Controversial

FinTech's Billion Dollar Investment Week (And How To Disrupt A Toothbrush)

Though perhaps a bit overstated, the sharing and subscription economy is changing the face of the way consumers interact with the marketplace of goods and services. Yesterday, Google Ventures managing partner Bill Maris proclaimed that Uber was not only the fastest growing company his team had ever been involved in, but also the fastest growing company he had ever seen.

“The fabulously wealthy may call their servants by ringing a little bell. In the lifestyles of the geeky and lazy, one can now summon a household staff just by tapping on a smartphone,” wrote Wall Street Journal tech columnist Geoffrey Fowler.

Provided the “geeky and lazy” live in San Francisco, of course, in which case one can have one's groceries delivered, car parked, meals prepared, dog walked, medical marijuana delivered, clothes washed and drink mixed. All on-demand and ready to take one more chore off a customer's list.

Toothbrushes - specifically the unexpectedly frequent need to replace them - may be the next chore that the subscription-based digital economy is about take off our collective plates.

Quip quite simply wants to disrupt the toothbrush for the majority of Americans who are not brushing their teeth correctly.

And while on surface that may be a strange goal - a highly unscientific poll indicated that while the PYMNTS.com editorial staff had statistically amazingly good oral hygiene - with 66 percent reporting having replaced their toothbrush in the last three months, and 100 percent reporting have replaced it in the last six - among the general population surveyed (about 22 random responders), 88 percent were unable to recall when they last changed their toothbrush - though a small majority were pretty sure it was in the last year.

The American Dental Association recommends replacing one's toothbrush every three months, because, as it turns out, a toothbrush used after that point become a much less effective tool for oral hygiene and a much more efficient tool for spreading bacteria. Unfortunately, less than 25 percent of Americans actually swap out their toothbrushes that often — mostly because they do not remember to. Quip, quite simply, decided it could fix that problem — as well as a host of other issues related to oral hygiene.

“To improve oral care, we needed to address the biggest issues: Half of the U.S. population does not brush twice a day, more than half don’t brush for a full two minutes, and 75 percent  don’t replace their brush head every 3 months as recommended,” a firm noted on its website. “We decided to make a toothbrush that addressed those problems head on without the useless cost of superfluous features.”

Quip was founded by industrial designer Simon Enever and product designer Bill May, who had each contracted significantly with dentists in the past and learned an unsettling truth: most so-called “advances” in toothbrush technology didn’t actually improve the product.

“[Working with] dentists, we learned avoid toothbrushes with too many angled bristles because they wear out faster and stop cleaning well,” Quip noted. “We discovered that many of the common gimmicks that toothbrush manufacturers advertise were either inconsequential or completely wrong. The fundamentals of good oral care lie in user behavior and proper technique, not Bluetooth-connected motion tracking motors.”

So Quip offers a very simple proposition, so simple in fact that service has yet to go mobile with a native app - though the app is in development with hopes of a launch later this year. Currently users simple login through the service's website and sign up. The initial purchase is $25 for a base (or $40 for the slightly fancier metal base) and it comes with three months' worth of toothpaste, vibrating brushes and a toothbrush head. From then on, a new brush head comes in the mail every three months - at which time consumers are charged $5.

The brushes themselves are custom-designed and assembled in the U.S.  However, even combined with their low price point, the company is currently reporting margins above 50 percent. They also report having “thousands” of users - but then they have only been in operation for a few months.

They are also attracting interest from investors. Quip raised $300,000 last year from New York area angels. They are now in the midst of looking to bring in a larger ($550,000+) round with prior and new investors - one of which may (unsurprisingly) be a NYC dental firm.

Quip is also looking to grow its user base with the launch this week of its referral program. Customers who recommend friends, who then sign on, will get their next toothbrush head free of charge.

Which is, undeniably, something to smile about.

PYMNTS Investment Tracker Fifth Week Of April

The closing days of April brought a little over $1 billion in financial activity, all driven by strategic or venture-backed investments. The biggest move of the week was the acquisition of Fundtech by D+H for $1.2 billion, followed by the acquisition of Exact Holding NV by Apax Partners for $930 million. Out of 116 deals, 18 did not disclose amounts.

Only 35 percent of investment activity last week was on the retail payments side. The biggest retail play was the acquisition of TrustWave Holdings by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. for $810 million, and the debt funding for CAN Capital led by Wells Fargo for $650 million.

On the commercial payments side, the biggest transaction was TPG Growth's third fund with $3 billion in capital commitments, followed by the acquisition of Fundtech by D+H for $1.2 billion.

Venture-backed and strategic investments on the retail payments side accounted for $3.8 billion in the fifth week of April. Most, 85 percent, of the venture and strategic backed investments in retail payments were in the Alternative Finance, Security/Fraud, P2P and Banking. Andreessen Horowitz, Snapdeal, Start Garden, Route 66 Ventures and Sequoia participated in two deals this week.

From a geographic perspective, the U.S. was the most active region followed by Europe ex Russia.

The median investment amount was $10.9 million.

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