Michael Dubin is the founder of Venice, California’s Dollar Shave Club, which boasts two million subscribers (who pay as little as $1 a month, plus shipping, for a monthly delivery of razors), $147.8 million in venture funding (including a $75 million investment round announced Monday, June 22), and annual revenue of $65 million. It got its first big boost from a 2012 YouTube video, in which Dubin stars, that cost $4,500 and took a single day to shoot. It went supernova-viral in 72 hours.
--As told to Diana Ransom
I studied sketch and improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade training center in New York City for eight years. I know humor is a very powerful device in telling a story. I never thought twice about appearing in the video; I wasn’t really going to hire someone else to do that. I didn’t necessarily think that I was going to become the spokesman of the company in addition to the CEO. I was just really trying to find a fun, resonant way to tell the story of what our business did and why it existed. We chose YouTube as a platform to spread the word about DSC because, three years ago, YouTube was the only place to go if you wanted any hope of going viral.
We also announced our $1 million seed round of funding the day the video launched. We purposely delayed our funding announcement to time it with the video launch and a relaunch of the website. All the usual suspects covered the three events: TechCrunch, etc. From there, the mainstream media picked up on them, and the video took off.
The events were designed to coincide with one another so we would get the maximum thrust on the video. We also timed it to go up just before South by Southwest. Everyone was talking about the video while they were in Austin, so strategically it ended up being a pretty smart move.
Unfortunately, our servers were totally unprepared for the amount of traffic that flooded in. Our first video went live at 6 a.m. PT on March 6, 2012. By 7:30 a.m., the site had crashed and we couldn’t get it back up for 24 hours. I was terrified that, in that moment, my biggest dreams were turning into my worst nightmares.
The next day the site was back up, we had 12,000 new subscribers, and within just a few days, three million people had watched the video. Since then, we’ve produced another; collectively both have been viewed more than 25 million times. It was a fantastic way to come out of the gate and raise awareness of our mission. I don’t think you could have accomplished that any other way.