The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Carolina Angel Network


Sweat Equity

04/05/2019


Carpe co-founders are on a quest to make stressful situations less sweaty

Kasper Kubica and David Spratte, co-founders of Carpe

Why Innovators Care

Founders Kasper Kubic and David Spratte are taking Carpe to the next level. Carpe began as a dorm room startup and grew into a flourishing company with the help of organizations like the Carolina Angel Network. 

$2.3 million in seed funding

5% of americans affected by Hyperhidrosis

2 shades of blue

Big presentation? Recital? First date? Championship game? Whether it’s nerves or stress, any of these circumstances would give many people sweaty hands, underarms or feet – likely leading to an embarrassing situation. Known as hyperhidrosis, the condition can be distressing and potentially affect lifestyles. According to the Mayo Clinic, Hyperhidrosis is abnormal excessive sweating that’s not necessarily related to heat or exercise.

 

Until recently, there wasn’t easy, over-the-counter help for this condition that recent studies say affect nearly 5 percent of Americans – more than 15 million people. And research from other countries indicates a nearly 20 percent incidence in some regions. Enter Carpe, a company that’s producing the world’s first non-greasy, no-residue antiperspirant lotion. 

The company has achieved great success and fast growth in its first few years. Carpe co-founders Kasper Kubica and David Spratte met while sophomores at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Spratte) and Duke University (Kubica) through the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. Both experienced sweaty hands and felt that others with the same challenge could use a solution. As students-turned-entrepreneurs, they weren’t sure how to take their idea to the next level.


Yet, by connecting with mentors involved with Innovate Carolina, UNC-Chapel Hill’s university-wide network and initiative for innovation and entrepreneurship, they were able to get the advice and guidance they needed to launch the company.


“Getting our idea off the ground for Carpe was incredibly tough,” says Spratte. “From the pitch party at 1789 to our first investors, it was amazing to get so much support, especially given that many didn’t think there was a market for the product. From resources to events and to the various opportunities that UNC gave to us, those really helped us build the foundation of what Carpe is today.”

David Spratte, UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus and co-founder of Carpe Lotion

By connecting with mentors involved with Innovate Carolina, UNC-Chapel Hill’s 

university-wide network and initiative for innovation and entrepreneurship, Spratte and Kubica were able to get the advice and guidance they needed to launch the company. 

Carpe has expanded beyond hand cream.

Angel Investor Uplift

One UNC-Chapel Hill network that helped boost Carpe was the Carolina Angel Network (CAN), which connects accredited investors who are alumni or friends of the University to UNC-affiliated startups. CAN is the only official angel investor network for startups and ventures associated with UNC-Chapel Hill. And since being founded in November 2016 through January 2019, it’s attracted nearly 200 member investors and invested $5.2 million in 13 companies, including Carpe.

“The Carolina Angel Network was unbelievably helpful. Working with such a diverse group of individual investors is a huge benefit,” says Spratte. “From a dermatology strategy to a retail strategy, many individuals in the CAN network have been extremely valuable for us to connect with and learn from as well as gain insight into their successful experiences.”

Carpe has been able to raise $2.3 million in seed funding, with CAN playing a significant role in those efforts. One of the reasons that CAN is effective in helping companies like Carpe is that it’s a national – rather than regional – network. That means founders like Spratte and Kubica can tap into a wide net of funding potential, connections and advice from Carolina alumni investors located across the country who are passionate about helping early-stage companies launched by UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, students and fellow alumni.

As part of CAN, startups and ventures also benefit from research and due diligence support from Carolina students. “It was fun to work with UNC MBA students and law students as well as recent graduates,” says Spratte. “The students – who are at the start of their own venture capital, banking or law careers – dove into the research we needed, which helps them understand what goes into the early stages of how investors invest in companies.”

As a connected network, CAN fosters a sense of community among its members. For instance, Spratte and Kubica were able to attend the inaugural CAN annual meeting in 2018, where they met with network investors and the leaders of other CAN companies in person.

“The CAN annual meeting allowed us to update investors on the growth of the business as well as talk through issues the company was facing and what we were trying to overcome,” says Kubica. “We left the meeting very excited and energized. We were able to not only update the network, but also have a great conversation about the future of the company and what would be possible with new products and strategies.”

The CAN annual meeting allowed us to update investors on the growth of the business as well as talk through issues the company was facing and what we were trying to overcome.

Kasper Kubica

Although the startup has quickly grown and expanded its product portfolio, Carpe faces ongoing challenges like all growing companies.

“There are constant, new challenges each week,” says Kubica. “The single biggest challenge was getting the company off the ground, figuring out whom this product was going to be for and what it was going to be like.”

 

Another challenge facing the company was reaching Carpe’s customer base and figuring out what the messaging would be for that niche market. The company had to think about a user’s daily habits and how personal and behavioral attitudes toward health continue to shift.

 

For example, over the past few decades the general public has moved toward a habit of using antiperspirant on a daily basis. However, Carpe’s target market may not need the product each day. Some users – like those with sweaty hands – may need to use Carpe’s products daily, while other users may only need to use the product ahead of a stressful situation, such as an important business meeting or athletic event.

Balancing the student-turned-entrepreneur journey

As students with ambitions for launching a startup, Kubica and Spratte had to learn quickly how to balance their full-time academic responsibilities with their interest in innovation and entrepreneurship.

 “It was really hard. Our classes and work began to mesh together,” says Spratte. “There was no way we could start a company in college and avoid missing a class to take a call. There was no way to avoid triage and prioritization.”

As the company grew and momentum built around the product, Carpe became more of a priority for both Kubica and Spratte. Learning how to extend their bandwidth and balance being perfectionists with being productive was key. “The biggest thing to overcome when you have an idea is the notion that it’s all about having the perfect idea,” says Kubica. “Nothing matters unless you make something and put it in people’s hands. You’re not going to do it without the right people; there is nothing more important than that. Don’t overthink it – make something, and get it in people’s hands.”

The company has grown and been so successful that, after graduation, both Kubica and Spratte went to work full-time at Carpe. As they continue to look for new ways to grow the business, both Kubica and Spratte offer support to other aspiring entrepreneurs.

“The most common misconception, based on what we hear and see among entrepreneurs, is that there are solitary heroes with incredible ideas,” says Spratte. “Imperfect people make an amazing, perfect whole. Get the idea done, find a need and do your best to fill it.”

Rival shades of blue team up

Both Spratte and Kubica agree that teaming up as students from schools commonly known for being fierce athletic competitors has been a big win for the business.

“It’s been the best experience having both UNC and Duke come together on a company,” says Spratte. “Combining the resources of the two institutions, which both have advanced entrepreneurship programs, has been nothing but incredible.”

Truth be known, though, watching games played on the basketball hardwood and football gridiron are two rare scenarios when this Tar Heel opponent of hyperhidrosis would like to see his Blue Devil business partner actually sweat profusely.

“We are a testament that the two universities should work together across the board when it comes to innovation, research and development,” says Spratte earnestly before a chuckle. “Just not on sports.”

Kubica and Spratte worked together to found Carpe despite their university rivalries