Alexi Suvacioglu and Luca Gualco love their mothers. They love them so much that they started an adult diaper business for them.
Gualco is recounting a trip he made to the store with his mother to buy incontinence products. “We were buying pull-ups and this kind of stuff,” he says, motioning his hand in the equivalent of an “etc.” “She couldn’t pick them up because they were too much!” He pulls his hands wide to indicate how big the package of adult diapers were, and his eyes get big. Then he stops and starts looking around the room. From behind a desk, he pulls a similarly sized package of diapers.
“Look at this!” he says laughing. “This is 15 [diapers], and it’s bigger than my face. I have a big face—imagine 60!” He tosses the package away.
When Gualco and Suvacioglu launched their startup, Because, two years ago, they were trying to create a more dignified way of life for the incontinent. No more badly fitting diapers, no more leaks, and no more carrying massive packages around the store. They have since designed 16 different pads and pull-ups of varying sizes and levels of absorbency. The products are delivered to your door, like everything else these days. Since launching, the company has sold 55 million of its bladder-protection products.
Because has attracted investment from big names like Khosla Ventures, Index Ventures, and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, netting over $35 million in funding. The reviews on its website are glowing and the complaints forgiving. “Love these undies. Customer service never responded to my query, but nobody’s perfect,” one user writes. These reviews are actually quite important to Gualco and Suvacioglu, who use them to make adjustments to the product. When the 100,000-strong customer base asks for new sizes or shapes, Because responds with product changes.
The company has big ambitions to offer an array of products for seniors. The next launch is a slate of cannabis-based salves, gels, gummies, tinctures, and sprays aimed at helping seniors relieve pain and sleep better. All of the above involve relatively low doses. The largest size in the works is a 1,000 milligram bottle. Product prices will range from $16-$76.
Cannabinoids (CBD) have shown great potential in studies to relieve pain and reduce anxiety. However, much of the research on CBD’s effects have been conducted in a test tube (in vitro) or in mice—not humans. While biological research in mice remains important, how a mouse responds to a substance is not necessarily predictive of how a human will respond to a substance. And on that front, it’s not entirely clear how effective CBD could be for relieving pain in humans. That has not stopped an entire market of CBD products aimed at pain relief from emerging. “We’re not saying it works 100%,” says Gualco, “but these people are already buying [CBD].”
He thinks his company, by virtue of the online community it’s cultivated, is in a good position to get feedback on its CBD products and make them more efficacious over time. CBD is not currently regulated under the Food and Drug Administration and so long as a product doesn’t promise to cure disease, the administration won’t interfere.
CBD’s benefits may be subject to debate, but Suvacioglu and Gualco maintain they have a vested interest in producing products that work, because of the online community of seniors it’s cultivated. Gualco has previously built communities for Uber and WeWork, two companies with loyal fan bases. At Because, he’s not only creating an online place for seniors but one at the office. So far, a third of the workers in Because’s 60-person call center in California are older than 65. The company also contracts with seniors to write content for its blog. Even the name of the company, Because, came from a senior, says Suvacioglu, concealing a grin.
“It came from his mom!” Gualco chimes in.
“We had four and five names,” Suvacioglu says taking in a deep breath. “And I was talking to my mom, and she said ‘Why don’t you call it “Because”?’” He looks around the room. “Okay, mom why ‘Because’? She said, ‘Things are the way they are, because.’” And then he gives a shrug as if to say, “It is what it is.”