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Oscar started Remi in 2019. They detail the beginnings of their company in their Starter Story interview: 
Q: How did you get started on Remi?
Bruxism, the medical term for grinding your teeth while you sleep, affects 25-40% of adults in the US. It’s a natural way for stress to leave the body – but unlike biting your nails or twirling your hair, it can cause real damage. It’s also a chronic condition – and one that I have been dealing with personally for 10 years.
Over the past few years, I’ve lost 6-night guards. I was lucky enough to be able to afford to replace them each time with a $500+ option (I once paid $950 at a Manhattan dentist office!) but after that 6th night guard, my frustration reached a point of no return. I could never understand why a piece of plastic – even if it is molded custom to my teeth – could be so expensive.
While I had always politely debated this with my dentists, I never won that debate. As far as I knew, they had all the leverage. Until Remi, there were only two options if you grind your teeth. You could either get a sports guard (think Steph Curry’s guard during a basketball game) for $15 at any pharmacy, drop it in a pot of boiling water or microwave until it’s hot, and then let it cool around your teeth. This results in a thick bulky guard – which is fine for a basketball game, but absolutely sub-optimal for comfort while sleeping. Aside from that, you could cough up $500+ at your dentist’s office. This prices so many people out of a good night’s sleep – and for no good reason!
After a contentious debate with my dentist in SF, I put on my VC hat and started doing my own due diligence. I spoke with 75 dentists around the country, and while I never got a satisfactory answer for why they were charging $500+ for a nightguard, I did learn something important – 99% of dentists outsource this to a fabrication lab. These labs focus on ultra-high margin work like crowns and bridges, which can go for thousands of dollars but are often covered by insurance. Nightguards, while still lucrative, were always an afterthought for these labs. I learned that after the dentist smiled and shook my hand, they’d leave the examination room and let the hygienist take over and take an impression of my teeth – because it’s really not that hard to do.
By the time I was getting into my car in the parking lot, that hygienist had already dropped my impression in an envelope to be sent off to the lab. A few weeks later the receptionist would call me to come to pick it up. Nothing about this process was efficient, and the mark-up was insane. These fabrication labs, which generally use older technology because night guards are an afterthought to them, charge the dentist about $120. The dentist then charges me $500. As a VC, I knew I had identified a broken market with a middleman that could be eliminated – if I could figure out a way to get people to take their own impressions from home.
That’s when the real work started. I started ordering impression trays and putty from every supplier I could find. My friends and family were nice enough to let me stick putty and trays into their mouths every time I saw them. After a lot of trial and error, I found the right combination and best way to get this done easily for a customer who had zero experience doing something like this before. Then, it was off to the races.
I quit my job, raised pre-seed funding round, and started on branding, packaging, securing suppliers, hiring a team of dental professionals, and building a website and marketing plan.
12 months later, we’re selling many thousands of night guards every month – and believe we’re at the tip of the iceberg with this product. While the TAM for night guards alone is well into the billions annually (remember, it’s a chronic condition that affects 25-40% of us!) and the SAM is well North of $1B, I knew from my time in VC that the larger play here is to use the night guard as a beachhead product for a larger Sleep and Wellness platform brand.
When Remi customers started asking if they could use their night guards as teeth whitening trays (we’re the only option on the market that includes both a top and bottom night guard standard so our customers can decide which is most comfortable after trying them out for a few nights in real-life conditions – a huge advantage for our comfort value proposition – it also meant they could use these trays to whitening their teeth.
Nickel and diming customers is not going to get you that NPS score that builds a word-of-mouth free-CAC marketing machine.
We started working with a top-tier US whitening gel manufacturer on a gel formulation that would work for overnight use without causing sensitivity. Because of the longer exposure time, we were able to eliminate the traditional nasty chemicals found in “20-minute” whitening gels and strips. Whether our customers purchase the whitening gel as an add-on with their night guard or just use Remi as their teeth whitening routine, we’re able to provide the experience you’d get in the dentist office for a fraction of the cost, no risk of sensitivity, and without needing to leave home.
We have a few more products coming down the turnpike that builds on this idea of providing Sleep and Wellness solutions that are accessible, convenient, and comfortable – but I can’t give away all our secrets in this article!
Contributors to this article:
- Pat Walls, Founder @ Starter Story
- Wiki Updater