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Thursday, June 24, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Sonicare inventor tackles skin care
By Tricia Duryee
Now, the 58-year-old Seattle engineer and entrepreneur is attempting to do it again.
He hopes his new product, the Clarisonic, will become as ubiquitous for cleansing the skin as the Sonicare is for oral hygiene.
"It is the son of the Sonicare," said venture capitalist Dan Rosen, who introduced Giuliani to potential investors at an Alliance of Angels meeting in Seattle yesterday. "He is taking what he did for the mouth and applying it to cleansing the face."
Giuliani revealed for the first time what he's been doing since starting Pacific Bioscience Labs in 2001. Previously the product had been a close-kept secret.
"I've kept it down. It's only been in the last couple of months, where I've felt a strong sense of confidence that it's worth talking about," Giuliani said. "I didn't want to get people excited, and have it not turn out to be all that good."
The concept is that the vibrating bristles are gentle enough to use every day, but abrasive enough to create cleaner and smoother skin, Giuliani said. The company has not yet completed any research on whether the device can clear up acne or other skin conditions.
Pacific Bioscience plans to market the product for about $200 through doctors' offices and spas, which will receive 30-40 percent of the sale price.
Giuliani chose the Alliance of Angels as his coming-out venue because, as a member, he was comfortable with the group.
The Alliance is a group of individuals who meet monthly at the Seattle Tennis Club to hear presentations by young companies. Members choose individually whether to invest the thousands of dollars the concepts call for.
The two other companies that presented yesterday were MicroGREEN Polymers, a plastics company in Stanwood, and Seattle-based Rascal Software, which allows companies to make just one document that can be used in different media, including Web sites and print documents.
The room was particularly full yesterday to hear Giuliani speak. In a way, his presence stole the show.
"Everyone knew he was up to something, so we were eager to hear about it," said James King, vice president of Rascal Software. "I'm still glad we came. The exposure was good."
Prior to starting Pacific Bioscience Labs, Giuliani fathered two companies that were later acquired by medical-product giants. The better-known was Optiva, which created the Sonicare toothbrush. The company, which had annual sales of $175 million, was sold to Royal Philips Electronics in 2000 for an undisclosed sum. Prior to that, Giuliani co-founded International Biomedics, which developed a device that monitors blood gases in patients. It was sold to Abbott Research of Chicago.
Since selling Optiva, Giuliani has been laying low as the chairman of the Washington Technology Center, a state organization that facilitates technology research for private companies. He also has been quietly working on the new concept with two co-founders who are also from Optiva.
Already $650,000 has been poured into the company, mostly from Giuliani's pocket. At the angels' meeting he was looking for the final third of a $1 million funding round.
With his track record, he is the kind of entrepreneur investors look for, said Doug Bevis, an alliance member who attended yesterday's event.
"He's a pro. It's nice to see a second or third (company) under someone's belt," Bevis said. "Sometimes you pick the horse because of the jockey. In this case, he's one hell of a jockey."
Rosen, who is a venture capitalist at Frazier Technology Ventures in Seattle, said it was considerate of Giuliani to pitch his business to the group since there are many venture capitalists in town that would have loved to invest in the company.
"He believes in a strong angel community and he chose to come here," he said.
Giuliani said he's running this company differently than Optiva. This time he's less involved, serving as a teacher rather than doing the work himself.
"Before I was driving it and being chief cook and bottle washer. That was fine, but this time, let someone else do it," he said.
He sees his role as assembling the right team and putting in initial dollars to get the company going, but plans to turn it over eventually. For instance, he hired David Gusdorf as vice president of marketing two months ago, and had him do most of yesterday's presentation.
Gusdorf said Giuliani is key in getting the right introductions for the company. "Absolutely, when I walked into this room, there was a sense of acceptance," he said.
Giuliani said will step down as chief in the next six months when the product launches.
"My intention at this point is to assist in the birthing of the company, launch it effectively and then replace myself as CEO and go back to teaching," he said.
He's also hesitant to predict how the product will do in the marketplace. For one thing, the device is a new concept, unlike the toothbrush.
"If it doesn't do well, I'll have to sit in the corner with the dunce cap on," he said.
But the reverse is true, too. "On the other hand, if it is successful, I'll have given the angels an opportunity to participate."
Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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