- Three-year-old razor subscription startup Cornerstone raises £3.5 million. Plans to expand into wider toiletries and bathroom supplies: vitamins, shampoo, deodorant. Founder: “We’re working with effectively the best chemists in the world to make sure we develop a product that’s going to hold up against Colgate and Sure.”
LONDON – Razorblade subscription startup Cornerstone has raised £3.5 million and plans to launch a swathe of new toiletry products in a bid to convince customers “never to go to Boots again.”
UK-based Cornerstone was founded in June 2014 by 28-year-old founder Oliver Bridge with just £15,000 in savings. It raised the money from private equity firm Calculus Capital. LoveFilm and Secret Escapes cofounder William Reeve is also coming on as an advisor to the company.
Cornerstone is a subscription razor service for men, sending its 140,000 UK customers regular supplies of blades, shaving cream, and face wash in the post.
Bridge told Business Insider that the funding will be used to grow the business to 500,000 customers by 2020, build Amazon-like predictive tech for orders, and to broaden Cornerstone’s product range beyond simply shaving-related products.
Bridge said: “Within about six months we plan to launch an entire bathroom range. That will include shampoo, deodorant, multi-vitamins, toothbrushes, mouthwashes etc.
“The whole concept is our customers will never have to go to Boots again. We will send them everything they need and when we get the tech a bit better we’ll be able to hopefully predict what you need for the month ahead. If we’ve got it right, you won’t even need to leave the house for this stuff.”
‘We’ve found pretty much the best manufacturers in the world’
Vitamins and shampoo sounds like a departure for a company that makes razor blades – is there much cross-over between metalwork and nutritional science?
Bridge says: “The team at Cornerstone are not razor manufacturing experts but we work with a factory that is the best and we now understand how that works.”
Cornerstone sourced its razors from the same German factory as US-based rival Harry’s, Bridge says, until Harry’s bought the manufacturer out right. Cornerstone has since changed supplier.
Bridge continued: “What we’ve done with all the categories we’re moving into – vitamins, toothpaste, deodorant etc. – is found pretty much the best manufacturers in the world that work with private label.
“What we have is effectively the team that does R&D and manufacturing for many of the big, big brands you’ll see in Boots or Superdrug but working on Cornerstone. It’s quite an interesting quirk of the toiletries industry that companies like Colgate will outsource research and development and some manufacturing.
“We’re working with effectively the best chemists in the world to make sure we develop a product that’s going to hold up against Colgate and Sure and all the other products in the marketplace.”
‘Proctor & Gamble are watching our every move, judging by who looks at my LinkedIn profile’
Cornerstone is up against stiff competition from all sides. As well as giants like Colgate and Sure in the new product categories it’s looking to launch into, the startup is taking on giants like Wilkinson’s Sword and Gillette in the razor market, as well as newer startups like Harry’s and potentially Dollar Shave Club.
Bridge jokes: He added: “We’ve got Proctor & Gamble, who are a $200 billion business, watching our every move, judging by who looks at my LinkedIn profile.
“We’re under no illusions that we’re a still a relatively small fish in a big pond. We’ve grown really fast and we’re really proud of what we’ve done but we’re still tiny.”
Bridge says that competitors like Harry’s, which recently launched in the UK, actually help rather than hinder. He said: “Harry’s obviously launched [in the UK] with quite a big bang about six weeks ago. The last six weeks have been some of our best in terms of growth. It helps grow the overall market and open customers’ eyes to new possibilities.”
Bridge believes Cornerstone’s push into new product categories can help it keep ahead of the competition, saying: “If you can buy everything you need from us and just your razors from Harry’s, I think that makes our proposition more compelling. That’s one way we’re innovating to stay relevant and stay ahead of those guys.”
Cornerstone isn’t planning any international expansion for the moment and will stick to men’s razors and toiletries, rather than branching out to women. Bridge wouldn’t disclose Cornerstone’s valuation in the funding round, saying only that it is a “significant uplift” from its Crowdcube fundraising in 2015 when the company was valued at £3 million. Cornerstone has raised £8 million to date.