Each month as part of StartHub Startups to Watch Program we connect with the winning company to learn more about them. Our April Startup to Watch is Sundots, the world’s first gummy for sun protection. Recently we had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Tolles, CEO and Co-Founder of Sundots. Here’s what we learned:
Tell us about your company. What is Sundots?
Sundots are the world’s first gummy for sun protection. Developed by a Harvard-trained dermatology researcher, Sundots are based on polypodium leucotomos, a fern extract backed by 30+ years of sun protection science.
What is your background?
I got passionate about consumer health products based on my experience working in healthcare innovation and prior startup experience. I spent two years working with academic researchers at places like Harvard and MIT to commercialize scientific research before I met Sundots co-founder Dr. Emilia Javorsky, who was an expert in our active ingredient, polypodium leucotomos.
How did you come up with the idea for Sundots? Who is your target customer?
Sundots was born out of our passion for how science-based consumer products can make a big difference in people’s health. Skin cancer rates are 3.5x what they were in 1990, and there are more cases of skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined. We need better sun protection! When we saw the quality of data behind our active ingredient, we knew a solution was possible to complement sunscreen and UPF-rated clothing. Our customer understands that UV radiation is the #1 cause of skin aging AND the #1 cause of skin cancer, and wants to take their skin and sun health into their own hands.
How do you think Sundots is going to disrupt the market? What are the main differentiators between you and your competitors?
We’re the only gummy for sun protection in the world, because we’re trying to create new, daily habits around sun protection. Gummies are convenient, fun, and most importantly, super-tasty!
Who are your main investors?
Our investors are our customers! We’re self-funded and had an amazing Indiegogo campaign in March. Approaching our launch, we knew that the underlying science of Sundots was rock-solid, but could we tell a story that helped folks understand just how rigorous our approach was? Indiegogo was a great platform for us because it let us test our storytelling approach in a low-risk way. But iterating and iterating with our target customers, we were able to end up with a set of copy and visuals that laid out the need for better sun protection, and how Sundots fills that need, in a super-comprehensible way. The result has been so encouraging for our team: over $100,000 during our 30-day campaign, which is 500%+ of our original goal!
During the campaign we were covered by the Boston Globe, Yahoo!, and other key media outlets that helped tell our story - there’s no way we could have built that momentum without the benefit of a high-energy crowdfunding campaign. We’re still running an extended InDemand campaign before we ship in June, and it’s amazing to see supports STILL getting on board with Sundots, even a week or more after our initial 30-day campaign ended.
We’ll likely be doing a friends-and-family round for working capital in late summer, so welcome interest from angel investors passionate about science-based consumer products.
Why did you decide to start your business in Boston? How long has your company been around?
We started our company here because this is the city we’re committed to, personally and professionally. Boston is a world-class place for innovative science, which is the foundation of our company’s approach. We started the company last year and launched Sundots in March. We ship in June!
What resources in the startup community have contributed to the success of Sundots?
Many of our closest advisors are in Boston, and we’ve benefitted hugely from resources from our alma mater, Boston University. As well, again, the quality of the science startup scene here is second to none!
How do you use StartHub professionally?
StartHub is an awesome way to keep our finger on the startup pulse of the city. We love being able to know everything that’s going on, and be part of the events and happening that matter to our particular slice of the startup community.
What are the next steps for Sundots?
We’ve just launched our own ecommerce site, Sundots.com, where anyone can order the product, and are on track for our expected June shipment. The most important thing we’ve got going on right now is to complete our manufacturing run with the utmost quality, and get these gummies into the hands of our customers!
What is the most important thing our readers should know about Sundots?
Sundots work. Go ahead, check PubMed for polypodium leucotomos, and let us know what you find. We need better sun protection, and it’s exciting to see how profoundly our message is resonating with our customers so far who understand that UV radiation is the single most important thing they can address both for beauty and skin health goals.
You can use our site, Sundots.com, to learn more about our sun protection mission, details of our product, and the incredible deal we’re offering for Sundots in a monthly delivery format.