The Cutting Edge of Disruption

I want to share a problem that I had. I ran out of razor blades.

I’m actually not used to running out of blades. I lived in and commuted to Beijing, where the top-of-the-line Gillette blades were significantly less expensive than they are in Canada.

I used to buy a year’s worth at a time. But last weekend I was totally out.

On the off chance that we don’t know each other, this is me. I shave my head almost every day. I shave my face once a week, sometimes more.

While I really don’t love running out of blades, I much more intensely dislike paying ridiculous Canadian prices for razor blade cartridges, which are actually among the highest in the world. Last week, when I ran out of blades, I walked to Shopper’s Drug Mart where I found that a package of eight blades was $49.99 plus tax.

I’d finally had enough and began to search Twitter for alternatives. I was pretty sure that no good ones existed, as I’d tried lower-cost online options, which were really inferior in quality to the five-blade Gillette I’m used to.

There must, I thought, be truly disruptive technology in the razor blade space. I was intent to find it and once again become a razor guinea pig.

Harry’s is only 10 months old. They are a US-based virtual and physical shaving company. Thinking very, very big, they’ve just landed $122 million in venture capital, not a cent of which is from me, much to your disbelief this far into my piece.

When I go in, I go all in. Encouraged by the clean and beautiful site, I ordered 26 five-blade cartridges (a year’s worth for me, given my use patterns), two razors, and shaving cream. All of this, combined, for the same price as the eight cartridges I saw a few days before.

Is this actual “disruption?” Only if it what Harry’s is selling is actually different and better than what’s out there.

It is.

These are the best blades I’ve ever used. While in real life I’m actually not a razor blade expert, I know three things of relevance here. The first is that the shave I get from Harry’s blades is an unparalleled one. Amazing: clean, smooth, easy. As decades of ads for the shaving giants told me a shave should be. The second is that with razor blades as well as most things in life, I’m as fussy as hell. The third that is that I like internet companies that understand that Canada exists and ship to our nation from our nation so that we don’t wait forever or have to pay duty on our stuff.

In a very concrete sense, here the disruptor is Harry’s and the disruptee is Gillette and any of the other Big Shave brands who rip you off daily. But in a more important and abstract sense, the disruptor is a tech startup and the disruptee is the entire traditional supply chain that get razor blade cartridges from the manufacturer to your face.

I see this happening all the time and am deeply intrigued. It’s going to be one area of focus in my writing moving forward because I know it’s something about which a lot of people want to think and read. When a term is as overused and diluted as is “disruption,” the often subtle dimensions of the real thing are visceral and important.

Finally, from a Canadian perspective, Harry’s entry into Canada is encouraging for many reasons, perhaps foremost among them that it encourages our own innovators and disruptors to aim not necessarily at the massive US market, but to look at home as well.

So. If you’d like to follow my lead and try Harry’s, feel free to visit their site.