Topicals Founder on Pitching Venture-Capital Investors With Confidence

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

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

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

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

“Black people weren’t as educated or understood when it came to developing prescription or over-the-counter products,” he said.

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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. His company creates skin care products for chronic conditions that are difficult to treat and contribute to low self-esteem.

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

This is how Olow provides investors with confidence.

Building trust

Things started with $2.6 million in seed funding, which wasn’t easy for Olou. Before last year, only 93 black female founders had raised $1 million or more in venture capital, according to ProjectDiane, a biennial report on the state of black and Latina female founders by Digitalundivided.

“It took me about two years and probably about a hundred contributions to get the funding,” he said.

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

Posted by TOPICALS (@topicals)

“I learned really quickly at the age of 23, when I first raised capital, how to be confident and talk about my business in a way that no one could poke a hole in,” he said. “I go into every room. I know what I’m talking about.”

Above all, she doesn’t let the funding statistics for black female founders sway her.

“There are many reasons why I should not have funds,” he said. “But I don’t even think why it shouldn’t happen.”

Color the data with culture

He said, Olou is strengthening its level of knowledge and preparation, which will earn the respect of investors. He uses data to explain why his product is necessary, useful, and effective.

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

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

“Before we jumped into the market, a lot of people of color didn’t have a ton of products to use,” she said. “But their costs were seven to eight times higher than other communities.”

Posted by TOPICALS (@topicals)

The roles were reversed

Olowu said his second time raising capital was not as difficult as his first because investors flocked to him. This change showed him that he was the lever that would enable them.

“I didn’t ask for money,” he said. “I knew this company was going to be successful. I knew what the category was going to look like in the next two to five years.”

And if the investor misses the opportunity, then they stay.

“I’m extremely angry,” he said. – I will not ask you for money again.

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