The Business of Wellness: How Myro Deodorant Racked Up a 16,000 Person Waiting List and $2 Million In VC Funding
Lots of indie beauty stories are birthed out of a founder’s unique experience, which crafts a story that media are eager to glom onto. Greg Laptevsky, founder of Myro, the subscription-based deodorant that racked up a 16,000 person waiting list when it launched in September 2018, says his story is “unsexy.” “Ours doesn’t have an interesting founder story,” he says. But Myro came to be because of Greg’s past experience, lots of research and a desire to revolutionize an industry that hadn’t been innovated much since the 1950s. We consider all those pieces to be not only interesting, but also a little bit sexy. Here’s how Greg and his partners took nine months of research and turned it into $2 million in venture capital funding—and a very successful natural deodorant brand.
From Meal Delivery to Better-For-You Deodorant: Myro’s Founder Story
Greg, born and raised in the Siberian-border city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, moved to New York in 2005 to get his BA in Economics & Political Science, and MBA in Marketing from the City University of New York. After stints in personal finance, cars and wine, he took on the job of leading the customer acquisition function at meal-delivery service Plated. There, he could put his fascination with behavioral economics to good use—digging into the brand’s consumer research and learning why people were increasingly choosing better-for-you options like antibiotic-free chicken or nontoxic personal care products.
To build a better product, Greg learned that “better” needs to extend to more than just “better for you.” It means better for us all, including our shared environment. So, when Plated sold to Albertsons in 2017, he decided that whatever his next venture be, it would not only be effective and better for you, but also eco-friendly and sustainable.
Greg had noticed in his research at Plated that today’s consumers were approaching purchasing differently. He found that they wanted to engage with companies that create effective, good-looking products, but they also wanted these brands to be aligned with their personal values and ethos. On top of that, Plated consumers he interviewed in their homes spoke about caring about what was going on their bodies as much as what was going in their bodies—and they often cited deodorant as something they were interested in switching, but couldn’t always find a great alternative.
He wondered if that interest extended beyond Plated’s Brooklyn-centric consumer, and decided to see if there was something there by commissioning a 1000-person study across races, genders and age groups. When the numbers came back, he was shocked.
From Research to Market: How Myro Used Data to Create a Better Product
The headline, Greg says, was that 70 percent of 25-45 year olds had a high level of dissatisfaction with their current deodorant. “That made me think that maybe there was something there,” Greg says, “that it’s not just a few people in Brooklyn who care about their deodorant.”
Other key pieces of data Greg gleaned from his research indicated that the deodorant industry was ripe for innovation. Three main complaints came up for the respondents in Greg’s research:
- The ingredients—respondents knew there was an ingredient in deodorant that was supposed to be potentially harmful, but they didn’t always know what ingredient it was.
- Clothing damage—deodorants across the spectrum ruined their clothes.
- The classic containers, which were designed in the late 1950s, were not built for the almost half of people under 35 who carry their deodorant with them daily.
Greg saw this deep level of dissatisfaction as an opportunity. “I saw the pain points,” he says, “and thought, ‘how can we rethink deodorant from scratch?'”
That thought initiated a year’s worth of research and development to address all three of the major concerns with traditional deodorant and its packaging. “I don’t have a chemistry background,” Greg says, “so I found chemists who were willing to work with me on the natural ingredients I wanted to include.”
He says the team went through countless iterations to get the formula right. “What are people chasing after when they’re looking for a ‘natural’ deodorant?” he asked himself. “Aluminum-free. They want a formula that’s aluminum-free, but also that addresses their concerns and actually works.”
The non-negotiable was aluminum-free, and every formula the team tried went through consumer testing to get feedback on effectiveness and performance. “We had to have the end consumer experience mimic what you expect from mainstream deodorant,” Greg says. “When we looked at what ‘works,’ we looked at four things: 1) application; 2) sweating; 3) scents; and 4) the user experience.”
That extensive consumer testing led the team to a formula that’s 99 percent natural, one percent synthetic and “100 percent effective,” says Greg. Barley powder is the ingredient that helps differentiate the formula. It’s moisture-absorbing, so although you still sweat when using Myro (like all natural, aluminum-free deos), you feel less wet, thanks to the barley.
Another big factor for Greg was the traditional deodorant’s stick design. It’s not portable, it breaks or leaks, and it’s not TSA friendly, he says. And because he personally has a geek-out-level passion for the power of design, he wanted Myro to be aesthetically pleasing—and totally unisex. That’s how the TSA compliant, dishwasher safe, refillable Myro container was born. Not only does it use 50 percent less plastic than conventional deodorant sticks, it’s also much more sustainable. Built into the Myro model is subscription—you buy one applicator + deodorant at the get-go, and then enroll in their quit-anytime subscription service, so you’ll never run out of deodorant right before a vacation or on the morning of a big meeting again.
“When we got to design the user experience [of deodorant] from scratch, we wanted to make it the best experience possible,” Greg says. “A subscription was a no brainer.”
We Have the Product, Now What? How Myro Went After VC Funding and Ended Up With a 16,000 Person Waiting List
“We always knew we’d go raise VC funding,” Greg says, “because if we wanted the product to be successful—better for you, better for everyone—it had to be done at scale.” If they wanted to not only change user experience, but also help the planet, it had to be scaleable. “Selling 100 was fine, selling 10,000 was okay, but selling 10 million was impactful,” he says.
But, just because VC investment was the end goal doesn’t mean Greg went after it first. Instead, it was gradual. First, he entered Myro into an accelerator program, the NYC-based Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator. As part of the ERA’s 14th cohort of startups to launch, Myro received $100,000 in seed funding in the winter of 2018.
From there, Greg says he raised money from friends and family. “We needed capital to make it,” he says, “to bring it to market in a material way.” So he sent samples to friends and family and asked them to become investors if they liked it and believed in it.
That second “round” of funding got the Myro team to where it needed to be to go after VC funding. Ultimately, they raised $2 million by late summer 2018 from backers like Lakehouse Ventures, Obvious Ventures and Eric Ryan, co-founder of Olly and Method. What helped convince investors was two-fold: The specific and strategic consumer research Myro had done before formulation, and the qualitative evidence that the industry needs disrupting, because big brands are taking notice. Unilever bought Schmidt’s in late 2017, and Procter & Gamble bought Native, an originally direct-to-consumer brand that’s now available at Target.
The $2 million allowed Myro to finally be ready for the market. With plans to launch the last week of September, Greg set up a little friends and family thank-you gift first. “We wanted to thank people who’d helped us along the way, so we set up one page on the website that offered a free deodorant, and sent it to friends and family.”
What he didn’t expect was that loyal friends and family supporters would forward that one page to all their friends and family—”It blew up!” he says. “It was not super strategic, and that’s a little embarrassing. We didn’t expect the list to be that long.”
And by “that long,” he means that before the deodorant even launched, it had a waiting list of 16,000 people. The waiting list speaks to the need that Myro was ready to fill for consumers dissatisfied with their current deodorant, and looking for a nontoxic, natural, sustainable, beautifully designed alternative.
Greg’s Advice to Entrepreneurs
Greg’s founder story is a deliberate one that both speaks to his love of innovation and his desire to see change in static verticals. He says there are two things he’s intimately aware of when he gets to the Myro office each day—and he thinks they’re keys to successful entrepreneurship.
First, he says, is the customer experience. “I want to understand why people do what they do. I want to understand that on a personal level. It doesn’t require a million dollars or years of research—it doesn’t need to be lengthy. But it’s important.”
Secondly, he says that it’s essential to not be constrained by old-school thinking. “Don’t create something someone else already created,” he says. “Do something new, more interesting and more exciting.”
Both of these, he says, aren’t something you do once. “They’re part of your mindset, always wanting to improve your product. It has to be fundamentally part of your DNA.”
Myro is set to continue innovating the industry through plant-powered deodorant that blends form and function, with clean ingredients and high standards for keeping unnatural ingredients off of people’s bodies (and out of our landfills). Greg says the team loves their category, and they have a unique ability to give a better user experience with more of an impact, so they don’t want to be distracted by new, shiny things like other products—yet. “We’re ultimately focused on bringing Myro to everyone,” he says, “but never say never.”
Interested in other deodorant brands changing the industry? Read how Schmidt’s Naturals took the vertical by storm, what the nontoxic brand PiperWai did after they turned down a Shark Tank deal and then catch up on our favorite deodorant picks if you’re new to the naturals game.
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