As far as pandemic-proof businesses go, a startup for barbershops isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind — unless you raised millions just days before barbershops were shut down across the country.
Dave Salvant and Songe LaRon, co-founders of New York-based Squire, a back-end barbershop management tool for independent businesses they launched in 2016, raised a $34 million Series B led by CRV in early March (after raising $8 million in a Series A round led by Trinity Ventures in 2018). Days later, “everything went to zero,” LaRon recalls of their customer base: All barbershops closed.
The cash quickly went from an opportunistic raise to needed capital. Squire waived all subscription fees, created a site for information called www.helpbarbershops.com and launched a way for patrons to buy online gift cards for their favorite shops. One barbershop sold more than $30,000 in just a few days.
After weathering a hard few months, Squire is now enjoying high demand from barbershops preparing to reopen. The company provides cashless payment, a way to make appointments and is experimenting with a virtual waiting room, all features that barbershops post-pandemic are considering. It is currently live in 45 cities.
During shelter-in-place, some of us have been forced to cut our own hair, as shown by virtual haircuts done over Zoom and even a VC-hosted haircut workshop. But a DIY session won’t replace the intimacy of a barbershop.
Barbershops have long served as gathering places for Black and African American communities as a place to chat, be vulnerable and complain.
In recent years, the culture has moved more into mainstream conversation. Today, there is an entire talk show series, produced by LeBron James, where guests chat while getting a cut. In Atlanta, there’s a singular Atlanta barbershop that serves as an informal gathering ground for the city’s top politicians.
“We learned it resonated with men from all walks of life, all races and ethnicities and was really kind of a universal experience. So we saw an opportunity for a tech