Have you seen Native deodorant? It doesn’t have aluminum and the unisex-intended scents are pretty decent.

It became so freakin popular, within two years CEO Moiz Ali scaled Native to $100M, sold to Proctor and Gamble, and got that golden exit that so many startups dream of.

A dramatic two year ascent, between 2018 and 2020. All because Ali got curious about the label on his deodorant one day, as the legend is told on Native’s About Us page:

Only, this is mostly bullshit.

Two years after his golden exit from Proctor and Gamble, Ali finally told us his version of the origin story, over on Twitter (or X).

I’ll link and screenshot here because I can’t believe this link still works – he kept this thread in existence.

Are you seeing this? Dude didn’t invent anything. He repackaged a woman’s product and resold it under a different name and catapulted to billionaire status.

He goes on to detail the benefits of this resell-Etsy strategy.

After a bunch of WTF in the comments, he further insists that she wanted it this way. We never learn her name, she just remains an anonymous woman. We don’t even get a link to her business so we could support her in some way.

She gets no credit on the website.

No golden parachute out of P & G.

This story isn’t new, of course. We have countless stories about scientific breakthroughs that result in a Nobel awarded to the man while the women in the lab get zero recognition.

Though this happens everywhere, it’s a particularly American story to be self-sufficient, self-made, reliant on no one. It’s just also bullshit.

(And how, in a particularly litigious America, do we not at the very least have lawyers questioning whether credit should be shared as a part of their due diligence???)

(Sorry, that question actually has an obvious answer that’s connected to the overall issue here: Patriarchy.)

Ok, this makes my blood boil to the point where I have to intentionally cut off my elaboration of the problem to turn toward solutions or this will become the longest post you’ve ever scrolled.

If you’re the creator

Protect your IP. Soooo many contracts have, as boilerplate, that you as the consultant must assign your intellectual property to your client to use, change, and distribute as they wish with zero credit or compensation to you forever and into infinity. Do not sign. Ask for this clause to be struck or modified.

License your IP. Rather than give up her deodorant recipe (or, since we don’t know the whole story, sell her deodorant recipe for what was surely, in proportion, a very low price), the unnamed inventor could have allowed Native to rebrand her recipe for a limited amount of time, in exchange for a per-stick or percentage dollar amount. The limited time is important here so you have the ability to renegotiate the terms.

Sell your IP for very good compensation. I see so many creators who fall into the mentality of It didn’t take me long to do this, so I can’t charge very much. Time does not equal money.

Value equals money. And if you can produce something valuable in 15 minutes that took other people 3 hours – that’s awesome. It should be expensive, because you figured out processes that no one else knows.

Most startups are broke, so how would this work? Equity. The deodorant creator also could have negotiated equity in exchange for her recipe, which would have put her in the multimillionaire zone after just a couple years.

If you’re the CEO

It’s your ethical responsibility to make your partner is aware of these options. If you’re trying to run a business that aligns with your values. And I think that’s why you’re here.

If it’s too late, like let’s say you’re working from your Grandma Carol’s recipe and she passed away last January, you need to put Grandma Carol all over your website. She should be woven into your company’s origin story. (And if you’re working from someone else’s grandma’s recipe, you owe her descendants compensation and equity.)

Ok you might not be working at such a grand scale, but you can still give credit where it’s due. For example, in past issues of my dataviz newsletter, I included a regular section that showcased everyone behind the scenes here. All the staff that hold workshops for me. My brother who troubleshoots any computer issues. My mom who does all the finance stuff. Even Holly, who cleans my house.

This includes where you got your inspiration and ideas.

I was once asked to review the first chapter of a book, as part of the editor’s process of deciding whether to work with the author to write the whole thing. I was close enough to the subject to recognize that the bulk of the ideas were not original. Nor were they cited.

This author’s ego was so fragile he couldn’t share the spotlight he was trying to turn on himself.

But you know what citations do? They show you know what you’re talking about. Sharing credit makes you stronger.

What’s not bullshit is that it takes a village. So give your village credit and compensate them well.

Who has been keeping your boat afloat? Instead of emailing me this week, I want you to email them.