Jordan Elist grew up hearing his dad, a urologist, discuss sexual health. So it’s fitting that Elist’s direct-to-consumer supplement business, Mate, focuses on that topic.
Elist launched Mate in 2020 after a career in investment banking. The company has produced two supplements to date, with more in development. All address men’s sexual health.
In our recent conversion, Elist explained the challenges of destigmatizing sexual healthcare, science-based formulation, marketing challenges, and more. The entire audio of the interview is embedded below. The transcript is edited for clarity and length.
Eric Bandholz: Tell us about Mate.
Jordan Elist: Mate is a men’s sexual wellness brand. I founded the company in December 2020. We offer natural supplements to combat erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.
Companies such as Hims and Roman have helped remove the stigma around discussing men’s sexual health. I give those companies a lot of credit. They have approached the topic with humor and education. It’s a delicate balance. A guy wants to know the science behind the product to know it’s going to work.
Bandholz: How do you engage prospective customers?
Elist: I look at what others have done with similar businesses. Jon Shanahan over at Stryx, which sells make-up for men, has done an incredible job addressing a slightly stigmatized topic. He’s appeared on this podcast twice.
He has approached it by speaking directly to prospects on TikTok mostly.
TikTok organic has been one of Mate’s best customer acquisition channels, too. We can speak directly to the pain points that men deal with. We can see what they’re looking for from a product and even implement changes from their suggestions. For example, our packaging used to have the word “Mate” outside the box, but we realized that discreteness and confidentiality are of utmost importance to customers. So our outer packaging is now entirely discrete — no outside branding or wording.
We developed a second product based on customer feedback. Our first product, Endurance, addresses premature ejaculation. Little did we know that the opposite — delayed ejaculation — is an issue for many guys, often caused by taking anti-depressants. We saw that many folks were commenting on our TikTok videos about it. We turned to our formulation team for a science-backed approach to addressing that issue. The product is now in the pipeline. It’s called Ignite. They’re both once-daily supplements.
Bandholz: Tell us more about your science-backed approach.
Elist: I’m the son of a urologist. I grew up learning about men’s sexual health. On the premature ejaculation side, patients use two prominent solutions. One is numbing sprays, which just desensitize the area. The other is Sertraline, which doctors sometimes prescribe for off-label use, meaning that the FDA does not approve them to treat premature ejaculation, but it is a side effect of those drugs. So I asked my dad, “There’s a better way of doing this in a more natural science-based approach. What can we do?”
Given his 30-plus years of practicing medicine, he had a good sense of what systems in the human body help prolong sexual stamina. It came down to increasing Serotonin production. And from there, he worked with a team of pharmacologists and other urologists to determine the necessary ingredients. It’s a mix of L-Tryptophan and 5-Hydroxytryptophan. These are listed on our supplement fact panel. We took it a step further and did clinical studies to ensure that the product’s ingredient combination would be as effective as we were looking for. And fortunately, it was. And only then did we bring the product to market.
Bandholz: How have you funded the project?
Elist: We haven’t had to raise outside money. We’re bootstrapped. I started my career in investment banking. I saved a good amount from my regular salary and an end-of-year bonus. That allowed me to fund the initial inventory purchase and the website design and development.
Once I realized that organic TikTok, influencer collaborations, and Google Ads could generate revenue at scale, we did not need outside capital. I am competing with large brands that have raised lots of venture capital, but often they’re not profitable.
Bandholz: Isn’t organic growth slower than paid?
Elist: I operate a lean model with no employees, only freelancers. I have minimal fixed costs. So I can give it some time to see how the organic performs.
Bandholz: You mentioned you’re doing influencer collaborations. Walk me through that process.
Elist: There are excellent physicians on TikTok — urologists and sex education specialists — that have established significant followings to share helpful content. I often stumble across their profiles on my For You page. If someone would be a good brand ambassador and be able to explain the advantages of our product, I reach out.
If that person is equally interested, we’ll negotiate the fee — whether upfront, based on the number of views, or by how many times their promo code gets used. From there, we try to create a long-term partnership, not a one-off campaign. We want evangelists who understand where we’re coming from as a brand and our value proposition.
Typically, a creator wants a guaranteed payment regardless of how the video performs. They’re not as invested in the success as the brand owner. We offer all three options to see if they would work on a performance model. That often ends up costing more if the video performs exceptionally well. Still, we see it as an opportunity to show the content creator the upside potential and strengthen the relationship for future collaborations.
Bandholz: What about new products?
Elist: The next cohort of products will continue our focus on the supplement space. We’ll have one for libido testosterone support, one for prostate health, and one for delayed ejaculation. We should have five supplements by the first half of 2023 and seven by the end of 2023. From there, we’ll lean on our customers’ feedback to understand their preferences.
Bandholz: Where can people buy your products or learn more about what you’re building?