Tristan Walker is the founder and CEO of Walker & Company Brands who launched his first product, Bevel, this past February. Bevel is a shaving system designed specifically for men with sensitive skin and coarse and curly hair. Walker honed his entrepreneurial skills as the director of business development at Foursquare, and then as entrepreneur-in-residence at Andressen & Horowitz. Along with creating his own brand and products, he’s also active in getting Black and Latino students involved in start-ups through his organization CODE2040.
Q: Where did the idea for Bevel come from?
Walker: Bevel started out from my own frustration of not being able to shave for 15 years. Every single way that I encountered facial hair removal sucked. I used the multi-blade razor on my face when I was 15. I woke up the following morning completely broken out. You go to a barbershop, a barber will use the same electric clippers he’s using on everyone else’s hair on your face, which when you think about it, is disgusting. He doesn’t clean it person to person. The last one, which is the worst of them all, I put a depilatory cream on my face. It sits on your face for six minutes and has all these crazy chemicals in it and then you wipe it off. It burned my face. It did all types of damage to my skin. So, I thought there has to be a better way. We created Bevel out of that.
Q: Where do you hope to see Bevel in five years?
Walker: Bevel is the flagship brand under Walker & Company, so hopefully, Bevel is still a very, very large brand that people continue to love. Hopefully, it’s one of a few brands that Walker & Company has. We want hundreds of thousands of people using this product. Quite frankly, the thing that kind of inspires me most.
Q: You were director of business development at Foursquare. What did you learn from working at that company that you apply to your product, Bevel?
Walker: I really learned the importance of brands and authenticity. The reason why I think Foursquare was so successful was that every employee lived the brand, every employee was the brand, and it just made it easier for users and customers to really get it and want to be a part of it. When I think about Bevel and the Walker Company, I think the thing that we do well is we show off that authenticity. We’re not faking it. This is us. I think we’ll continue to do that with every brand we launch.
Q: How did your time as entrepreneur-in-residence at Andressen & Horowitz prepare you to launch Walker & Company Brands?
Walker: One thing that they taught me was to be the one thing that you feel like you’re the best person in the world to do, then you have a really good advantage. What I realized is, as it pertained to Bevel, no one understood the problem the way I did because I had to deal with it everyday of my life. Being able to disrupt health and beauty with technology focused on a demographic group that I’m a part of made me feel like I was one of the best folks in the world to try it.
Q: What other products can we expect from Walker & Company Brands?
Walker: We’re really focused on making things that solve health and beauty problems for people of color. Bevel helps with the razor-bump irritation issue with its design, etc. I think about things like vitamin D deficiency, natural hair transitioning and hyperpigmentation. We want to build brands that solve those problems in a very big way and I think we’ll do it.
Q: Tell us what you’re doing with CODE2040.
Walker: CODE2040 is a not-for-profit organization I helped found 2 ½ years ago. Our flagship program is the Fellows Program and the goal of it is to get the highest-performing Black and Latino engineering undergraduates internships in Silicon Valley, and then we provide them with all the tools they need to be very successful. The reasons behind starting it is, number one, I didn’t want folks to realize that Silicon Valley existed way too late. I realized it existed at 24 and that’s way too late, in my opinion. Secondly, I really have this fascination around how can we make the biggest consumer demographic (Blacks and Latinos) in the world the best producing demographic in the world? I think that’s one of the greatest opportunities of my lifetime.
Q: What advice would you give to someone wanting to enter the worlds of entrepreneurship and technology?
Walker: The first thing I would say is to just get a drive. You’ve just got to do it. Some of the best advice I got on that came from [director-producer] Tyler Perry. I had the good fortune to interview him a couple times with Walkers and Phoners and he said one thing to the group that stuck with me for a long time. He said it wasn’t until he realized that the trials you go through and the blessings you receive are the exact same thing and that freed him up to become a great entrepreneur. That stuck with me because your trials are just blessings and those lessons are blessings. Once you think about that, you start to become fearless in a sense. Think about it from the perspective of entrepreneurship being hard. The hard parts are just trials and your blessings.