Topicals Founder on Pitching Venture-Capital Investors With Confidence

  • Olamide Olowe is the founder and CEO of Topicals, which manufactures products for chronic skin conditions.
  • On Thursday, Topicals announced a $10 million Series A round led by venture capital firm CAVU.
  • Ulu made her recommendations for attracting investors with confidence as a black female founder.

After growing up with chronic skin conditions like pimples and ingrown hairs, Olamide Olu launched his own skincare brand. These issues were not usually discussed by her peers or medical professionals, she said.

“I grew up feeling really isolated and spent a lot of time going to dermatologists and primary care doctors to find treatment,” Ulu told Insider. I wasn’t getting results and I didn’t really understand why.

In college, Ulu noticed that people of color were not only underrepresented in the skin care industry, but also largely absent from clinical trials and research.

“People with darker skin are understudied and understudied when it comes to formulating prescription and over-the-counter products,” she says.

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Motivated to change industry and beauty standards, she founded Topicals in 2020, when she was 23 years old, after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her company creates skin care products for chronic conditions that can be difficult to treat and helps reduce self-confidence.

Topicals on Thursday announced a $10 million Series A investment round led by venture capital firm CAVU, which invests in consumer product brands such as Beyond Meat and Oatly. This brings Topicals’ total budget to $12.6 million.

Here’s how Olu confidently introduces investors.

Build self-confidence

Topicals launched with $2.6 million in seed funding, which didn’t come easily to Olowe. Before last year, only 93 black women founders had raised $1 million or more in venture capital, according to ProjectDiane’s biennial report on the state of black and Latina women founders by Digitalundivided.

“It took about two years and probably close to a hundred pitches to get funding,” he said.

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It might have been a faster process if she wasn’t young, black and female, he added, but it taught her how to build confidence.

A post shared by TOPICALS (@topicals)

“At 23, when I raised my first capital, I learned very quickly how to be confident and talk about my business in a way that no one could screw up,” he says. “I go into every room. I know what I’m talking about.”

Most importantly, she doesn’t let the statistics about funding for black female founders sway her.

“There are a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t have the funding,” he said. “But I don’t even think about why it shouldn’t happen.”

Color the data with culture

He said Olu points to his knowledge and preparation, which instills respect among investors. He uses data to explain why his products are necessary, profitable, and effective.

“It’s always data-driven, and then we color that data with culture,” he says.

This means she provides more context for investors to gain a deeper understanding of the skin care market, particularly in communities of color. For example, when investors asked him why he didn’t have an acne treatment in his product line, he said he wanted to start by treating hyperpigmentation, a common skin problem for people of color.

“Before we came into the market, a lot of people of color didn’t have a lot of products that they could use,” he said. But their expenses were seven to eight times more than other communities.

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The roles are reversed

Olu said his second round of fundraising was not as difficult as the first, as investors came to him. This change showed him that he had the leverage to give them a chance.

“I didn’t beg for money,” he said. I knew this company would succeed.

And if the investor misses the opportunity, he will be left behind.

“I’m terribly despondent,” he said. “I will not come back to you to ask for money.”


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