Topicals Founder on Pitching Venture-Capital Investors with Confidence

  • Olamide Olowe is the founder and CEO of Topicals, which makes products for chronic skin conditions.
  • On Thursday, Topicals announced a $10 million Series A round led by venture capital firm CAVU.
  • Olowe offered her advice to attract investors with confidence as a black institution.

Olamide Olowe started her skincare brand after growing up with chronic skin conditions like boils and ingrown hairs. She said these issues are not commonly discussed by her peers or medical professionals.

“I grew up feeling really isolated and spent a lot of time going to dermatologists and primary care doctors trying to find a cure,” Oloy told Insider. “I didn’t get results and didn’t really understand why.”

In college, Oloy learned that people of color are not only underrepresented in the skincare industry but also on a large scale. Missing from clinical trials and research.

“Dark-skinned people have not been studied nor well understood when it comes to the combination of prescription or over-the-counter products,” she said.

Motivated by changing industry and beauty standards, she founded Topicals in 2020, when she was 23, after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her company produces skin care products for chronic conditions that are difficult to treat and contribute to low self-esteem.

Threads On Thursday, it announced a $10 million Series A funding round led by venture capital firm CAVU, which invests in consumer product brands like Beyond Meat and Oatly. This brings Topicals’ total funding to $14.8 million.

Here’s how Olowe promotes to investors with confidence.

Building confidence

Themes were launched with $2.6 million in seed funding, which didn’t come easily to Olowe. Just last year 93 black institutions It raised $1 million or more in venture capital, according to Diane Projecta biennial report on the state of institutions of black and Latina women by DigitalUndivided.

“It took about two years and maybe close to a hundred presentations to get funding,” she said.

She added that perhaps the process would have been faster if she hadn’t been young, black, and female, but she taught her how to build confidence.

A post shared by TOPICALS (topicals)

“I figured out really quickly, when I was 23, when I first raised capital how to make sure of myself and talk about my business in a way that no one can hack,” she said. “I go into every room. I know what I’m talking about.”

Above all, she doesn’t let the stats on black corporate finance stumble upon it.

“There are many reasons why I can’t get funding,” she said. “But I don’t even think about why that wouldn’t happen.”

Color the data with culture

Oloy said she builds on her knowledge and willingness, which builds respect among investors. It uses data to explain why its products matter, profit, and impact.

“It’s always data driven, and then we color that data with culture,” she said.

This means that it provides more context to give investors a deeper understanding of the skincare product market, especially within the color community. For example, when investors asked why there was no acne treatment in her product line, she said she wanted to start with hyperpigmentation, a common skin problem for people of color.

“Before we moved to the market, a lot of people of color didn’t have a lot of products they could use,” she said. “But their spending was seven to eight times higher than other societies.”

A post shared by TOPICALS (topicals)

The roles are reversed

Olloy said the second time she raised capital wasn’t as difficult as the first, because investors came to her. This transformation showed her that she had the clout to offer them an opportunity.

“I wasn’t begging for money,” she said. “I knew this company was going to succeed. I knew what this category would be like in the next two to five years.”

And if the investor misses the opportunity, he is left behind.

“I’m so scared,” she said. “I’m not coming back to you to ask for money.”

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