Repeat entrepreneurs Scott Cohen and Blake Johnson built this unicorn in record time in what some have called one of the greatest direct-to-consumer success stories of the century.

Forbes

DTC Startup Beat Out Industry Giants

The past several years have been marked by a handful of brands going from zero dollars to a billion dollar valuation. The one thing almost all of them have had in common? Venture capital investors with deep pockets, multiple rounds of fund raising and dilution, over the course of five plus years of growth. But the first announced Unicorn buyout of 2021 changed all that when Byte, a direct-to-consumer, at-home invisible teeth aligner company sold to Dentsply Sirona (Nasdaq: XRAY) in an all-cash deal valued at $1.04 billion without having taken a single dollar of venture capital investment.

Repeat entrepreneurs and unicorn founders Scott Cohen and Blake Johnson built this unicorn in record time in what some have called one of the greatest direct-to-consumer success stories of the century. Founded in 2017, Byte launched its products at the start of 2019, and they inked the billion-dollar all-cash deal with Dentsply less than two years later.

When researching the teeth aligner industry, Unicorn founders Cohen and Johnson have shared that they saw an opening in a crowded space to create a differentiated direct-to-consumer experience coupled with a powerful B2B offering. And that’s how Byte was born.

Their goal was to become a global brand, helping people all over the world regain their smile and their confidence and provide disenfranchised communities with access to oral care. With the recent buyout, that’s exactly what Cohen and Johnson accomplished, and all that without a dime of venture capital. Not only did Byte succeed without it, but they took on industry giants Invisalign and SmileDirectClub in the process. Their differentiator? Byte’s been mission-driven and profitable from the start, focused on improving accessibility and putting the customer first.

Byte experienced explosive growth last year, reducing customer acquisition costs by 50%. Their customer-centric strategy prevented setbacks seen by companies like SmileDirectClub.

Despite the pandemic, Byte invested in employee growth, expanding from 100 to nearly 500 team members from January to October 2020.

Cohen and Johnson promised their employees and customers they would sacrifice neither the consumer experience nor profitability as they grew the business. Having kept their promise, they earned the trust of consumers evidenced by their overwhelmingly positive customer reviews, a response that is unprecedented in the dental services industry.

It’s not just customer access to the product that Byte focused on. The unicorn founders also set forth a mission to increase accessibility to those in need. Through their ByteCares program, the philanthropic arm that Cohen and Johnson founded, Byte set out to improve 10,000 smiles, and during the pandemic they expanded that program, providing services for communities in need and manufacturing face shields and ventilator parts.

They even went so far as to open up their national network of dental professionals to anyone in need of teledentistry services, free of charge.

Cohen and Johnson said they would invest more in teledentistry and increasing their work with the dental industry to continue bridging the gap between underserved communities and oral care professionals.

Under the new ownership, the existing management team and CEO Neeraj Gunsager will continue to operate Byte.

As for Cohen and Johnson, we’ll be curious to see what is next for them.

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