How the ambitious, fast-growing startup behind Hand Chemistry, Grow Gorgeous, Fountain and Inhibitif plans to shake up the biz
By Wing Sze Tang
A brash, fast-talking, Adidas-sneaker-wearing former software geek, Deciem founder and serial entrepreneur Brandon Truaxe isn’t like other beauty CEOs. His company site declares he’s “screwed up!” His apparent business tag line—painted in all-caps outside his new Toronto HQ—is “THE ABNORMAL BEAUTY COMPANY.”
But despite his maverick persona, Truaxe, 37, is an industry veteran, having worked in the beauty biz for 12 years. In his 20s, while doing a computer science co-op stint at a beauty conglomerate, he was shocked to realize the low price of the ingredients going into swank creams. “I was annoyed. How could you make a product for $3 and sell it for $1,000?” he says, in his hyperbole-loving way. “It was highway robbery.”
Truaxe continued working in software, but his desire to disrupt the beauty world persisted. He met chemist Adel Rammal, formerly of Dior, and they joined forces to start skincare brand Euoko in 2006, with the goal of using high-tech ingredients (like expensive peptides) no matter what the cost. Its bestseller, Intense Youth Complex, sold for $525. Retailers like Bergdorf Goodman scooped up the line, and Truaxe was heralded as an innovator by Wallpaper. By 2008, he’d largely exited the Toronto-based brand, selling to investors.
Truaxe went after the mass market with his next venture, Indeed Labs, which was fully up and running by 2010. He credits Nanoblur—the company’s $20 airbrush-in-a-balm—with sparking the current demand for “blur” products. In 2012, he sold his Indeed stake and agreed to a non-compete clause that barred him from doing anything face-related for three years.
That deal was a “blessing in disguise,” says Truaxe, because it pushed him to be creative in neglected niches. He started Deciem in April 2013, and its portfolio is ambitiously diverse: there’s Hand Chemistry anti-aging hand/body care, Grow Gorgeous haircare, Fountain beauty supplements (a Cosmo UK award winner), and Inhibitif hair-growth-inhibiting serums/creams. This spring, Deciem will launch Ab Crew (men’s grooming) and Hylamide (his return to anti-aging face care)—with more brands in the pipeline.
A Few Deciem Innovations:
All show off Truaxe’s knack for clever, hard-to-resist marketing, but he’s also keen to emphasize the underlying smarts. All the products are created by in-house R&D and made at Deciem’s Toronto factory, rather than outsourced to a third-party manufacturer. This allows Truaxe to grasp the nitty-gritty science underpinning formulations and to control everything from start to finish. He’s dismissive of entrepreneurs who just call up an outside lab to make products, comparing that shortcut to asking a chef to tweak an old recipe: “[It’s like saying] whatever you’ve cooked for the past 20 years—please make it a different flavour,” he says. “That really never works.”
This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of Cosmetics magazine. For more, download our iPad edition.