Sometimes, a startup comes along that just does incredibly, insanely well. A startup that generates $1 million in revenue in its opening week. A startup that turns the tables on an industry. A startup like hims — and, now, hers.
Although hers is just a week old at the time of our conversation, the two brands’ founder Andrew Dudum reveals that hims owes much of its success to women: the founder’s sisters, in fact. “Ever since my late teens, I was always slightly more forward-leaning with regards to self-care than the majority of my close friends and peers,” Andrew explains. “And the primary reason for that was that I had two strong, empowered sisters who helped me take care of myself.” He describes one pivotal moment while having dinner with one of those sisters where she described him as looking tired and ashy, and said that he clearly wasn’t looking after himself. “So she took my credit card and spent about $200 on seven or eight women’s products. They were all fancy French brands, and all very expensive, but she said, ‘use these every day and you’ll feel better, and you’ll look better.’ And I did. So what hims aims to do is help men accomplish that act, but in a more proactive way — in a brand they can fall in love with, and a brand that they can rely on and trust for decades.”
Since aged 19, Andrew has been building and investing in companies — dropping out of college to do so — and has found great success as a partner at Atomic — a venture fund backed by people Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen, among others. So when that catalyst moment with his sister came, he was encouraged to look into the medical space, and to look into how men were interacting with the healthcare system. “What we found was fascinating,” he recalls. “As you can probably guess, men don’t interact with the healthcare system unless they’re bleeding from the head or their leg is broken. There’s a huge disconnect between taking care of yourself and the people who can actually help you. The second thing we found is that the existing healthcare system is incredibly cumbersome and requires talking to someone in-person about very sensitive, uncomfortable topics. So the stigmas and the barriers of even going to a physician were high. And lastly, the existing healthcare system had very expensive products — prohibitively expensive for anyone trying to build themselves a life and a career.”
With a clear business opportunity defined that could remove the barriers for self-care, the other factor that convinced Andrew the time was right was the number of patents coming up for expiration. The patent for Viagra, owned by Pfizer for years, lifted in 2017, as did the patents for a number of other medications, including those used for treating hair loss. This allowed hims to offer them at a much more reasonable price. “It was an opportunity to build a brand that encouraged men to start taking care of themselves in their 20s and 30s,” Andrew says, “and be a brand that could grow to live with them into their 40s, 50s, and 60s.”
Andrew explains that, from the get-go, hims aimed to educate men that the things they face are statistically very common and that they’re issues all men struggle with or worry about. And what a get-go it was. Andrew recalls that launch week with the $1 million in revenue, and reveals that it was actually the company’s smallest week to date. “We were expecting maybe 30, 40, 50 guys coming a day. And if we’d pulled that off, we would’ve had an amazing business. But for that to be hundreds of guys in the first week, and now thousands of guys every week… it’s just incredible. It’s blown us away.” He believes it goes to show how many men were worried by these issues and yet didn’t have a brand that could speak to them in direct ways, and offer them products in a respectful manner — at prices they could afford. “We created a brand that could stand for all men,” Andrew explains. “One that was wide-reaching. One that didn’t care if you were straight or gay, black or white, rich or poor. It even comes down to the name: hims is just accessible to all.”
Speaking of the name, Andrew says that from day one, people were asking when he was going to launch hers. A year later and that brand is now here, and by all accounts has been enthusiastically received, outperforming all targets the company set for its launch week. Interestingly, though, hers takes a different approach: “Whereas hims is about destigmatizing, and connecting guys to a healthcare institution,” Andrew says, “women know their bodies well, they know the things they need, and they’ve had interactions with the healthcare system before. The problem we found is that the healthcare system is really quite burdensome for them. It takes them hours to get medication for a urinary tract infection, for example, when they know they have a one.” He describes a typical scenario in which a woman might be required to take three to four hours to take off work to spend $50 in a waiting room, to then do blood tests that cost another $20 in order to prove that they have a UTI. “For women, it’s very much about giving them access to the medication they know they need so that they can continue living their life.”
Prior to the launch of hers, Andrew and his team conducted extensive research, and the results were pretty shocking. “19 million women in the US said that they’re not able to access birth control — and all of them are on insurance. And that’s an absolutely scary and upsetting statistic.” He explains that the reasons are often so simple that they’re easily overlooked. “For instance, maybe their physician is also their parents’ physician, so asking their doctor for birth control is a very uncomfortable thing to do. Or it might be that they’re at a religious university and the doctors there are uncomfortable prescribing birth control. We hear this happening in California, in New York, in Florida. It’s not necessarily happening in the middle of the country — it’s happening everywhere.”
The depressing statistics don’t end there. Andrew tells us that Addyi is the only FDA-approved sexual wellness drug for women, and yet there are 26 approved for men. “It’s almost impossible to get access to it,” he says. “Or skincare — for anti-ageing, for acne, for melasma. These are ingredients in concentration levels that would require a cosmetic dermatology appointment, which would be $50 to $100, and would then require $100 a month, because it’s often not covered by insurance — and we sell it for $30.”
So before launching hers, the team looked at each product category how they could radically improve upon it. “Whether it’s access, or cost, or the current system being too full of friction, with women having to knock ten times more than a man to get something, this is what hers is about: letting women have get access to the things they need.”
hims’ and hers’ ethos resonated with us and the culture of transparency we’re cultivating at Neighborhood Goods, and so, for the launch our debut site, we’ve chosen a space that puts the products right at the forefront of the store, ready to address self-care head-on.