Brushing Up: You're Waiting Too Long to Swap Your Toothbrush

Claire Burke wants you to brush better. Which is why she and Goby, co-founder Ben Goldberg, are sinking their teeth into the business of oral hygiene. It may not sound like the sexiest venture, but it's one full of possibility. Last week Goby launched their first product, the first-ever direct-to-consumer rechargeable electric toothbrush combining unprecedented value and convenience. The toothbrush is available for $50 with a subscription and replacement heads start at just $4. The charging station has no cords and is designed to minimize post-brushing build-up. Sound like a dream clean? 

We caught up with the entrepreneur to talk why teeth and how Goby is changing the game.

Can you tell us a little about your background? How did you end up as the co-founder of Goby?

I graduated from NYU’s Stern School of Business before working at investment bank Lincoln International for six years. Simultaneously, I pursued my personal passion for film and media by co-founding a production company. In 2013, I left investment banking to pursue an MBA at Columbia Business School. While at Columbia, I immersed myself in media and technology, working for The Raine Group, Hearst, theSkimm, and Female Founders Fund, each of which expanded my interest in startups and exposed me to the value and power of brand. I met Ben through a mutual friend from business school and was immediately drawn to the Goby mission. Deemed “Cavity Claire” by my family growing up, I was inspired by my own struggles with good oral care and was determined to enhance consumers’ oral care experience by creating a value-driven oral care product with a relatable brand personality. 

With Goby you’re hitting a few of major markets and key trends— direct-to-consumer, health and beauty, and the membership business model. We’ve seen many businesses go this route. Why was now the right time for teeth?

We saw a significant opportunity to disrupt oral care because oral health is an overlooked space in health and beauty. Oral health is important! Many diseases have oral manifestations, oral issues are the leading cause of missed school and work days and 50% of people aged 30 and older have some form of gum disease. Leveraging the direct-to-consumer / membership business model was a natural starting point for us to enhance the brushing experience for consumers across the country. The average consumer changes their toothbrush every nine months as opposed to the dentist-recommended three months, so we offer a subscription to ensure that our customers can keep both their mouths and brushes clean without having to worry about running to the drug store.

"The average consumer changes their toothbrush every nine months as opposed to the dentist-recommended three months."

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What went into research and development? How long did it take from concept to product? 

We tested all the various models on the market to determine which features were necessary and which were superfluous. We assessed dozens of other products, surveyed friends, family and colleagues and ultimately designed a product that fits seamlessly into the modern consumer’s lifestyle. From concept to product, it took about two years. 

Why was the design element so important? 

Design was important because it folds into so many aspects of the value proposition -- creating something intuitive and user-friendly that breaks through the currently overcrowded and over complicated market, ultimately providing the consumer with the best possible brushing experience at a fraction of the price of the competition.

How do you get people to look at something that they’ve used their entire life and think about the possibility of doing it differently?

It wasn’t as much about rethinking, but rather maximizing the consumer’s time and taking the onus off of the consumer -- having them think less about brushing and replacing, while simultaneously improving the quality of their brush and ultimately the state of their oral health.

Was it a hard sell?

We had been working on Goby for nearly two years, bootstrapping the vast majority of the way. The funding process was definitely not easy, but fortunately, our investors appreciated the problem we were trying to solve because they experienced the same problem firsthand -- frustration with today’s current oral care products. For both Goby and our investors, we experienced a pain point, and felt there must be a better way.

You have an investor specifically geared toward early stage tech products that transform consumer experiences for the better. How did you approach those meetings?

First, we tried to clearly articulate the problem. What we found with the investors that ultimately invested was they personally experienced the problem, too, and saw value in our solution. Second, it helped that the market opportunity is significant. Everyone brushes their teeth, but most people don’t do it well. Electric toothbrushes provide value, yet less than 15% of people in the U.S. use them. Goby’s improved experience has a measurable impact on consumers’ oral health.

From your perspective, what goes into building a strong brand?

Developing a brand personality that the consumer can connect with, while simplifying and maximizing the consumer’s experience with the product.

Why do you think there hasn’t been much innovation— aside from bristles and grip— in the toothbrush space?

In the electric toothbrush space in particular, there hasn’t been much innovation because the market is dominated by two large companies and is thus zero-sum. For the incumbents, there’s no need to innovate from a business model, messaging or experience perspective, but consumers are consistently expecting more from the brands with which they affiliate. Goby aims to resonate with those who are looking for an easier, relatable and more affordable oral care experience.

What do you hope to achieve with Goby?

We want to improve oral care by providing a brush that is affordable, intuitive and relatable -- overall, we want to enhance the oral care experience. 

Cavity Claire, your nickname as a kid. If you had to blame one food, what was your go-to indulgence as a kid? And now?  

I always had and always will have a sweet-tooth. I can’t blame my cavities on one specific food item, but in general, sugar was the culprit.