Startup sails past $1M, considers second employee

Skins game: Kantian Skincare President Jon Klein has a million reasons to smile, and counting.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A key e-commerce alliance has pushed an innovative skin-care company past $1 million in revenues – and has the biotech’s only full-time employee thinking expansion, in more ways than one.

Kantian Skincare, a 2012 startup and the public face of Huntington-based Kantian Sciences Corp., hurtled past the $1 million plateau in July, according to cofounder and President Jon Klein, on the back of the Neutralyze Anti-Acne Solution, the company’s flagship product.

Sales of the multi-patented product hit seven digits just 24 months after Neutralyze hit virtual shelves, thanks primarily to Kantian’s partnership with online-shopping kingpin Amazon.

According to Klein, more than 30,000 units of Neutralyze, which debuted on Amazon Prime in July 2015, had been sold by this summer. And while Kantian Skincare has recently begun accepting orders through its own online store, 95 percent of its sales have come through the international e-commerce titan – and quickly.

“It was quicker than we expected,” said Klein, who launched the startup with his father, Smithtown dentist Richard Klein. “The largest factor would be our partnership with Amazon and having the products on Amazon Prime.”

Not only does the mother of all e-commerce sites offer fantastic exposure, he noted, but being listed on Amazon – particularly Amazon Prime – carries an unspoken endorsement that significantly boosts a product’s image.

“We’ve been able to really leverage the credibility that Amazon brings to your brand,” Klein said. “In the customer’s eyes, Amazon Prime has a higher level of credibility, because they know Amazon stands behind it and is offering customer support and order fulfillment.

“And most Prime customers already have their payment information stored in the system, because they feel confident knowing their personal information is secure with Amazon,” he added. “That’s why it’s one of the biggest e-commerce websites in the world, and why it’s such an advantage to be part of it.”

Such advantages cannot be overstated when you’re a fledgling biotech with one full-time employee and a virtual world to conquer. With production of Kantian Skincare’s proprietary medications still contracted to a Pennsylvania laboratory and distribution handled largely by Amazon – with a nod to an Ohio-based fulfillment center that preps and packages the product – Klein oversees a burgeoning business with virtually no overhead, just freelance contributors and gallons of innovation.

The novelty largely involves Neutralyze’s target audience. Featuring a “Nitrogen Boost” technology that combines keratolytic and antimicrobial activities in various acidic compounds, the product is geared specifically toward moderate to severe acne cases, a rarity among treatments that either claim effectiveness for all levels of acne or boast “maximum strength” for worse cases, but don’t deliver.

By focusing on the moderate-to-severe market, Neutralyze has carved a rich niche, with customers inquiring often about new products in the line, according to Klein.

Clear advantage: Neutralyze has cleaned up on Amazon Prime, according to Klein.

“A lot of our customers are asking when we’re coming out with a moisturizer, when we’re coming out with an anti-aging-acne hybrid,” he said. “So, we’re really focusing now on expanding the product line.”

That effort involves consulting chemist George Deckner, a former Procter & Gamble research fellow wielding hundreds of patents and a fantastic reputation. Working with scientists at that Pennsylvania R&D facility, Deckner is the driving force behind new Neutralyze products slated to debut in January, including a “renewal complex” moisturizer for acne-prone skin and Neutralyze exfoliating pads, similar to classic Stridex pads but packing that patented “Nitrogen Boost.”

“We’ve achieved a million dollars in sales with really three products in a singular acne kit,” Klein noted. “The next logical thing for us, based on customer feedback, is to come out with these new products.”

When they debut, customers will find the new products not only on Amazon Prime, but on the new Neutralyze.com website – Klein credits the site with about 5 percent of company sales to date, and rising – and on other Amazon channels.

Neutralyze has recently qualified for the Amazon Exclusives program for up-and-coming brands and also partakes of various Amazon pay-per-click services, including Amazon Headline Search.

The ultimate idea is to grow beyond Amazon, according to Klein, who described the e-commerce mothership as “a fantastic place for brands to launch” but not an endgame solution for a company like Kantian Skincare.

“Part of the reason we’re trying to make this shift is so we can better own our customer data,” Klein noted. “Amazon keeps all of its customer data. In terms of forming relationships with customers and being able to market to them directly by email, for instance, Amazon doesn’t share that data.

“A lot of Amazon sellers, when they reach a certain plateau, want to diversity into their own e-commerce channels,” he added. “That way, they can better communicate with their customers.”

With targeted Facebook and Google advertising driving traffic toward the startup’s online store and its Amazon channels, Klein believes that $1 million milestone is just the beginning – and he’s envisioning growth for his five-year-old biotech beyond just its product line.

“Obviously, we want to grow and have a bigger team,” he said. “We’ve been able to accomplish everything with just one employee and some freelance contributions, but growth is definitely the goal.

“We have some part-time hires now,” Klein added. “I think over the next four months, we’ll see the team growing for sure.”