$1 Billion for Dollar Shave Club: Why Every Company Should Worry


Harry Campbell

Unilever is paying $1 billion for Dollar Shave Club, a five-year-old start-up that sells razors and other personal products for men. Every other company should be afraid, very afraid.

The deal anecdotally shows that no company is safe from the creative destruction brought by technological change. The very nature of a company is fundamentally changing, becoming smaller and leaner with far fewer employees.

Dollar Shave Club was a phenom in the men’s grooming industry. The online business was founded in 2011 by Mark Levine and Michael Dubin to combat the high cost of razors. The idea was rather simple. Instead of paying $10 or $20 a month at a store for disposable razors, a Dollar Shave Club subscriber could go online and set up a regular order to be shipped to his home monthly at a fraction of the retail cost.

The experiment was a brave one. Until that time, Gillette dominated the razor business and was in an arms race with itself to add yet more blades and other features to its razors. Gillette was so dominant in advertising and shelf space that Procter & Gamble paid $57 billion for the company in 2005.

Everything changed in 2012, when Mr. Dubin’s comedic free ad posted on YouTube. Within 24 hours, the new business had more than 12,000 orders, more than it could handle. The ad went on to get over 20 million views and rocket Dollar Shave Club to over $240 million in revenue.