Shaving subscription service Cornerstone raises £3.5m

The Startups 100-listed business has now raised £8m since launching in 2014, and will expand its offering to include a wider range of toiletries

Startups 100-listed Cornerstone, the fast-growth online shaving subscription service, has raised £3.5m in its latest funding round – with investment led by private equity firm Calculus Capital.

As part of the deal, e-commerce veteran William Reeve (previously on the boards of Graze, Lovefilm, Zoopla and Paddy Power) will now join Cornerstone as an adviser.

Having previously raised £1m via a crowdfunding campaign in July 2015, this latest round now means Cornerstone has raised £8m to date – with its existing investors including the likes of Quidco CEO Andy Oldham, ex-Jack Wills chairman Will Hobhouse, Charles Tyrwhitt chairman Nick Wheeler – a former Startups Awards judge – and ex-president of Levi Jeans; Joe Middleton.

Cornerstone – business idea to multi-million brand

Producing their own range of British skin care products and German engineered razors, users submit key information online (such as how often they shave) via Conerstone’s online portal – and receive regular packages through the post.

The London-based business, which was twice voted our People’s Champion at the Startups Awards, now boats 140,000 customers around the UK and has 28 members of staff.

Founded by Oliver Bridge, who himself suffers from sensitive skin and razor burn, the 28-year-old was inspired to start his business after becoming increasingly frustrated at how costly and time consuming buying male grooming products was.

Now aiming to carry out “an all-out assault on the men’s aisle at Boots”, Bridge believes, that with Cornerstone, men will never need to shop around again and will buy all their toiletries via direct debit.

With this in mind, the start-up is looking to expand its offering over the coming months – with aftershave, dental care, and condoms touted as examples of products that will soon be able to be published collectively under the Cornerstone name.

Launching the brand back in 2014 on the back of a £5,000 Start Up Loan, and £10,000 of his own savings, Bridge has successfully guided Cornerstone to 11% month-on-month growth (since the beginning of 2016) and harbours ambitions to sell the business for £100m by 2020.

An ever increasing lucrative market, the male grooming industry is worth $6.7bn in Europe and globally is predicted to expand at a CAGR of 8.4% up until 2024.

Automation of the bathroom

Speaking to Growing Business prior to the news announcement, Cornerstone founder Bridge outlined that his company vision for Cornerstone is to “enable the automation of men’s bathrooms; we want the bathroom to take care of itself, moving all of your essential toiletry purchases to direct debit”:

“We’re going to be selling products that men have to use everyday and selling it at a level that you’ll find on the high street, but with greater convenience.”

With competition in the US brewing – Bridge has flagged up that a similar men’s subscription service (Harry’s) launched in America earlier this year, the entrepreneur appears unconcerned and believes “healthy competition” will help Cornerstone “be the market leader in our category”.

Alongside competition, overcoming Britain’s upcoming exit from the EU will also be a challenge for the business, Bridge highlights. Cornerstone currently relies on a German supplier and has a workforce made-up of EU and UK workers – Bridge estimates that 40% of the company team are from outside of the UK “so we’re naturally nervous about Brexit”, he explains.

As for the marketing channels the brand is looking to maximise on using the investment and overcome these challenges? Bridge says “everything is on the table; TV advertising, digital, print… men’s grooming is a growing market and e-commerce is also becoming the dominant leader in this space so it’s pretty exciting.”

On its decision to invest, Roshan Puri, of Calculus Capital, said:

“As a consumer brand that offers customers quality, value and convenience, Cornerstone is disrupting the men’s shaving and toiletries market in the UK.

“We have been extremely impressed with the company’s almost obsessive focus on ‘the customer’ and industry leading capabilities in customer acquisition and management.”

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