Tristan Walker on the Roman Empire and Selling a Start-Up to Procter & Gamble

Here is David Gelles’ profile of Tristan Walker for The New York Times. To read the complete article and check out other resources, please click here.

Credit: Matt Edge for The New York Times

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Tristan Walker founded Walker & Company, a maker of health and beauty products for people of color, in 2013. On Wednesday, the company was acquired by Procter & Gamble for an undisclosed sum.

The deal represents a successful exit for Mr. Walker and his investors. It also signals an effort by Procter & Gamble, the maker of Gillette, to reach new markets with its shaving products.

But while many start-up founders make a hasty exit after getting acquired, Mr. Walker is planning to stay on and grow Bevel, his men’s shaving brand, and Form, his women’s hair care brand.

“We’re a team of 15 with very grandiose ambitions,” he said of Walker & Company, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif., but will move to Atlanta as part of the deal. “We want this company and its purpose to still be around 150 years from now.”

Mr. Walker grew up poor in Queens. His mother focused on his education, and he was accepted into an elite boarding school. From there he went to Stony Brook University, on Long Island, and then the Graduate School of Business at Stanford.

After working at Foursquare, he became an entrepreneur in residence with the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and from there he started Walker & Company. Mr. Walker also co-founded Code2040, an organization working to improve diversity in the technology industry.

This interview, which was condensed and edited for clarity, was conducted earlier this year in San Francisco.

What’s that book you’ve got there?

It’s “Parallel Lives” by Plutarch. I’ve really been getting into Greek and Roman mythology. I’m reading something right now about the history of Rome during the 53 years when they really came into power, and this idea of the Roman state growing, the Greek state growing, and the differences therein fascinate me beyond belief. I’ve just been devouring it for the past few weeks now.

Would you say you’re more of a Greek or a Roman?

Roman. In 53 years, these guys came from nothingness and became a global power. It’s just fascinating how you can do that so quickly, with such discipline. For them to reach their apex and decline so quickly, I think there’s something really interesting to learn in that. When I think about my own business, and think about how history really does repeat itself, the Rome story is one that really rings true. This idea of arrogance matched with discipline is a kind of interesting dichotomy to explore a little bit more de

Did you read the classics in school?

No, no. I was an economics major. I was a great student — 4.0 G.P.A., valedictorian, all that stuff. I learned to study and play to the test, play to the grade, get to the next step. Now I’m in a position where I can actually devour the content I always wanted to. I remember reading Ben Franklin’s autobiography and being so delighted by it. It gave me this real delight to pursue a path of more knowledge.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

David Gelles writes the Corner Office column and other features for The New York Times’s Sunday Business section, To learn more about him and his work, please click here.

To learn more about him and his work, please click here.


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