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December 8, 2022

Dandruff-Fighting Scalp Care Brand Disrupts Antiquated Industry with Robbie Salter — EP 003

Robbie Salter - Jupiter

Ten Years In The Making is a weekly podcast on how to effectively grow a startup.     

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Adam Robinson: Welcome to this would be Episode 3 of Ten Years in the Making, the podcast. My esteemed guest today is Robbie Salter. He's co-founder and co-CEO of Jupiter, a scalp care brand that makes effective, elevated, color-safe solutions for people that flake, which is pretty much everyone. Me included. I'm going gray and flaking at the same time today. Check that out. Prior to Jupiter, Robbie spent 12 years in the media and entertainment industry, first in TV and movie development at Jerry Bruckheimer Films and television in BermanBraun. And then on the business side of the industry at MediaLink, a boutique strategy consulting firm that consults some of the world's largest publishers, tech companies, brands, and financiers tied to media business. Somewhere in there, he also managed to get his law and business degrees from Northwestern School of Law and Kellogg School of Management. Don't be confused. He's a die-hard Michigan Wolverines fan.

And with that, let's rock and roll, Mr. Salter. So, this show is called Ten Years in the Making. The reason that I believe or I wanted to call it Ten Years in the Making is because just personally, I finally have something that's really, really working and it is after, I'm not kidding you, like nine years of the grind and the grind for me was a little bit different than the grind from you. But I assure you, the grind for the first seven years of me doing this, it was not fun. It was not enjoyable. It cost me every single saved dollar that I had. It led to a decent sort of lifestyle business that I had. But then it turned to something that was emotionally a grind because I realized that this business was stuck in an ultra-competitive space and I was never going to catch up to the leading brands or whatever. And lo and behold, almost ten years like to the day after I started my first company, I actually have something that I'm like, "Wow. I understand why this has traction. I understand why if I pour gasoline on the fire, it's going to sort of whatever. It's going to work more and more.”

So, I personally know your story. I did research before the podcast. I read some blog posts about it. We talked at dinner, which is where I met you. So, the reason that I asked you on this podcast is I know you can relate to this quote. So, first off, just like tell me about Jupiter launching exactly when you did, and most importantly, in the context of everything else that you had going on in your life. Because by the way, like what I always said about when I started my company was I was single and 28 and I wanted to do it then because I look at myself right now and it feels like I have an unbelievable risk tolerance with like how I'm behaving in my business. But I also have a cushion to where if it went away, I don't think I would implode. I don't know how I would operate if I had an eight-week-old and had just gotten along real estate. I just don't know how to treat it. So, like, that was one of the things I was saying when I like quit my finance job and I was like, “I'm just going to try this.” Because even if I get to zero, it's not like these other people are depending on me and I have a problem. So, talk to me about everything, the story of Jupiter, the origin story, and everything going on in your life when that was happening.

Robbie Salter: Yeah, for sure. Listen, I'm going to start this whole thing off by saying I'm incredibly fortunate that I have a very supportive wife who knows that I've been wanting to do this for a long time. I'll tell you the story but I had also built up a little bit of a nest egg from my previous job, working in consulting. So, in many ways, I relate and I also have a slightly different story. So, I'd say going back to college, which is actually kind of the build-up to where we are today and how I got to Jupiter. So, I started a couple of companies when I was in college. I am the brother and son of physicians. I never wanted to be a physician. Starting businesses was a thing that just sort of it felt natural. And in college, it was that itch I needed to scratch. I learned very quickly that this is natural to me. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. But I also had this calling out to Los Angeles in the entertainment industry, and I had made a little bit of money from the business that I started in college, so I had a little bit of a nest egg to go out there and to sort of putz around for a little bit.

I spent, as you said in my bio, I spent six years total working in the film and television industry for Jerry Bruckheimer, as well as another production company. The recession hit, went back on my JD and my MBA, mostly because I wanted something to fall back on in case I would do another venture like this and it didn't work out. I really wanted those ace cards. I popped out of school. I had a quarter of a million dollars in debt, needed to go work for a company or somewhere that could pay me a decent living. So, I ended up working at a smallish consulting firm called MediaLink, led by this ubiquitous character named Michael Kassan, who very much so treated me like a partner and treated me like a fellow entrepreneur, which was what was so exciting about the opportunity. We grew the company together from 30 to 130 people in call it four years. Michael ended up selling the business. And after he sold the business, I was in my office saying, “What the hell am I going to do with the rest of my life?” And at that point I was probably 35, 30, yeah, 35

And I was sitting on my desk and I was scratching my scalp like that, really sort of stressing out and thinking and asking myself, “Where am I going with my life?” Looked down on the desk, saw a pile of dandruff, and I said, “This is interesting.” At MediaLink, I had sat in conversations with CMOs of companies like Procter and Gamble, Unilever, a lot of these major personal care businesses and I heard their issues. I heard what was troubling them. And this is also during the rise of companies like Harry's and Billy and such. So, what better problem to tackle than one of your own? And after doing quite a bit of research on the immense size of the scalp discomfort category or the dandruff category, I said, "This is something I definitely want to pursue.” We can go into the specifics of how we ultimately landed on our formula, our target audience, but very clearly, very quickly, I said, “I discovered this is a massive audience, a massive business, probably the biggest niche in the world.” And it was a personal issue. So, of course, I had to go after it. So, does that address the question?

Adam Robinson: It does. Now, that was incredible background. Tell me about when you started it.

Robbie Salter: Yeah, sure.

Adam Robinson: What else was going on in your life at that time?

Robbie Salter: Yup. Exactly.

Adam Robinson: And then what the sort of compounding…

Robbie Salter: Yeah, totally. And I guess…

Adam Robinson: If you want to call it compounding feet on your throat that resulted from that.

Robbie Salter: Yeah. Perfect. So, I had the idea for the business call it in 2018 with my business partner. In 2019, my wife and I, we got pregnant. My wife got pregnant call it in November of 2019. We ended up getting a puppy in February of 2020. COVID struck March-April of 2020. We ended up buying an apartment or closing on an apartment that we had historically committed to or previously committed to. So, we end up closing on that apartment in Manhattan in April of 2020. We launched the business...

Adam Robinson: Is that where you are? Is that the apartment you're in right now?

Robbie Salter: We're not. And thank you for bringing that up, which it has been two years in the making of a full gut renovation in Manhattan. We are moving next week. Thank God.

Adam Robinson: Well, you can do a podcast about it called Two Years in the Making and just do like episodes room by room.

Robbie Salter: Listen, this whole thing and to your point, like, it's all stress. Everything that we've done is stress and it's about managing that stress. And again, it goes back to having to a really supportive wife or spouse. And so, we've been two years in the making on that apartment and launched Jupiter in the last week of May, first week of June, and then had our son in July.

Adam Robinson: So, like I'm coming on a nine-week-old in like a few days. Like, it's hard for me to even imagine all of this happening at the same time.

Robbie Salter: Yeah. It’s a lot.

Adam Robinson: Can you go into some detail about like… Just a lot of this audience is a long way from the starting point. Like, what problems result when you're trying to launch a product and a global pandemic happens?

Robbie Salter: Yeah.

Adam Robinson: Like, what are some of the issues that might be, I mean, make it harder than a normal time and then make it harder than like if you have a going concern or whatever?

Robbie Salter: Yeah. I mean, I think the, listen, uncertainty is always an issue but when you throw in the idea of not knowing if people can even receive packages because they're so concerned that there may be a virus carried into the apartment, it makes it much more challenging for sure. We're also in the personal care business, so clearly we don't know if people's habits are going to be changing, right? Are they going to be washing their hair more or are they going to be washing their hair less? I think it's a totally fair question but what I would say my answer is, if you're going to be an entrepreneur, the thing that you have to prepare for, just like renovating an apartment, is that it's probably going to take longer, it's probably going to be more expensive, and there are going to be lots of things that pop up that you didn't even know were part of the equation or the things that you thought were absolutes are absolutely not absolutes, right?

So, the best entrepreneurs are flexible and nimble, and I think that was sort of when the pandemic hit, I remember having a conversation with my partners and just basically saying like we have no idea if this thing is going to work but we already have the ingredients set so we might as well just go out there and do it. No use dwelling on it. Let's just go do it.

Adam Robinson: Yeah. And then how did like in executing, doing it, what were some things that wouldn't have happened had you not launched it during the pandemic? Like, same stuff that everybody's doing with supply chain and like you have people buying it and you can't fulfill, and like all that nonsense. Was there sort of deeper stuff like, I don't know?

Robbie Salter: I mean, I don't think so. I mean, for us, because we are a digitally native brand because… Well, I will say one thing is we never expected to be on Amazon as quickly as we were as we ultimately did. My business partner's background is on Amazon and being a builder on Amazon.

Adam Robinson: What does that mean, being a builder on Amazon?

Robbie Salter: Yeah. He built brands on Amazon.

Adam Robinson: Oh, yeah. Okay. Sorry. Yep.

Robbie Salter: Yeah. So, he had a holding company that had a number of products on Amazon and he was an expert at the Amazon marketplace. Still is. Honestly, one of the most trusted or dependable aspects of our business at that time was Amazon. And I think it's one of the most dependable things in the world at that time, just delivering groceries to people in many parts of the country. So, we never expected to go there as quickly as we did but when we did go there, we discovered that people are certainly buying and interested in buying our products through that medium because of its efficiency and dependability, for sure.

Adam Robinson: Yeah. Gotcha. So, I'm really interested in work habits. I have gone through periods where I don't know if it's like that many different things causing stress, but like I have gone through periods where I feel like my whole mind is occupied by this external thing that I really can't influence that heavily. And I find myself in spreadsheets, trying to figure out whether I'm going to make it like just scenario analysis in the back of my mind like this is what happens to me when it's like something like you just described. It's like I made this huge life bet, a lot of stuff and maybe my bad judgment. Maybe not. Maybe it's the world. Just I'm screwed right now, right? And I feel like, by the way, like this is part of the entrepreneurial journey. Like, if this hasn't happened to you and I could give detail about mine but like, basically, it was like everybody was running out of money with my first business. My brother had agreed to fund it but like we were kind of month-to-month and like every month is this discussion about whether or not we were going to like flush the thing down the toilet or like each put another $25,000 in that we didn't have or whatever like terrible.

You know, his family was involved. It was just a really, really uncomfortable moment for everyone. I didn't have a supportive girlfriend at the time who was a live-in. Like, a very bad time for me. Man, I reflect back on that time and like I was definitely not operating with like a clear mind, right? Does that resonate that sort of characteristic that I described? Look, I've been talking to you a lot recently. You certainly don't seem to be that way now. If that did happen and you worked through it, like how long was a period? What are your tactics? Like, how do you think about overcoming these massive life events that are all compounding at once?

Robbie Salter: Oh, yeah. I mean, I'm glad to hear that you think and keeping it together. I mean, in many respects, I'm a duck. I’m a duck, as they say, with my feet moving a million miles an hour under the water. I learned a couple of great lessons from former bosses. I think what's clear in my background is that it's all about storytelling. I worked for arguably the best storyteller in the history of television and film, Jerry Bruckheimer. I worked for one of the best storytellers as it relates to the media industry, and that's in Michael Kassan. And I think what is a very consistent theme that I heard from both of them as leaders of two amazing companies is, "It's just all going to work out.” It's going to work out. And again, I think being a good entrepreneur is somebody who is able to balance the hubris that's necessary in order to say, “Hey, I have an idea, and I think my idea is good enough to be commercial and that people would be willing to pay for my idea.” And then also this idea of like, "Hey, my idea is not just an idea, but it's an actual company.” I had no background in formulating shampoos.

Adam Robinson: Right.

Robbie Salter: But you just figure it out, right? Like you have to have this willingness to ask stupid questions and this ability to feel comfortable looking stupid. And I hate to say it that way, but that also pertains to your point and to your question, which is like you have to be able to balance the things that are real and the things that will not go away and that you have to deal with and are deathly serious.

And the things that you can sort of kick the can down the road on and it’s annoying and they’ll still be there, but you have to zone them out for the second because as I used to say to my boss when we would talk about prioritization levels, it’s not like I had red, yellow, and green things to talk about, it was all different shades of red. They’re all urgent. It’s just some things are more urgent than others. And you just have to sort of reflect on like, what’s the deep, dark red? And what’s the light pink? And you would trust that deep, dark red first.

Adam Robinson: Yeah. And what popped into my head when you talked about knowing nothing about formulating shampoo, so with the first product that we launched from the day that I heard that it was possible to the day that I figured out how to actually get that to a customer was 18 months, 18 months of dig it like it’s a weird market, it’s between adtech and martech. Not many people think that there is a bridge, but that is this product.

And I continue to sort of do this with different parts of our business. And what motivates me when it’s like, wow, like right now, for instance, we’re contemplating, like starting a really big sort of e-comm kind of affiliate newsletter, like millions of people for our customers because we think it would be great. And there are some other benefits that it would have to our infrastructure to be sending that to actually sending that up. I know nothing about this, like absolutely nothing.

What motivates me is the Elon Musk story. This guy was like the Soviet rocket is too expensive, I’m going to learn how to build a rocket. The guy knew nothing about building a rocket, and now, he’s sending people to the moon. It’s totally crazy. And I also think if Jeff Bezos can get me a Gatorade or whatever it is, not even get it, something weirder than that. If Jeff Bezos can get me the exact size of WD-40 that I need in two hours and I don’t have to leave my house, I’m pretty sure I can fix this problem. So, I just love that attitude.

Robbie Salter: And by the way– got it.

Adam Robinson: No. Finish your thought because I was…

Robbie Salter: I was just going to say, like, what’s amazing about everything that you just said, it’s all true, but it starts with one crazy or two crazy or a few crazy people having the idea. But then, it’s how do you evangelize it so much where people actually believe you and are smarter than you, the things that you don’t know anything about, convincing them that your vision is a good one. And it’s taking the collective specialties and expertise of those people to get it done.

We don’t send anybody to the moon at Jupiter, but we send Jupiter to people. And the way that we do it is we found a tremendous number of people who know how to formulate really well, who know the logistics systems really well, and know how to reach people and offering them what we do or offering the product that we sell. So, it takes a village, man, for sure.

Adam Robinson: Yeah. Rock on. I’m going to ask you about that later, but first…

Robbie Salter: Yeah.

Adam Robinson: So, I deal with you in a few different contexts, none of which are related to Jupiter. So, like, just I’m interested in successful people’s, like, sort of time management and how you deal with thinking about your day. So, what’s a day in the life of Robbie Salter look like?

Robbie Salter: Yeah, I mean, from the second that I wake up to the second I fall asleep, I’m always on my phone to my wife’s detriment, sadly. I typically wake up in the morning, get some form of exercise in, or I’m woken up by the crickets of New York City that I think you’re hearing right now, some ambulance is in the background. But I typically start off with some form of exercise and/or walking my dog to Central Park. I find that sort of process of walking around or walking to a park is meditative in its own right and sort of it eases me into the day.

Probably, I’d start grinding typically around 8:30 after I’ve had some time with my son, which is incredibly important as well. Pretty much grind until six, which frankly, my favorite part of the day comes in, which is when I’m able to give my son a bath right before he goes to bed. That’s part of my day by far.

After he goes down for a bath, it’s typically another couple of hours grinding. Somewhere I fit in some dinner and probably towards the end of the day, I fit in an episode of The Sopranos or another series that I am rewatching because that’s just kind of like the guy that I am.

Adam Robinson: Hey, man, I think we might be the same person. Although I try to, and this is a try, it’s not ideal. I try to put the phone in a different room when I’m doing my whole baby session or whatever, but very similar sort of idea.

Robbie Salter: I don’t know if we’ve ever talked about this, but every Friday, I do what’s called pizza Shabbat with my wife, which we’re Jew-ish. We’re not really, like we’re barely Jews. What it is, is we get together as a family and we order pizza from a different pizza spot in New York City because there are 1,800 pizza places in the city.

Adam Robinson: Wow.

Robbie Salter: So, we’re now up to 82 pizzas. We’ve been doing it. We started it during COVID. And the whole point of that, man, is like the week is a grind. By Friday, the traditional Shabbat rules, we try to put our phones down and we try to focus on each other for at least 24 hours or at least 12 hours where we can just enjoy pizza and talking about the week and looking at each other and being a family. Some weeks are more successful than others, but certainly, we try our best to shut on.

Adam Robinson: Do you do professional stuff on the weekend? Or are you able to distance yourself?

Robbie Salter: And so, as you know, I also have another company called Nights & Weekends. Nights & Weekends was specifically created because when I left my previous job, I didn’t want to have the financial burden of leaving the job, a full-time job, indebt my family much. So, Nights & Weekends was this whole concept of myself and also the people inside of our network, which it’s a creative network for full-time, part-time creative hiring needs.

The whole point is that we all have our nights and weekends to work on either passion projects or making a little bit of side money, things that we can do that excite us or just help pad the bank, our bank accounts a little bit. So, on the weekend, I typically do some nights and weekends work. I’m also training for the New York City Marathon right now. So, the marathon training has been taking up some time for me.

Adam Robinson: To sleep?

Robbie Salter: I don’t sleep a lot. I’ve never been a guy who sleeps a lot. I sleep probably four and a half to five hours.

Adam Robinson: And do you wake up feeling good? Or do you wake up feeling like, yeah, this is it, I’ll drink some coffee and be fine?

Robbie Salter: I take a little gummy before I go to bed. So, I wake up and I feel great.

Adam Robinson: That’s awesome.

Robbie Salter: I’ve never been a deep sleeper and I have always felt like I got sh*t to do so it’s time to get out of bed.

Adam Robinson: My thing is these days, and I’m 41, turning 42 in two weeks, I just have so much on my mind. It’s like, if I open my eyes at 4:30, having gone to bed at like 10:00 or 10:30, whatever, if there’s something that I really want to do, I’m not falling back to sleep. I’ll go for a run, pitch black, and then just sort of start hammering it out at 5:00 or 5:30, and then family wakes up at seven and I go in there and do that thing for an hour and then…

Robbie Salter: No question about it, it’s going to catch up to them, but for the time being, I can’t sleep. I got to wake up and I got to hit it.

Adam Robinson: Yeah. So, are you into any of these, like GTD, like productivity stuff where you just sort of feel like you’re organized and you’re motivated?

Robbie Salter: Yeah. We’ve got a couple of apps that we use at Jupiter that I think keep me pretty organized. And I try to keep my life pretty manual to the extent I can.

Adam Robinson: Yep. Okay, I want to talk to you about your views about fundraising and the paths that you feel like you could go on now, one, and then the other thing is just team building and how that fits into all of this. So, what have you done fundraising-wise? Where are you now with your view of it? Do you wish you would have done anything differently? Let’s just start there.

Robbie Salter: Yeah. So, in our line of business, it would be incredibly difficult to bootstrap it. You would have had to have…

Adam Robinson: Just capital intensive, like…

Robbie Salter: Super capital intensive. It’s the type of business where the first three to four years, you’re losing money. It’s really capital-intensive. Like, to your point, I don’t know how to say it any other way, but once you hit that product market fit, you start to scale, it becomes crazy, right?

Adam Robinson: Yeah, like everything gets better, your costs of everything and the efficiencies everywhere, and you’re probably way better at the customer acquisition side of it.

Robbie Salter: Yeah, that’s right. I mean…

Adam Robinson: Everything just looks better.

Robbie Salter: Yeah. I mean, your type of business, even the world in which your business operates is 15 years old. You’re talking about like, call it contained in the last 20 years. Our line of business personal care has been around for hundreds of years, but in the incorporated form like Procter & Gamble, I think it opened in the late 1800s. So, our business isn’t as complicated in many ways, and not like it takes a lot of money upfront. You produce product people like, you scale it. And then because of the economies of scale, it gets better and better.

Our businesses are the types of businesses that kids in universities learn about. It’s businesses like yours that after they get out of the university, realize that the things that they learned in the university were all wrong and that they have to reinvent those models. A lot of the innovation in commerce is happening within your field. For us, our innovation is coming through product innovation through how are we rethinking and reinventing these old formulas that haven’t changed in 70 years to adjust. So, we raised…

Adam Robinson: And by the way, going back to that, like how do you do that?

Robbie Salter: Yeah, sure.

Adam Robinson: Literally, is it like you buy the 10 shampoos, you’re testing them all in yourself? You know what I mean? It’s like we tweak this, or do you just start from scratch and you’re like, I’m going to find the best guy who knows how to do this, a person to work with me or whatever?

Robbie Salter: It’s a great question. So, the short answer is that my business partner and I, we didn’t know what to do. So, it started off as two business partners, and we brought on our first employee who turned into a founder who’s amazing and we can’t do anything without her. But when we started the company or when we had the idea for the business, we weren’t sure if it was just guys like us that were having the issue and we wanted to reinvent a product that better suited our lifestyle.

So, we created a fake brand, fake company, a real landing page, and we took our own money and drove ads to this landing page, telling people this is the offering. And what would end up happening is people would add products to cart, and at checkout, it would say, hey, we’re not ready to launch yet, but if you leave your email address, you’ll get 20% off first purchase. By the way, if you can help us with this information, it would be really instructive.

And those questions that we asked or the information that we were gathering was like, what do you look for in a shampoo? Are you currently using a dandruff shampoo? How often are you getting dry scalp? And what we discovered was that it was primarily women who were being left out of the conversation because the existing products, just by claiming that they’re safe for color-treated and chemically-treated hair aren’t actually.

Adam Robinson: Yeah, that’s interesting. And by the way, I feel a lot of Head & Shoulders commercials, like that strikes me as a men's product, and I can’t even think of another dandruff shampoo.

Robbie Salter: So, anecdotally, people tell me 80% of their customer base is male in North America. That’s not a shocker. It’s the official shampoo…

Adam Robinson: It’s literally what I just said.

Robbie Salter: Yeah, that’s right. No, that’s exactly right. But in fact, men and women, and we discovered this after having this moment, we discover that men and women get dandruff equally, which is that women don’t characterize it as dandruff, they characterize it as dry scalp and flaking, which is slightly different.

So, it was a moment like that where we said, hey, the innovation needs to– it can’t be like a better scent in a different bottle. It actually has to be true product innovation. And that took us 18 months because we were using an FDA-regulated product, a drug inside of the ingredient or inside of the formulation, so.

Adam Robinson: So did they have to go through an FDA process?

Robbie Salter: No. So, we had to use FDA-approved or FDA-regulated formulators. And again, this is stuff that we discovered in the process.

Adam Robinson: The formulator is someone who is making the…

Robbie Salter: That’s exactly right. Somebody who’s putting all of the raw ingredients together, creating a batch, and pouring out that into the bottle.

Adam Robinson: Do they provide insight on the formulation? Are you bringing that to them and they’re just like cool…

Robbie Salter: It’s funny you’re asking all the right questions. We brought this idea to a formulator, and the formulator said, thank God. We’ve been telling some of our existing customers for 10 years, you have to do this, you have to do this. Nobody wanted to do it because dandruff is a stigmatized, ugly category. And these brands were selling beauty. They weren’t selling how do you fix an ugly thing.

So, when we finally went to a formulator with our idea, they were so excited to jump in and participate and were really participatory in the process more so than I think they would have been had we said, hey, we’ve got this celebrity that we want to create a company with and just grab us something off the shelf. Exactly right.

Adam Robinson: Put some Pert Plus in there, and like we’re going to go.

Robbie Salter: Exactly. So, going back to the original question about funding is like, yeah, we needed a bunch of money to start. We couldn’t have done it any other way. We still can’t do it any other way until we hit a point in the very near future, call it end of 2023 or early 2024, where we’ll start to hit escape velocity, if you will.

Adam Robinson: Yeah. And then, how do you deal with that? Are you kind of perpetually doing an open raise? Or did you do it all at once? Are you looking for dough right now? Like, how do you deal with that?

Robbie Salter: Yeah. So, we’ve done it…

Adam Robinson: Would you kind of always take more at the right valuation before you hit the escape velocity?

Robbie Salter: If you asked me a year ago, I would say no. Today, I would say yes. I mean, we haven’t had an easy client. There were nine months of an easy climate of fundraising. Last year, 2021, people were getting crazy valuations. Our timing was that we had the money and we were operating incredibly efficiently. So, we actually didn’t raise last year. But now, we are raising and it’s a much different climate for sure.

Fortunately, the businesses have strong economics, but to your point, a lesson that I learned and something that I heard, but I didn’t really think about is this idea of always be raising. Like if you are a company that needs the money like ours, that has the infrastructure, or the type of business like ours, you constantly need to be talking to potential financial partners because more likely than not, your business is going to need it.

Adam Robinson: And how are you sourcing those partners? What is it? Who are the investors and stuff like this? Individuals? Is there a type of investor you like better than the other, like?

Robbie Salter: Yeah, we’ve been extremely fortunate that the majority of our investors have been strategic. So, I think it’s one thing to have the network of people who have money. It’s another thing to have a network of people who can just give more than money, which is also strategic insight into how to position your business. We have a very simple value proposition, which is we are elevating a product that hasn’t been innovated on in 70 years, 50% to 75% of the world…

Adam Robinson: I mean, that’s just such a beautiful statement, you know what I mean? To me, that just resonates so hard because I’ve just seen it done in every category. It’s like, oh, yeah, why didn’t I think of that? It’s like, now you’re saying dinner’s up. It’s like, yeah, like. All you got to do is get over the hump with this thing. For sure, that will work. I mean, it’s just a matter of getting there, right?

Robbie Salter: Totally. And listen, it’s a knife fight to get there. It’s not like, hey, come up with an idea, come up with a brand, and all of a sudden, you’re taking market share away from Head & Shoulders and OUAI and Oribe and Olaplex and insert company here. It just doesn’t happen overnight.

But the idea in and of itself is straightforward. And when you say something like 50% to 75% of the world gets dandruff at some point in their lives and it’s more common than acne, more likely than not, you’re going to walk into a room and that person has had dandruff and they get how bad the existing solutions are for certain people. I don’t want to slander some of these other businesses here. Some people like using those products. We don’t. So, we wanted to come up with something that better suited our lifestyle.

Adam Robinson: So, how does this strategic invest? Are terms different than like a PE or an individual?

Robbie Salter: Yeah, like any other negotiation, it’s all about leverage. So, we’ve fortunately been in a position where we’ve had people who want to participate. And I’d say we would have more people than not who want to participate in the financial upside of the business. And that, like if you talk to– one of our investors is a chemist by trade. She’s a scientist. She works at some of these large companies. She knows what goes into the formulas.

Adam Robinson: Right. So, that was kind of what I was getting at. It’s like, okay, does the money come in the same terms, but also, what are the kind of things that strategic could bring to the table?

Robbie Salter: Yeah, 100%.

Adam Robinson: So, it’s like a pseudo, like the dream is that deep pockets plus expertise plus time and willingness to give you that expertise.

Robbie Salter: And the most important part, which is like the breathing room to figure it out on your own, meaning if you’re going to…

Adam Robinson: Understanding how ventures work.

Robbie Salter: Yeah.

Adam Robinson: Like how the ventures work.

Robbie Salter: And you listen, it’s one thing to know the personal care business. It’s another thing to have a lot of money. But the final thing is like, hey, whatever business you’ve made your fortunes on or whatever industry you’ve made your fortunes on that you’re now bringing to us, that’s going to be a different business than what we have. And it was launched in a different time that we’re in. And if you trust us and you’re betting on the jockey, not necessarily the horse, then you just have to trust that we’re going to make the right decisions. And by the way, we’re going to make a lot of wrong decisions. And you have to trust that we’re doing what’s best for the company.

And we’ve been incredibly fortunate that 98% of our investors are hands-off and say, like, this is extremely complex in an environment that nobody has ever seen before. We know it’s a very hard baseline, adding all these other variables, it’s nearly impossible. Good luck to you.

And also, I would say the following, which is we didn’t take any money from family. We took money from friends and angel investors but not family because if we didn’t take it– let me say this differently, we didn’t take money from anybody who if they lost their money, it would be so devastating that it would…

Adam Robinson: Cause a personal problem.

Robbie Salter: That’s right. You have to look at angel investing or you have to look at investing in these types of ventures. I was like, there’s more likely than not I’m going to lose my money, but if I can 10x or 20x the money I put in, that’s wonderful.

Adam Robinson: Right. And that’s what happened to me. It was my brother, it was families. We were both running out of cash at the time, and it was absolutely horrible. I mean, everybody’s happy now, I mean, very, because my new thing is to spin out of the old thing. So, two questions on this topic is strategic so I’m very interested in it.

Robbie Salter: Yeah, of course.

Adam Robinson: How do you track strategics down, literally? Like are you cold emailing them? Are you like, whatever? And then are you also thinking about strategics as being potential acquirers? Or is it literally just like more advisory-type things that you’re considering when you’re trying to line up this stack of people to be on your side?

Robbie Salter: Yeah. So, like anything, or I should say, per conversation before about being comfortable looking stupid. You have to be comfortable reaching out to people cold that may have a point of view on what you’re doing. But 9 times out of 10, if we are going to go to cold route, which we try to avoid, we always do it with a, you have something to teach us. We are not as great experts. We’re looking for your insight.

And in other cases, in most cases, what we try to do is we try to find a second or third or fourth connection to that person. And I’m going to say 80% of the time, we can’t get to them, but the 20% of the time that we do, we have a nearly 100% hit rate because people, again, like instinctively get how simple of a value proposition we have. So, to your point head-on, it’s a combination of literally doing whatever you need to do in order to get the expertise that you need in order to be successful and to create an unfair advantage.

Adam Robinson: Right. Awesome. And then are you thinking about putting potential acquirers in the cap table super early?

Robbie Salter: Yeah, it’s a very good question. The short answer is we got some really great advice to just be natural about it. If they came and knocked on the door, we’d have the conversation. Right now, I think I know that people are watching us. We’d love to be a part of those families one day if it made sense. But our focus right now, to be clear, is operating a profitable business, not leaning on any idea that we’ll ever get acquired. Our entire focus and our entire purpose is build a business that makes money.

Adam Robinson: Right. And did that change at all through the unprecedented environment that you’re operating in?

Robbie Salter: Yeah.

Adam Robinson: Did the ultimate goal change? And did the time horizon change, like how did the outcome, if at all, change?

Robbie Salter: It never changed because it’s the philosophy we started with when I met my business partner, and I said and we were in this sort of marriage dance, like, are we building this business to sell it, or are we building this business to keep it? And the answer was building a business to keep. And if it happens that we sell it, great. But we have always operated on the philosophy that, particularly in our industry where we’ve seen a lot of companies get too big that they can’t sell themselves or the industry climate shifts in some way, shape, or form, and a type of business falls out of favor.

We can’t rely on being the belle of the ball. We just have to be comfortable with the way that we look. Like we just have to focus on ourselves and focus on what we can be good at and what we can control. And that’s building a profitable business as quickly as physically possible.

Adam Robinson: So, that’s how I felt with my first one.

Robbie Salter: Yeah.

Adam Robinson: My second one was started when I was burnt out from my first one. So, literally, I was like, I am going to sell this in 18 months. We had an acquisition deal on the table in February. The acquirer walked the day before we were going to sign the APA. Nothing. Since then, the trajectory of this, I’m not joking, I think it’s like 20 to 100 times the potential outcome that I thought when we had the conversation with this guy. It’s amazing.

And by the way, it’s like not only am I not burnt out, like this is providing such extraordinary energy in my life for everything else, to me and everybody working on it, that I’m in the strange place with, are we building forever or are we building to sell it? It’s like on one hand, I actually think that there’s a big outcome. On the other hand, I don’t want this energy to go away.

Robbie Salter: Yeah.

Adam Robinson: I’m just like, we’re loving it so much what we’re doing right now. So, yeah, it’s just an interest. So, I know this from watching myself, like I was so definitive and just like, oh, my first company is called Robly Email Marketing. I was like, we’re building Robly forever, put it in writing, like taping the wall or whatever.

And then, how many things that I said just in these definitive terms that literally like 180, man, my approach on almost everything really is entrepreneurship, which you highlighted in the beginning. The thing is, like, I know that I have to be flexible because the circumstances will change in ways that are just unfathomable. I mean, a year ago, if you would have told me that I would be dealing with this situation that I’m dealing with right now, I would have told you, I’m in the middle of an earnout. There’s no way. You know what I mean?

Like we worked on this deal for six months that I literally thought was done in my head, and I had moved on to this. It was so wild. My consciousness had moved on to a checked out, like, I’m going to become a crypto guy. And then, I’m like, this is the most fun I’ve ever had doing anything.

Robbie Salter: Can I actually suggest something? Or maybe the answer is…

Adam Robinson: Yeah, 100%.

Robbie Salter: You have a daughter now. You have Emma, right? Like, that she…

Adam Robinson: Oh, yes.

Robbie Salter: She came after that moment. And by the way, same for me, I have a son now. Clearly, there is, I think, in the subconscious, something saying like, maybe this is something I want to leave. And by the way, whether it’s this business or something else, I think there’s this sort of maturity moment where something happens biologically, physiologically, subconsciously, whatever the term is, that maybe something just changes when you become a parent. So, I don’t know what it is, but it certainly seems like a trend that I see a lot in folks that I know that are new parents.

Adam Robinson: Yeah. This has been such a great chat, man. I really love digging in on all of this stuff because I just think it’s great. They help me relate to our customers so much better because I don’t get a lot of time to discuss these issues. And I just feel like these are the issues that these people that buy our products are dealing with. So, to wrap it up, if you could write one marketing pro tip on a billboard for every founder you see, what would it be?

Robbie Salter: Patience. Patience is a virtue. Becoming a day trader, I think, in our environment right now is really unhealthy. I think it’s really important to watch. I think it’s really important to watch, but you have to give things time. And I think that’s the thing I would say just in general that entrepreneurship as well as marketing, which is like you just got to be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

To understand your audience, it takes time to understand how your audience is moving around on the Internet. What they’re responding to takes time. I’d say, maybe on top of that, it’s patience and experimentation. To the extent that you can try a bunch of things out, but just be patient while you’re doing it.

Adam Robinson: Love that. Just love it. I mean, I reflect on my days as a trader and I’m so glad I’m not doing it. Like I vowed to never trade an individual. I get so addicted to the action and it distracts from everything else that I’m building long term. And it’s just– yeah, I love those words. So, final five, wrap it up. Favorite book?

Robbie Salter: Shantaram, which is now a movie.

Adam Robinson: Love that book. If you listen to the– go ahead.

Robbie Salter: No, it’s now a TV show on Apple Plus or Apple TV, but I haven’t watched it. I don’t want…

Adam Robinson: You have to watch it. The audiobook is great because whoever they had do this voice or whatever you call it, voice acting, their accents are incredible. They just absolutely nailed, like going through the different cultures. So, favorite person you’re following or sort of person of interest that you– may not be current, aspirational, whatever, just somebody that you think is interesting and influential on your life and decision making.

Robbie Salter: Yeah. It happens to be investors of mine, but also just people that I really respect and admire but watch their moves. These guys who are the heads of a company called Known, guys Kern Schireson and Ross Martin. I think they’ve done a phenomenal job building their business and I think they’re really, really wonderful leaders in how they build their company and the direction that they’re taking it. So, really respect the heck out of what they’re doing there.

Adam Robinson: Awesome. Sweet. And then we discussed you were married, have a child. You live in Manhattan. Favorite vacation you’ve ever been on?

Robbie Salter: Africa, by far and away. It’s not even close to Rwanda and Kenya. It’s like…

Adam Robinson: Oh, I still haven’t hit it.

Robbie Salter: Oh, dude, it’s literally the most exotic place.

Adam Robinson: How much time did you spend over there?

Robbie Salter: We spent two weeks. We did four days in Rwanda, gorilla trekking, and then the barrens in Kenya doing safari. And I would…

Adam Robinson: If you had it, would you do three weeks if you could kind of thing? Or do you think that two weeks is like…

Robbie Salter: I want to go back to Africa every single year for as long as physically possible. It is a totally life-changing experience. And I would stay as long as physically possible if I could. My wife and I talk about how we sort of really discovered the meaning of life in Africa and being out on the plains.

Adam Robinson: Wow.

Robbie Salter: It’s amazing, yeah.

Adam Robinson: That’s powerful.

Robbie Salter: Oh, yeah.

Adam Robinson: Well, Robbie, this was awesome. Can people follow you anywhere? Can they learn more about you? Can they get the Jupiter stuff?

Robbie Salter: Yeah.

Adam Robinson: Tell us where we can get more Robbie Salter if we want or need it.

Robbie Salter:, or you can go to our Instagram handle @hellojupiter. Find me on LinkedIn, too. I love having conversations with other industry experts who want to talk shop, and I’ve got a lot to learn from other people, so I love to have a conversation.

Adam Robinson: Amazing. Well, thank you very much.

Robbie Salter: Thanks, man. Thanks for having me. This is a lot of fun.



Have you ever heard of a new startup idea and thought to yourself, "why didn't I think of that?"

Most of these "simple ideas" seem obvious when you first come across them, but what you don't see are all insights that lead to uncovering the perfect positioning. 

Today, I'm talking with Robbie Salter. Robbie is the Founder and Co-CEO of Jupiter—a dandruff-fighting scalp care brand that doesn't look or act like one.

As it turns out, 75% of the world gets dandruff at some point in their lives. It's more common than acne! But dandruff is a stigmatized, ugly category, and what Robbie realized was that traditional brands were only focused on selling beauty.

There really weren't any brands that focused on both beauty AND scalp care, which left a major gap in the market to create something that would appeal to women.  

So, Robbie and his partner formulated a holistic scalp care brand for people who want gorgeous hair without compromise.

In today's episode, you'll hear all about how they elevated a product that hadn't been innovated in 70 years!    

Key Takeaways from Robbie Salter

  • Building a business by solving your own problem 
  • The key traits of a successful entrepreneur
  • A major benefit to selling your product on Amazon
  • How to prioritize work when everything is urgent
  • Getting people to believe in your "crazy" ideas
  • Robbie's approach to work-life balance 
  • Raising money for a capital-intensive personal care business
  • Creating a fake brand to uncover product-market fit 
  • How to secure the right kind of investors and strategic advisors
  • Building forever vs. building to sell
  • Why patience is so critical as an entrepreneur

Robbie Salter on Getting People to Believe In Your "Crazy" Ideas

Robbie Salter Inspiring Quotes

  • If you're going to be an entrepreneur, the thing that you have to prepare for, is that it's probably going to take longer, it's probably going to be more expensive, and there are going to be lots of things that pop up that you didn't even know were part of the equation. The things that you thought were absolutes are absolutely not absolutes.” – Robbie Salter


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