Chances are that you are probably brushing your teeth incorrectly. If you’re interest in improving you oral heath, you could get one of those clunky, heavy, and expensive electric brushes that are offered by the big names in the industry. Or you could try out quip, the subscription oral health company that’s taking on the incumbents head on. Founded by two industrial designers, quip offers an elegant electric brush that’s the size of a normal toothbrush that last 3 months on a single charge and looks like an Apple product. It offers an inexpensive initial outlay and sends replacement brush heads to your door every 3 months, the recommended frequency you are supposed to change those heads but never do. The company just closed its Series A round and has raised a total of $12.205 in reported funding over six rounds.
Today we sit down with CEO and Founder Simon Enever to discuss the startup, its inspiration, the state of oral health and innovation, as well as the company’s latest round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Our top investors include Sherpa Capital, early investors in AirBnB and Uber, Kal Vepuri’s Brainchild fund — an early investor in Harry’s and Warby Parker and Blue Scorpion VC and we have other notables investors from entertainment and oral care including multi-platinum recording artist Demi Lovato and former head of Sonicare North America, Eric Grosgogeat.
Tell us about quip.
quip is an online oral care company designing and delivering products, advice and professional services to make oral health more simple, accessible, and enjoyable — starting with a better electric toothbrush.
The quip electric toothbrush is thoughtfully designed to ensure better brushing, and fix the bad oral care habits that have the biggest impact on a person’s oral health. quip’s brush, which is covered for life, has sensitive vibrating bristles with 30-second pulses that guide a thorough 2-minute clean, a wireless suction-based wall mount that doubles as a travel cover to simplify a twice daily brushing routine, and a subscription service that delivers brush heads and toothpaste on a dentist-recommended 3-month schedule to ensure supplies stay hygienic and effective, alongside monthly oral care advice and 6 month reward based dental check-up reminders.
The idea for quip came during a routine dental checkup in 2012 when my dentist told me I was brushing the wrong way, and that I was far from alone in doing so. They went on to express their frustration at big brands glossing over this major oral care problem that many people experienced, focusing instead on adding superfluous features that helped increase price points, rather than on designing affordable and easy to use products that actually helped people brush better.
With the average person brushing for only one minute when you’re supposed to brush for two minutes, up to half not even brushing twice a day, and a majority of people not changing their brush head before it becomes worn out and useless at cleaning, these were some of the real oral care bad habits being ignored — habits that, if fixed, would have a profoundly bigger impact on a person’s oral health than whether their toothbrush had six or seven modes.
When I approached my friend, fellow designer and cofounder, Bill May, about the concept, market opportunity was not even a consideration. That’s easy to say for a product as universal as a toothbrush of course, but as industrial designers, the chance to apply some good-habit-forming design to the ubiquitous toothbrush was a dream, particularly when a successful outcome would mean helping so many people improve their oral health, and therefore whole body health.
How is it different?
From the highest level, the thing that makes quip most unique is that instead of trying to create one single big selling point that would “revolutionize your oral health” (like everyone else tries to do every year), what we actually did was take the best of the dentist-recommended features out there, remove the excess features teeth don’t need, and make hundreds of small little changes that end up making a huge difference to the experience of buying, owning, operating, storing and refreshing an electric toothbrush to ultimately improve people’s entire oral care routine — from 2 minute brushing to 3 month replacement, and dental check-ups every 6 months.
How we tackle the basics that matter:
- Quip ensures gentle, evenly spread 2 minute brushing using a single vibration mode that is sensitive on teeth and pulses every 30 seconds, for 2 minutes to guide you around mouth.
- Quip encourages twice daily brushing by designing the smallest, lightest and quietest electric toothbrush on the market, available in materials like anodized aluminum that are enjoyable to hold and desirable to pick up and combining this with a mirror mount that keeps quip top of mind when in your bathroom that doubles as a travel cover for when on the go.
- Quip ensures you are replacing your brush heads on the recommended schedule by delivering you one automatically every 3 months for $5 including free international shipping.
- Quip rewards you for visiting dentist on time by optionally connecting you with your dentist, sending 6 monthly reminders and giving rewards from participating dentists.
Unique things about quip…
- Quip is the exact same dimensions as a common adult manual toothbrush
- quip doesn’t require a bulky charging stand
- Quip goes 3 months on a charge / battery (so only gets refreshed 4 times a year like the head)
- Quip’s mirror mount uses a unique material that actually suctions to glossy surface, but is flat and can be reapplied over and over and even cleaned.
- Quip also offers anticavity toothpaste for $5 and you get a free travel toothpaste each time also
- Quip is covered for the life of your subscription plan.
- You can get free refills for visiting a dentist on time, and also for recommending quip to friends.
- Quip was the first brush to offer aluminum metal handles, which are CNC machined and color anodized using the same materials and processes as Apple products.
- Quip is waterproof
- You can try quip for 30 days (60 brushes) and get a refund if it’s not for you.
- Quip invest heavily in rebranding oral care advice to a more palatable and enjoyable to read, which we send to our members every month
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
Without wanting to paint too broad a stroke, we started quip because we learned from dentists that almost everyone was getting at least one of the core fundamentals of a good oral care routine wrong, and we wanted to help everyone by making well designed products and services that fixed this. As industrial designers, we believe that good product design can transcend “targets” and be both useful and appealing to many people — everyone has a mouth after all. Good design can be loved by all, for young and old, professionals to consumers, and everyone in between because it is designed well and solves problems. We have tried to take that approach in oral care and have built a product and brand we believe can cater to everyone. Speaking more specifically, to help the largest amount of people, we are particularly focused initially on helping those currently lacking the helping hand of an electric toothbrush, and so we designed quip to be as accessible as possible in terms of price, design and experience for the 80% of people that have never upgraded to an electric. The bonus of creating the first electric toothbrush that removes the reasons people didn’t want to upgrade to an electric in the first place is that we have also solved the frustrations that current electric toothbrush users experience, and so we are able to appeal to both sides of the market very successfully.
What’s your business model?
Our business is about ensuring preventative oral care is maintained by more people. While we are beginning that journey by creating a better electric toothbrush, over time, we hope to gain the trust of our members as an oral care authority that can not only help them with just a great electric toothbrush, but is also there to help answer any questions they have about oral health in general and, ultimately, help them connect to the best professionals in their area for their needs. In short, we aren’t looking to build a business around one single product — but we’re looking to become the single source that our members look to for all of their oral care needs.
While you are currently D2C do you see quip entering into retailers in the future?
The reason we focus online is not to follow the crowd but, like many others, because you are able to do far more than sell online. We can educate and interact with a consumer on their journey of discovery about your product and help them not only understand what you are offering at what price, but more importantly to us, you can discuss what oral care and overall health is about and what actually should matter to them in a large sense than even what we currently offer.
So, we are focused on offering quip on any format that allows us to provide that great price and experience alongside those educational touchpoints. Sometimes this is achievable through retailers, although currently this is more easily possible with smaller retailers or shorter relationships with larger ones. The biggest “retail” environment we are focused on, that also allows both a great educational and onboarding experience, is your local dental office. We are building close relationships with dental offices that we hope will make your local dentist the best place to get quip and learn about oral care at home, with the best experience and for the best value.
What was the funding process like?
As a British-born, Industrial designer, my US network of financially focused people was non-existent when we first conceived quip, so it has certainly been an uphill battle. On top of this, it has been clear to me that money often follows money and finance follows finance, so pitching finance people from the same network, about a product aimed at exactly the opposite of that network (but the majority of America and the world) wasn’t easy, especially as a designer that was selling an idea based on a feeling that oral care needed a full design overhaul, not just another gimmicky “big ticket” fix. It has been a challenge from day one, but one that I have enjoyed at every moment as we have hit milestone after milestone — but I do feel lucky to have stumbled across people like our first major investor,Kal Vepuri, who can look outside the usual box and identify something that can change the game in a market that is not necessarily their personal bread and butter.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
I think I probably answered this question earlier, but I would add two specific other things that have presented challenges. Quip is, at launch, a low price point with an infrequent subscription frequency (quarterly). So investors are gambling that you can continue to drive value from customers in the long-term. This is the opposite, for example, of a bit ticket non-subscription item that makes $600+ upon launch but has no subscription, and also of a “free trial” based subscription that is “free” on day one and so gains lots of subscribers, but may lose most of them after a few months. Time has shown that our model is extremely successful, but it took time to prove so. The other example that sticks out to me is the industry of choice. Oral care, to use our example, is a particular industry. It combines many areas – health, beauty, personal care to name a few – all three of which are big targets for investors, but the combination of these is a unique challenge that not many have experience dealing with or considering.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
The same reason that it has proven challenging to educate investors on the possibilities of the oral care industry are the same reasons that made the check so easy to write once they “got it”. This is perhaps one of the best examples of an antiquated industry, one that is so ripe for disruption in so many areas. The first brand to make its consumers actually start to enjoy their oral care has the ability to help their members with far more than products in the $9 billion yearly US oral care product expenditure market. It can help its subscribers with much more than that if there’s a great and seamless experience, including oral health advice and visiting dental professionals, an industry that sees spend over 10 times that of dental products alone. It is the investors that understood this link that found writing a check a no-brainer.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We are focused on growing both our Consumer and Professional member networks, as well as growing our offerings in all three pillars of quip: our product, advice and professional services platform.
Our marketing channels will continue to grow and we plan to continue to invest in the social media, video, and word of mouth campaigns that have driven much of our growth to date. We also have some exciting programs soon to launch through our professional network that will create an extremely accessible way for patients of quip-registered-professionals to get onboarded to a quip subscription. This service is being built in a way that should lead to rapid growth of both sides of the network, while making quip products even more accessible to professionals and their existing patients.
We are hoping to launch new oral care products and toothbrush personalization options in the next twelve months. Additionally, and importantly, we are investing in the tech to better develop our oral health advice hub and are launching numerous beta programs in our professional services platform, Dental Connect, with a strong focus on tech and creative hiring over the next few months to support those initiatives.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
We didn’t have a fresh injection in the bank for a long time. I can only speak as an expert of our own situation and experience, but for those that have a business that is built on a true and real need that therefore has a proven business model, the longer you can show that you can grow without needing that money, the harder it gets for investors to ignore you — particularly as their investments in “faster growing,” but arguably “falsely growing” companies that have the capital to grow without regard for CAC start to strain and they look for more stable, sensible and long term looking companies to invest in.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
As noted above, we plan to launch new products and services — in particular, the development of our professional services platform, Dental Connect. Serving as a bidirectional resource for quip members and providers, members currently receive digital reminders and rewards for 6-month check-ups, while providers are able to offer incentives to attract new patients by gifting quip toothbrushes, and retain existing ones by covering subscriptions for quip members that visit on time.
Where is your favorite fall destination in the city?
For dining, Frank on 2nd Ave between 5th and 6th street in the East Village. It’s home-fell pasta so warming if cold, but has a nice outside seating area that is in the sun all afternoon / early evening while the weather is still nice.
Otherwise, I’m becoming biased towards Dumbo, where our HQ is located. The views are amazing, the sunsets on the waterfront even better, and there is an increasing number of food, drink and entertainment while you walk around the parks in the area.