The Cutting Edge
ADWEEK|July 24, 2017

How Bevel Founder Tristan Walker Applied Big Data to an Age-old Problem and Found Success.

Christopher Heine

A few years ago, rising tech star Tristan Walker—who’d scored business development gigs at Twitter and Foursquare even before finishing his MBA at Stanford in 2010—sought guidance from a retired packaged goods executive. In what would end up being a career-defining exchange, the exec indirectly addressed a seemingly mundane problem of Walker’s: His years of cheek-to-chin irritation from shaving products that weren’t made with his mug in mind.

“She told me something interesting: ‘Look at photos of black men 100 or 120 years ago—they don’t have razor bumps on their faces,’” Walker recalls. “At first, I thought she was being facetious. But then after some time, I started searching terms like ‘black men in the 1920s’ or ‘Harlem Renaissance.’ I looked at around 1,200 photos, and I didn’t find one with razor bumps on their faces, which I found uniquely interesting.”

Unlike today, Walker learned, men of that era typically shaved with single-blade, double-sided razors. He started researching the history of shaving commerce and examining the current state of the marketplace, learning that 80 percent of men who get razor bumps are African American. Walker zeroed in on the opportunity to serve the black demographic at scale better than perhaps anyone had previously by creating a shaving kit that uses single-blade razors, similar to the ones men had been using a century ago.

In 2013, he launched Walker & Co., which—in the grand scheme of things—aims to be the first Johnson & Johnson for people of color and could possibly even position as a modern version of shaving pioneer King C. Gillette. Walker’s introductory offering was Bevel, an online monthly subscription to shaving products that includes proprietary blades, shaving cream, priming oil and restoring balm for a little less than $30. “I created a [business] model with a system approach,” he explains.

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