Walker & Co. is taking its Bevel shaving brand for men of color to Target.com and select Target stores next year after securing a $24 million Series B round of funding from a star-studded lineup that includes top venture funds and such luminaries as Earvin Magic Johnson, John Legend and King Bach.
Bevel, a brand of products to prevent bumps and skin irritation for men with coarse, curly facial hair, was launched in 2013 by former Foursquare executive Tristan Walker. It's the beginning of what he expects to be a growing lineup of personal care and beauty products for what he describes as a dusty, neglected corner of drug and mass-merchandise stores.
In an interview, Mr. Walker said he expects to use the capital infusion for research and development, expanding distribution at Target and elsewhere, and product design. Notably missing from that plan is an increase in marketing spending, a departure from other hot men's shaving brands Dollar Shave Club and Harry's, which are plowing much of their recent eight- and nine-figure venture funding rounds into TV advertising.
"We take a very measured approach to marketing," Mr. Walker said. "We want to be very good stewards of our investors' capital and invest our money profitably." He added: "We're not focused on extreme hyper-growth."
Distribution at Target.com and Target stores (he declined to say how many of those at this point) will give Bevel considerably more exposure. And investments Bevel has been making in design helped win over design-obsessed Target.
"We always planned to be omni-channel," Mr. Walker said. "And for many potential customers, this will be their first experience with the Bevel brand."
Certainly Walker & Co.'s new lineup of investors, many of whom are also Bevel customers, won't hurt on the social media front: Collectively, they've got more than 18 million Twitter followers (not subtracting for duplicates). Besides Messers. Johnson, Legend and Bach, they also include San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York and President Paraag Marathe; Golden State Warriors stars Andre Iguodala (the NBA Finals most valuable player) and Harrison Barnes; musician Ryan Leslie and graphic designer/computer scientist/author John Maeda, among others.
"These folks have reach," Mr. Walker said, "but that's not the reason we wanted to work with them."
Many are already customers, he said. "They've been down the same aisles I've been down. They've picked up the same dirty packages I've picked up. They've experienced the same smell and terrible products. So we know we deserve better and need better. So for them it's an authentic and organic evangelism of our products and services."
The venture round is led by Institutional Venture Partners with participation from Andreessen Horowitz, which helped launch the business by hosting Mr. Walker as entrepreneur in residence. Other participants include Upfront Ventures, Daher Capital, Collaborative Fund, Felicis Ventures, Melo7 Tech Partners and Google Ventures.
Among other things, that means Google, which earlier this year got a patent for a wearable device that can predict body odor, steer you away from friends and social network acquaintances when you stink, or automatically dispense deodorant, is getting some skin in the razor and broader personal-care game as well.