In preparation for the Beauty & Money conference in New York, Benedict H. Auld, CEO and Founder of Lapidarius, caught up with founder Siqi Mou of HelloAva, one of the independent beauty brands hand-picked to share their business and product in a quick-fire round of presentations at Beauty & Money New York.
What is the unique value proposition your brand or product brings to the category?
We have built an overarching technology platform that is completely brand agnostic.
The inspirations came from a common problem which I personally had: severe acne. I recall going to my friends for help and recommendations, and they gave me all kinds of great product recommendations, which I tried, but they didn’t really work for me. I later realized that everyone’s skin is different and so recommendations from others won’t necessarily work for you, for your specific skin. That’s where HelloAva came from.
And while at Stanford Business School we plugged the idea into our launch program and tested some of the hypotheses for the venture. We found the process of product selection costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time. There are so many choices out there, but no reliable, data-driven way to know which one is the best fit for any individual.
We are using data science to solve the problem. We apply machine learning to beauty, collecting attributes and product experiences in order to customize recommendations for skincare. HelloAva functions as a tech-enabled skincare consultant. We have 50,000 users now, and that gives us the ability to match users and products based on hard data. The data science behind it grows as our user base grows, and it gets more accurate as it grows.
We have a team of engineers, and I have a little data science background from when I was a trader at Morgan Stanley. But, my strong suit is the business side of it and the original inspiration for the brand remains very personal to me.
What is the most important thing an investor should know about your brand?
We are the first technology-enabled beauty personalization company that’s entirely brand agnostic. Technology in beauty is big trend—and we’re the overarching technology platform that allows people to personalize beauty. We also want to make product customization happen, based on data. The mission is to be a person’s curator for beauty and skincare, and we want to make customized product in the next year or two. From curation to production is our plan.
What would your ideal investor look like?
They would be betting on the disruption of technology on beauty. Now we’re seeing disruption finally happen in beauty—beyond product. We want them to recognize that and acknowledge that beauty tech will be the main driver of growth in the industry. Technology so far in beauty has been concentrated on formulation, not so much on curation and matching. There needs to be a bridge from users to personalization—that bridge is AI and customization. They need to believe that we will be the first player and disruptor.
We have technology investors now, and we are looking for seasoned beauty investors to complement our team with their experience and an overlapping mindset.
Who is the muse for your brand? That is, who is the consumer target that you are creating your products for?
We wanted at first this to be for everyone. Every woman or man that wants customization. But we realized after a year the main audience is probably technology-savvy millennials that recognize that one-size-fits-all doesn’t apply anymore. And, who want to use the best product for them, specifically. So, under 35, urban-based, mainly women, some men, too.
What is your vision for the brand? Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
We want to be the centralized database for skin personalization. So, we need to build a robust database and create a world where manufacturers of skincare products—and their retailers can test out customized products with targeted groups of users. We want consumers matched to the best products, for brands to serve their consumers better, and for retailers to drive sales to their platforms with better intelligence and targeting. That’s our vision.
Photo: via Betapage