October 7, 2010 / 4:59 PM / 8 years ago

Startup creates tongue brush to cure bad breath

SAN FRANCISCO (Venture Capital Journal) - Tongue-brushing isn’t currently part of most people’s personal hygiene routines. But if a Utah startup has its way, the practice could be as common as popping a breath mint.

An employee of Tsukioka Co. Ltd displays heart-shaped edible gold pieces on his tongue at the 20th Interphex Japan, Asia's largest pharmaceutical industry exhibition, Tokyo June 20, 2007. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Orabrush, a Provo, Utah-based developer of a dedicated brush for cleaning the surface of the tongue, has made a mission out of convincing people its product can do a superior job of eliminating bad breath than mints or mouthwash.

Last year, it launched a YouTube video that became something of a pop phenomenon, featuring a halitosis-phobic man scraping his tongue with a spoon and smelling its residue, and ending with a sales pitch for Orabrush (www.orabrush.com). The company, which has launched several more videos available on its site, estimates that its clips have been viewed more than 25 million times.

All that viral online attention has helped the company garner the attention of investors. Last week, Orabrush closed an early stage funding round of an undisclosed size from 2X Consumer Growth Partners, a Chicago-based firm that invests in consumer product startups.

For Orabrush, the viral success of its video campaign has also generated some sales. Orabrush COO Neal Harmon said that the company has sold about $1.25 million worth of its brushes over the Internet and is in the process of expanding into more retail locations. The brushes sell as two-packs online for $7.99 and have a suggested retail price of $4.49 in stores.

2X Consumer managing partner Andy Whitman said the firm found Orabrush appealing because it represents an opportunity to carve out a new niche in the crowded oral hygiene market.

“We love category creators, because categories are what tend to revolutionize things and create real value,” he said. “They take a lot of work and they’re hard and many of them don’t work, but we believe this has tremendous promise.”

2X Consumer’s website states its focus is on food and beverages, personal care products, home care, pet care and other branded consumer lines. The firm’s other investments include gDiapers, which makes eco-friendly diapers, and Tasty Bite, which produces off-the-shelf Indian foods.

In addition to Whitman, the firm includes managing partner Gary Sebek, a former CEO and CFO in various organic businesses, and the firm counts Michael Levinthal as a special limited partner. Levinthal is a former 20-year veteran of Silicon Valley VC firm Mayfield Fund and has invested in consumer brands such as Pete’s Wicked Ale and restaurant chain Il Fornaio.

Levinthal is also a member of the Orabrush board.

Although venture firms such as Highland Capital Partners and General Catalyst Partners invest in the consumer space, VCs typically shy away from consumer deals. But it was the absence of VCs in the sector which is what Whitman said lured him to launch the firm last year with $20 million to invest in growth stage deals.

“There’s a giant gap in the marketplace and our skill sets are relevant, so we’re drowning in deal flow,” Whitman previously told Thomson Reuters.

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