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Glossier, a burgeoning house of beauty products, is now, officially in unicorn territory. The five-year-old company just nabbed $100 million in capital at a valuation of $1.2 billion.
“Pivot” has become a dirty word in Silicon Valley, but Glossier is an exception to the cautionary tales. The project started as a beauty blog called Into the Gloss and four years later gracefully began dabbling in products. Having thoroughly mapped the contours of the market, the Glossier gang knew better than anyone else where the opportunities lay.
They also stuck to the coda of retail 3.0: direct-to-consumer, almost entirely digital and aimed squarely at Instagram. And yes, Glossier nailed the branding and rode the millennial pink wave to social ubiquity.
More critically, however, it launched with only four products. It’s increasingly common for consumer-facing entrepreneurs to start small and narrow—think Casper mattresses and Dollar Shave Club razors. Financially, it’s the route of least resistance, but a spartan supply chain is also a great sales strategy.
There’s some deep psychology at work here, as detailed by Barry Schwartz in The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. When faced with a wealth of options, the human brain tends to obsess over the potential value in the things he will inevitably have to pass on. The average beauty shop, in other words, isn’t a wonderland of possibility; it’s a relentless dose of FOMO in a pile of four-ounce tubes.
Glossier, meanwhile, smooths all that angst over with a product line that whispers “don’t overthink it.” Research on choice is contentious and hotly debated, but the spartan formula seems to have worked for Glossier.
Last year, the company rang up 1 million new customers and posted more than $100 million in revenue. Even now, Glossier has only two stores and its site lists only 59 items, including a sweatshirt, a gift card and a few packs of batched products. Unicorn magic indeed.
Written by Kyle Stock for Bloomberg