Early Foursquare employee Tristan Walker launched his own startup this week, Walker & Company.
Walker, an African-American, is selling razors and shaving cream for black people.
Targeting a minority audience isn’t strange — companies like FUBU succeeded in marketing to black people.
However, what makes Walker’s company unusual, is that it’s coming from Silicon Valley, which is not the most diverse place.
Just 1% of venture capital-backed founders are black, according to a 2010 CB Insights study.
Walker is now part of that small group. He has already snagged $US2.4 million from Upfront Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel, Collaborative Fund, Sherpa Ventures, and the William Morris agency’s Charles King.
Growing up without a father, Walker tells Business Insider that he never learned how to shave the right way.
When he would go to the pharmacy to search for the right products, Walker says he always found himself trekking to aisle 14, reaching down to the bottom shelf, and wiping the dust off of some bizarre packaging with some 45-year-old black bald guy.
For most of his life, Walker struggled with razor bumps, acne, and irritated skin. Back in January, during his term as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Andreessen Horowitz, he finally got fed up.
“I used my magic cream shave just one too many times,” Walker says. “My wife got frustrated. I was also an electric clipper user. Even though it didn’t cut hair close enough, it irritated my skin, so I had to figure out a way.”
This led to Walker & Company which will tackle the health and beauty space for African-Americans. Its first product, Bevel, is a high-end shaving kit for black men that promises to deliver the premium, barber shop feel without the razor bumps.
“All of my current investors got it right away,” Walker says. “It’s not only my having the problem. A lot of folks who look like me have the problem. It’s something endemic to black culture which is unfortunate.”
Down the road, Walker & Company will likely serve African-American women, as well.
“My wife has all of these hair products around the sink,” Walker says. “She’s always trying to figure out what works, and what doesn’t work.”
Ultimately, Walker says, he wants to work on products that change his life.
“Foursquare fundamentally changed my life,” Walker says. “It forced me to do things I wouldn’t do otherwise. The badge concept in the early days forced me to explore the city a little bit more. It was important especially for someone at business school studying all the time. It gave me some sort of calm and time away from that.”
Walker’s internship at Twitter also changed his life because it opened up the lines of communication to anyone, he says.
“I think about what I’m doing now, finding this solution is fundamentally going to change my life,” Walker says. “I know how it feels walking into new job and having someone say, ‘cut that hair off your face’ and then you come in the next morning with a broken out face. It boils down to, ‘can i do something that really changes my life?’ I’ve been blessed to identify those opportunities a little bit early.”
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