Will King started King of Shaves in 1993 and a popular male-grooming brand was born. King bought the Shave.com domain in 1995 for stg£18 and has instinctively navigated the digital economy ever since.
Speaking with Silicon Republic at the Smart Business Show in Dublin, King said that he believes there has never been a better time to start a company as an entrepreneur. However, with the barriers to entry historically so low thanks to technology, it has also never been harder to come up with core products that people actually want. The key, he said, is to be razor-focused on differentiation.
King started King of Shaves after being made redundant and after raising stg£15,000 of seed capital.
The company’s initial products included oils to replace shaving foam and soap and transitioned to the design and manufacture of four-blade razors.
As he transitioned his male-grooming brand from retail to digital he learned core lessons along the way.
In the early days of the start-up, King stood on Speaker’s Corner in London with a megaphone to sell his wares.
But in over a decade he had created a global brand worth stg£25m at one point.
The company became a digital operation, creating online services that advised men on grooming routines and ensured men were provided with new Hyperglide razors every month.
“Around 2007 or 2008 we started to see social media taking off, connecting people to people,” he said.
It was after seeing the emergence of the Dollar Shave Club in the US, which raised US$73m to send men razors in the post via online ordering, that Shave.com pivoted in the direction of providing products online.
King stepped down from the helm of King of Shaves in 2014 after 22 years to focus on his new venture, the Entrepreneur-in-Residence Company, where he spends his time advising start-ups across the realms of technology and retail, including hanging around Silicon Roundabout at Shoreditch in London.
He advises entrepreneurs from start-ups to FTSE companies about navigating the world of digital. He describes what he does as injecting E-suite expertise into C-suite management.
“For any organisation, business, brand or person out there it has never been easier to found a business.
“What I am doing now with the Entrepreneur-in-Residence company is basically working with a variety of people, at a variety of levels, as somebody who has seen what money should be spent on, seen what can and cannot be done, see what scalability opportunities exist for brands and kind of fast-track them, rather than spending a ton of time, money and effort on all the things you shouldn’t spend money on.”
Start-ups as a lifestyle
“With regard to any business, you can have a career as an entrepreneur and if you view running a business as a lifestyle choice, that’s kind of cool if it is funding your lifestyle and others around you.
“There are loads of boutique coffee bars in Shoreditch, which is a digital hub, especially in terms of fintech and the digital disruption that is happening in the financial services industry.
“You’ve got to remember that Starbucks was once a coffee shop in Pipe Place in Seattle that was in the right place at the right time. The TV programme called Friends came along with Central Perk, coffee drinking was acceptable, Wi-Fi came along.
“And you now look at the size of Starbucks, which is a coffee shop at scale, and you never know, your lifestyle business, if it has a fantastic product quality and belief, could be that type of business, or it could just fund your lifestyle if you enjoy working for yourself and all the satisfaction that comes from that.”
Will King was speaking at the Smart Business Show at the RDS in Dublin