gathered millions of different inputs from hundreds of thousands of guys to develop multiple recommendation algorithms built on machine learning to predict scent preference, skin type, hair type, body chemistry, usage habits, and more.

For the user, though, this complexity manifests itself in a very simple 20-question quiz that asks straightforward and easy to answer questions. On the backend, we have a constantly evolving palette of fragrances and formulas across all the categories we offer. We are constantly using feedback from customers to improve both our algorithm accuracy — currently over 97% — as well as the formula bases and scents we offer our customers.

Lastly, about two years ago, we also set out to use data to not only predict products but also subscription windows. Thus, we have best-in-class subscription retention rates, because we create personalized replenishment cycles for each customer based on their data.

Technology alone is not enough. What else do you need to build a successful DTC brand for personal care products?

In addition to tech and data, we are blessed to have a world-class creative team in-house led by my cofounder Phillip Wong. Our creative team not only has experience in building consumer brands but also in designing and storytelling in high fashion, music, and sports. This breadth of experience allows us to create an aspirational yet accessible brand that speaks with our many different customers who live across different state lines, work across distinct professions, and should be served across unique functional needs.

Not only do we invest in our ingredients to ensure the best quality formulas, but we also partner with world-class perfumers and labs that are the creators behind some of our favorite luxury and niche fragrance and skincare lines. In particular, our partnership with the world’s most renowned fragrance house, Givaudan, and their award-winning perfumers has allowed us to have full confidence in the products we are sending to our customers.

We make sure we have the best products on the market for the men who are redefining their own personal care journeys.

In our Founder Spotlight series, entrepreneurs from our portfolio companies share insights about the problems they’re working to solve, how they built their companies, and advice to new entrepreneurs.

Hawthorne Unlocks a New Wave of Men’s Grooming and Self Care was originally published in The Forecast on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.