Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Beauty-in-a-Box Company Birchbox Will Ship Lifestyle and Tech Products for Men

A New York start-up that has been building a business on oversized samples of beauty products for women is now turning to the other team, with deliveries of grooming products, lifestyle goods and consumer-tech gadgets for men., a subscription service that ships monthly mystery boxes containing a handful of beauty products for $10, has just launched a men’s section of its Web site. Now, guys can sign up and, for $20 a month, get their own “Birchboxes.”

While most of these boxes will be comprised of items like shaving cream and socks, the brains behind Birchbox plan to add a fair share of tech in there, too, after a pilot Birchbox project for men that included Skullcandy headphones was well-received.

Products shipped in the boxes will include RumbaTime watches, Pokket Mixers and detachable Bookman Lights, Birchbox says, with more lifestyle and gadget-y items planned for the future.

Birchbox has nabbed about a hundred thousand subscribers since its launch in September 2010. It also snagged $1.4 million in seed funding from Accel Partners and First Round Capital just a month after its launch.

Co-founder Katie Beauchamp, who launched the company with Harvard Business School bud Hayley Barna, says the company is growing — and not just in subscribers. Birchbox also has an e-commerce portal where an estimated 40 percent of box subscribers go on to buy full-sized products. E-commerce revenue is now six times what it was a year ago, Beauchamp says.

In addition to the e-commerce portion of the Birchbox Web site, Beauchamp and Barna have hired eight writers to come up with product-specific content that supplements what’s in a Birchbox. By including limited descriptions and how-tos in the boxes, the crafty company wants to drive more people to that content online.

As someone who has received a couple of Birchboxes containing stuff that left me scratching my head, I can attest to the fact that some products do require additional explanation. The items shipped are determined by the company and can’t be hand-picked by the subscriber, though Birchbox says the company is getting better at personalizing the Birchboxes based on info provided by subscribers.

It’s an interesting model, one that has seen a fair amount of copycatting, and one that Beauchamp describes as more of an e-commerce “discovery” model rather than a traditional e-commerce business.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik