Our Investment In Inkbox

Ameet Shah
Golden Ventures
Published in
5 min readJul 18, 2018


Today, we are pleased to share Golden Ventures’ seed investment in inkbox, coinciding with the public announcement of their US $10M Series A lead by Maveron. Our team is excited to be partnering with Tyler and Braden Handley, as well as the rest of the team on their mission to help build the world’s first consumer brand for tattoos.

This was not an obvious or easy business to build. It was clear from the very first meeting that the Handley brothers and the rest of the inkbox team were visionaries that possessed key traits we love in founders — resilience, humility, curiosity and resourcefulness. It’s been a pleasure to watch this group continuously level up and tackle the hard parts of the business head-on.

Since Golden Ventures led the Series Seed investment in January 2017, inkbox has grown over 400% and has sold 450,000 units worldwide.

From the Samoan Pe’a to Indian Mehndi, tattoos have been a core part of human behavior for centuries. In late 80s and early 90s, body art migrated from a deviant form of self-expression to being embraced by mainstream culture. It’s become a way for people to express themselves that transcends socio-economic classes, gender, age and geopolitical boundaries. In the US, it’s estimated that 37% of millennials have a tattoo and there are 2x more tattoo parlors than Starbucks locations. The US tattoo parlor industry alone was estimated to be $3B in 2015 and growing at a 9% CAGR and some industry experts estimate that the global industry is closer to $50B. Despite this increase in appeal, there has been limited innovation to meet the shifting demands of consumers today.

Demand Drivers and the Market for Semi-Permanent Tattoos

This is an industry that has been hiding in plain sight. Our core thesis is that the existing tattoo experience doesn’t work for the majority of the market and that semi-permanent products will unlock new utility. Inkbox offers a product that meets the needs of a quickly evolving market.

Not everyone wants or can get a permanent tattoo.

For many, there are legitimate cultural, religious, medical, and even legal considerations that make the cost of permanent tattoos prohibitive. For example, most US States require parental consent for tattoo-seekers under the age of eighteen. Meanwhile, Oklahoma did not legalize tattoos until 2006. In some cultures, including Japan, tattoos are viewed with ambivalence, with some considering them as taboo or even criminal. But at a macro level, values are shifting amongst younger generations who exhibit a strong preference for experience and experimentation over ownership and permanence.

Tattoos as Decorative and Fashion accessories

📸 @kaylahoheb24

There is an inherent desire to change up one’s look without long term commitment. There are several similar analogs in hair coloring and styling. Products and brands that lend themselves well towards self-expression and sharing will generate significant social lift on the most popular consumption platforms today.

Positive Expression of Self-Identity, In The Moment

This generation has embraced social action and positive acts displaying self-identity (ex: “me too” on social media, ice bucket challenge, even the Humboldt jersey). Inkbox allows you to use your body/person to express yourself in these ways.

The Path To Permanence

There is significant consumer appetite to experiment with different tattoo designs, placements as well as test for social validation before making a long term commitment. Nearly 1/4 of people who get a tattoo express some form of regret and estimates for the tattoo removal market were $1.1B in 2016 and expected to grow to $2.7B by 2023.

The First Products

Inkbox’s first product is a pain-free, semi-permanent tattoo patch or freehand bottle. These simple, fast products remove the initial friction surrounding tattoos, allowing users to experiment and engage in self- expression with ease.

The products are made from an organic, plant-based formula that penetrates the skin, which triggers a chemical reaction that changes the color. The ink fades naturally as your skin renews over the next 10–14 days.

Freehand application of inkbox

The technology and process behind the products are proprietary intellectual property of the company. Additionally, the company has introduced several forms of automation to increase operational efficiencies.

To date, the company has sold these products through ecommerce channels and retail pop-up locations around the world.

Connecting Artists; Building Community

More recently, inkbox launched a beta version of their designer marketplace to harness the creativity and demand from a rapidly expanding network of artists. The early response has been very positive, with one of the early adopters earning nearly $20,000 in just three months! The marketplace fills a big gap — bringing highly customized designs that targets long-tail special interests (ex: gaming/fandom, pop-culture, movements, etc). In doing so, the company has significantly increased the quantity, relevancy and purchase frequency on the platform. Additionally, their software empowers anyone (including graphic designers, sketch artists, etc) to design and distribute tattoos designs globally.

The Future

By lowering the high cost of permanence, empowering artists, and embracing shifting consumer attitudes, inkbox is radically reshaping the industry and changing perceptions about how society views body art. But with so much happening today, it is easy to overlook just how exciting the future is for the company.

Tattoos are shifting from a subculture phenomenon to a mainstream staple, and inkbox is a major reason why. In the same way brands like Lululemon (yoga), Supreme (streetwear), Airwalk (skateboarding), and Twitch (gaming) have become synonymous with certain industries, we believe that inkbox will become the global brand for tattoos and body art. As investors we could not be more proud or excited to support them on this journey.

Lets get inked: 📸 @urghdom



Ameet Shah
Golden Ventures

Partner @goldenventures. Prev: GM @zynga, Founder @fivemobile (acq’d)