The next global champions in Beauty and Fashion. Tech-Driven Founders with a Purpose.
I took a few days before writing what I have learnt listening to 7 inspiring startups founders in Beauty and Fashion, sharing their story and their journey as entrepreneurs. I was happy to introduce the third BeautyTechSF meeting in San Francisco. Moderators were fantastic partners VCs, taking the time to participate to the panels and help all of us to learn from their insights.
Joining the conversation 80+ attendees, mostly seed-stage/early-stage founders and some famous investors always happy to be part of the chat on emerging trends and business models. A special mention to 15 startups coming from all over the world and participating to the fleet1 of SVBeautyTech program led by Claire Chang IgniteXL ventures.
FIRESIDE WITH DAVID LORTSCHER FOUNDER CEO CUROLOGY AND PASCALE DIANE STORM VENTURES.
David Lortscher is a board-certified dermatologist who co-founded Curology in 2014 with his brother, Glenn, in order to make prescription acne treatment more accessible and affordable. The company is based in California: Curology’s San Francisco office focuses on design, marketing, and engineering, and their San Diego office contains their skincare production lab as well as their growing team of full-time dermatologists and nurse practitioners.
Lively chat with Pascale (Stormventures is about B2B, Saas and Tech, focusing in Series A). Many people told me they had the feeling to see 2 friends on stage talking about Curology’s team accomplisments and the great story of a fast growing company, but also the up and downs of the daily life as entrepreneurs.
Why begin by Acne? It’s a huge need for adults and teen-agers in the US, and David is aware to impact their daily life if having the right product. Personally, I have a friend’s daughter, 14 years old, who claims Curology radically changed her life.
What’s unique in the business model? It’s a souscription model, 20 dollars per month for a skincare product. But the uniqueness is to have a prescription on line with a Dermatologist able to chat with you, and to give you a higher concentration of ingredients compared to selective or mass market brands. That’s smart! It’s not just about collecting data, it’s also the human touch to customize what you need according to where you live (sun or not), your behavior (sleep, diet, sport practice) and feedback.
Curology combines technology and a human touch to create excitingly effective solutions for exactly what your skin needs. The company tailors their experience specifically for patients with acne concerns, allowing them to provide incredibly personalized and effective care at scale.
How do they manage influencers? David gives a candid answer, he already mentioned his mother Dr Nancy Satur as an inspring role model, he puts forward his Co-founder and brother “He’s the one”, leading the on line community and the business strategy, allocating marketing and communication spendings.
What is pretty amazing is this new generation of bloggers and instagrammers, showing pictures of them with acne, and without acne, talking about self-confidence and their own vulnerabilities. They are inspiring role models for other Millennials and GenZ and have engaged communities with Millions of followers.
No figure were given for sure, but we can read in Crunchbase that David Lortscher and his Co-Founder have raised $18.8 M. Congrats to them.Someone does a joke mentioning we are in the HQ Rodan & Fields building as at 60 Spear Street hosted by Orange Silicon Valley, and they must be concerned, if aware, by this new champion.
What’s next ? Skincare is a huge market, anti-ageing products having a high margin, and the line is now expanding to new territories. We can be excited to have a new global company in Skincare based in San Francisco. We wish him the same success as an inspiring business model: Stitchfix in the women apparel, data-driven and whith the stylists’s human touch.
2 FOUNDERS IN AI AND COMPUTER VISION SHARE THEIR INSIGHTS IN BEAUTY. MING S ZHAO PROVEN BEAUTY, JAY HACK MIRA with CLAIRE CHANG partner VC.
Leaders in beauty share their insights and discuss issues in artificial intelligence, computer vision, virtual and augmented reality, and data analytics with an eye on the future of customer experience. Interviewed by Claire Chang IgniteXL Ventures, Ming S. Zhao Co-Founder CEO Proven Beauty, and Jay Hack, Co-Founder Mira.
Mira is atruly intelligent beauty research and discovery platform. The company is creating the worlds first end-to-end beauty shopping platform, empowering consumers from inspiration to purchase via intelligent data aggregation and inference. Mira aims to power consumer awareness and democratize the knowledge of online beauty communities. Huge market. If you are interested, they’re hiring!
Jay Hack is the CEO of Mira. After over a decade of academic and industry experience in the world of machine learning (computer vision, natural language processing and consumer behavior modeling) and data science at scale, Jay brings a unique expertise in transformative technologies to a massive industry ripe for disruption. Previously Stanford CS, machine learning at Palantir and AI at 205 consulting.
Proven Beauty is about customized skincare, and Ming talks about an intelligent skincare system, made just for you. Business of Fashion claims about the company ‘A more democratic, open-to-all approach’. It works and it’s that simple. Ming is the winner of the MIT AI 2018- AI idol, a Harvard Alumnus, and her Co-Founder is also a woman in Tech, she’s the CTO. She’s proud of her Chinese roots and culture. She lives in San Francisco, and is a Y combinator alumnus.
Any advice to raise money? We all know it’s tough before making $5M revenues, as VCs are more about Tech first, and most of them not very comfortable with Consumer Goods or Beauty and Fashion industries.
Jay acknowledges spending a lot of time to educate Tech investors, Business Angels and VCs in the Silicon Valley to the needs of the beauty market, and help them to understand customer insights. The Tech part is a piece of cake.
Ming burst out laughing, and share her story: she was pregnant while raising her first round, and her Co-Founder was also pregnant. It’s not something she would recommend to female founders. At the same time, she underlines that when she comes home having her baby with her, she disconnect and switch super easily to ‘I’m a mum’. It gives her perspective and a new way to lead her company, manage her team, and deal with priorities. What a great story, thanks for sharing Ming!
DIVERSITY MATTERS. 3 INSPIRING FEMALE FOUNDERS IN FASHION, LUXURY, AND DESIGN. JUDE FULTON MOSSS Design, ZORNITZA STEFANOVA BSPK, STEPHANIE MC LEAN TRENDY TREAT, panel moderated by SUNNY DHILLON partner VC.
Jude Fulton is deeply immersed in design and architecture. She is the founder of Mosss, a startup focused on providing access to world-class design talent through hands-on technology. Originally trained as an architect and interior designer, she is a product person working with the team at Mosss to create the world’s first personalized design assistant for your home. Previously she received an M.Arch from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and is also an almuna of RISD and Yale (boola boola). As a student, she was awarded the Harvard-wide Dean’s Challenge for Entrepreneurship and Penny White Fellowship. She is a native New Yorker who is a hobbyist instagram influencer, blogger and photographer currently residing in San Francisco.
Zornitza is a serial entrepreneur and accomplished technology leader, and product strategist. She is passionate about building companies that transform the customer experience. Zornitza is the founder and CEO of BSPK, a mobile chat and customer engagement platform for premium and luxury retailers. Prior to BSPK, Zornitza was the founder and CEO of BoomerangSF, a mobile app development agency that created top-rated apps for enterprise and startup clients. She also spent over a decade in product leadership positions at leading Silicon Valley consumer Internet startups, including Wired and Prosper. She has a degree in International Relations from Stanford University and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Zornitza was born and raised in Bulgaria. After leaving her native country at the age of 17 to pursue her dreams, she finished high school in Germany and arrived in California where she attended Stanford University.
Stephanie McLean is a fashion entrepreneur who is changing the way women approach fashion. Stephanie was born in Jamaica and graduated with a law degree and also a Master’s degree in Real Estate Development. Her background might seem a bit removed from what she eventually ended up doing — launching her own fashion and lifestyle website , but her diverse background actually paved the way towards helping her become a successful entrepreneur.
WHAT IS THEIR KEY MESSAGE?
Sunny Dhillon partner Signia Ventures is a great moderator. He has a passion for platforms and consumer goods and an extensive experience in media and entertainment.
The three founders want to have an impact in people’s life. They have a purpose.
Jude is about disrupting the interior design business and help Millennials to have the dreamt home, choosing themselves the furniture thanks to the curated platform. She works with her husband Christian, focusing on AI and computer vision. She builds strong partnerships with famous designers and architects to make sure to have the best designer pieces.
Stephanie travels a lot. She takes time in each city, from Paris to Miami, London to NY or LA, to meet customers and opinion leaders. It’s a way for her to connect with the local culture and understand what matters to people, predict trends. She knows what it means to have an engaged community.
Zornitza works with global luxury brands in the fashion, jewelry, accessories and beauty. Being in stores is essential to be in the real world not only the virtual one, for a seemless experience. Tech is empowering human beings to be better connected. She talks not only to sales associate as using her tech solution, but also to the high-end customers, store managers, and C-suite level executives. She’s happy to learn from them and help them to engage with customers, using visual materials, helping them to generate traffic in stores but also improve the customer experience and the customers lifetime value.
Listening to them makes us feel confident about the future. Thank you ladies!
I believe AI and machine learnings will enable the rise of global giants, platforms and brands. They will be scaling faster than ever. The winners will be investors betting on new consumer goods brands and tech solutions at the right moment.
My friends in corporations, don’t try to take equity, just be part of the conversation and learn from the new rising leaders. It’s a new culture: purpose first, and data-driven for sure. New brands have simple messages and a unique and original tone of voice. They have a deep knowledge of their customers. It means new organizations to welcome them in your group in the future, and perhaps choose to break the existing rules and models. The winners will be the ones to have an humble attitude and using open innovation not just for communication goals but first and foremost to continue to grow in the future. Exciting period to come!
I’m humbled to work with amazing VCs in the Silicon Valley or in Paris and London. It has never been a better time to invest in consumer goods startups. Champions will come from all over the world as we can see with BeautyTech chapters in Seoul, Tokyo, Paris (and soon Brazil, London and LA. We don’t forget Shanghai and India and are working on it!).
Let’s conclude by our fourth founder, Sali Christenson, Co-Founder Argent. I’m a big fan of her as often on stage with her talking about women and leadership. Yes Diversity matters, we repeat it again and again. It makes us more creative and performing as a team. She’s recovering fast. We missed her at the meeting and are lucky to have her sharing her insights. Any Advice for hiring and team spirit?
Some of the best advice we got early on is to be incredibly thoughtful with anyone you involve with your company. Because you are passionate, you sometimes talk yourself into a hire and go against your gut. Make sure people see you as more than a check. They need to buy into your mission. This extends beyond core team to investors, agencies, contractors, etc. You’re doing something crazy, you can only make it with a team that’s willing to go the extra mile.
So is a mission statement essential?
One of the most important things that we did early on was vet our purpose. Answering the question, “Why are we even starting a company?” If you can’t articulate a reason for existing, you’ll never make it.
Our number one asset is our brand. We started with brand on day 1 and aren’t willing to compromise brand for any short term gains. It’s definitely a long term investment, but staying authentic to who we are and what we are building is imperative in achieving longevity.
Thanks Sali, we hope to see her soon on stage in next meetings. Same for Marcelo Camberos Founder CEO Ipsy (we are big fans!) who had to take a last minute flight to NY.
Thanks for hosting us in such a beautiful venue Orange Silicon Valley. And Alexia Sauvageon for the great photos (not the iPhone ones which are mine!). For more photos & videos: Kick-Flix.com
In San Francisco, Next meeting BeautyTechSF will take place Sept 25 hosted by Docusign Downtown, rush for the 20 tickets left ! (and be on time as it’s the begining of the DreamForce week).
Among the 10 guest speakers Founders and VCs, we’ll be happy to have 2 French entrepreneur/investor on stage as being a La French Tech ambassador.
Our community as also now a chapter in Paris. Follow us on twitter and instagram.
The invitation is on EventBrite and also on MeetUp app (they apologized about the payments bugs).
in New-York, I’m excited to host with Philippe Garnier the first BeautyTechNY, Sept 17. The invitation is available on EventBrite. We will talk about sustainability in the Fashion industry, organic products in Beauty and customization. But also about new way to discover brands and products: Platforms, Bots, LiveStream…And we will be honored to welcome a famous investor and guest speaker. Join the conversation and networking event after!
Looking forward to meeting you. The BeautyTech, it’s now 450+ founders and investors on the Meetup app. Thanks to be part of a rising community.
We all learn for life. And we are stronger together. See you soon!