Cleaning Up The Mess: Investing in Trumans

Humans are generally stubborn. And changing behaviors is harder than it should be. Yet it turns out there is one proven antidote: actually making that behavior enviable or desirable.  

When it comes to corporate and personal sustainability - improving our environmental future - a trend highlighted by consultants and journalists from Forbes to Mckinsey to Goldman, as fundamental to the future of our lives - it’s not so simple. These changes require behavioral shifts: new processes, new products, new daily routines. Sure, the early adopters have been vocal about their changes, but what about the rest of us? (Shh. We’re guilty too.)

But what if it were fun? Pretty? Humorous? What if your kids loved it and asked you for it? Demanded it?

At Starting Line, we found that product. But it’s not what you’d guess. We’re talking about cleaning solution.

Trumans is a simple product: a non-toxic, wholly sustainable liquid concentrate, shipped in small containers. Once received, a consumer merely adds water at home and the concentrate releases into a myriad of beautiful colors and styles. It’s an elegant dispensing mechanism and it’s fun and exciting to do. It also has a material impact on our carbon footprint; a full 98% of the liquid in cleaning solution, detergent, and other household items is merely tap water. That means that consumers are paying the full cost of shipping that water throughout the country (water is heavy and expensive to ship), and we are all paying the proverbial price by its increased impact on our supply chain and increase of single use plastic containers.

Actually, liquid concentrates are not a new idea. Some industrial cleaners use them at scale. They’ve even seen mass market consumer tests in the past. But those all failed. Turns out it’s pretty difficult to convince an over-worked, over-tired consumer to purchase rather unassuming concentrates in a retail aisle, especially amongst the chaos of dozens of other brands. (What is this? How does it work? What else do I need? No thanks.) But the internet unlocks that education. Whether it’s Instagram, gifs, or Netflix, our consumption has become increasingly visual. Stories move us, compel us, change us. And Trumans is a visual product - innovating a product category that for the first time, truly has a space to tell it’s story.

I first met Jon Bostock and Alex Reed several months after they’d fully exited as Chief Operating Officer and Global Marketing Director from their prior company Big Ass Fans - a business broadly recognizable for its iconoclastic branding and visual products. A simple visit to Truman’s FAQ makes it clear that humor, eccentricity, and fun is in the DNA of their new business as well. Cleaning concentrates are just the start, and Starting Line is excited to join the long term vision of cleaning up the mess, alongside two extraordinary founders, and an impressive group of investors including Henkel, Uncommon Denominator, Boulder Food Group and Beth Comstock.

Ezra Galston