Haircare is a daily struggle for anyone who loves expressing their hair. With an industry rooted in outdated practices that lack a true understanding of hair’s biology, most hair products and routines have only resulted in "needy hair"; hair needy for your attention and needy for products. Hair is one of the most sophisticated biological composite materials in the living organism, so biotech is the only path to addressing needs haircare needs. When you do this, hair expression requires less frustration, less product, less time, and less waste. The K18 Peptide was developed by applying computational models with probabilistic structure/sequence analogy used in the biotech industry to the molecular structure of human hair, instead of cosmetic chemistry formulas created in a traditional formulation lab. It renews chemically damaged hair from the inside out. And because it works on the molecular level where all hair is identical, it works regardless of hair type or texture. Stylists can create without limits; clients can change their hair like they change their clothes. We believe everyone’s freedom of expression deserves to be liberated, and with the right scientific innovations, it can be.
Founder: Suveen Sahib and Britta Cox
Founded: January 2021
2023 Full Year Expected Revenue Range: $100 to $125MM
Categories: Haircare, Salon Services
Distribution Channels: Professional, Prestige
Funding Rounds: Venture Capital
Total Funds Raised: $45MM
Notable Investors: VMG growth partners, True Beauty Ventures, Springboard Growth Capital
Board Members: John Heffner, Rich Gersten, Robin Tsai, Lori Wachs, Blythe Jack
What are some of your key business initiatives for 2023?
Our mission is simple: We seek to liberate haircare. We want to move toward a world where hair expression requires less product, less steps, less damage, and less stress to achieve the hair you want. With a focus on radical simplicity and a pro-first lens, the core mission of “less is more for hair” is woven throughout our communication style and design aesthetic, rapid scaling in global markets, pro-first education within the hair community, as well as a robust digital presence, and various consumer touchpoints. Providing the educational tools needed to truly understand the dynamic world of hair, we are rolling out disruptive content through TikTok and out-of-home campaigns, the building and implementation of a customized augmented reality experience, dedicated 360 digital science education content for pros and consumers, and the building of a science squad of key opinion leaders in the science community to add credibility to our messaging. Within one week of our new TikTok campaign launch in 2023, #K18results has already generated over five billion views. Our simple and science-focused social storytelling has kept K18 consistently ranked among the top five engaging brands, not only in haircare, but all of beauty.
What are you most proud of having accomplished?
As a brand that was born during the pandemic, we are still in awe of all the success we’ve garnered by staying true to our mission. With a focus on a tight lineup of hero products engineered with biotech, we have been able to drive a profitable brand from Day 1 that has delivered more than $150 million in annual retail value of sales during 2021. Channeling our disruptive mentality into all of our branded efforts, we placed big bets on TikTok from the beginning, being the first prestige hair care brand to generate over 11 billion views on TikTok with our first campaign. With a focus on PROs as our north star, we’ve seen global adoption in 100 countries, been ranked #4 top brand on the EMV scale during 2021, and a Top 10 haircare product on Sephora within 12 months of launch—and we are just getting started.
What has been the biggest surprise since the brand was founded?
How deeply our "less is more for hair" messaging and simplicity powered by science pillars have resonated with both our stylist and consumer communities in a category that, for generations, has been driven by extensive product use and elaborate damage cover-up routines.
What aspect of your brand DNA fuels your competitive advantage?
Novel Biotech molecules that deliver radical hair transformation with radical simplicity and radical speed.
Please share your insight on the future of the beauty industry.
We truly believe the future of beauty is in biotech. It will disrupt the standard for the beauty industry just like Tesla and Apple disrupted the automobile and communication platforms. Consumers don’t want to choose between efficacy and sustainability. They seek both science-driven and consciously created formulas. And it is here that biotech development shines. In addition to increased safety and efficacy, biotech truly creates a more sustainable way forward to creating active ingredients with minimal negative impact on the environment while driving transformative results consumers crave.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The phrase I find most inspiring is any version of “this is not how you should do it,” or “this is not how it’s done.” Where there is doubt, there is always the biggest opportunity if you’re willing to be the one to challenge what’s always been done. If you can live outside of what’s expected, you will be able to create what’s never been done before.
Paying it forward, what advice would you give to someone contemplating launching a beauty brand?
Firstly, innovation is key—you must solve for a real problem rather than adopt a herd mentality to problem solving. Secondly, know your market, your “why,” and speak to it in a compelling way. Any brand can speak to the “how” or “what” of their brand. Find the components of your brand that drive advocacy and adoption well, and follow this up with an ironclad business strategy that holds true to your specific product and audience adoption. Keep common sense and focus as your core pillars—it is the best form of intelligence!
If you could change one thing in the beauty industry, what would it be?
The beauty industry up to this point has been short on optimizing design and functionality when it comes to product efficacy and sustainability in real terms. When it comes to those concepts, nature is the ultimate engineer. It’s time to shift our thinking to learning how to harness that design and functionality from nature and optimizing it for our lives. It can strengthen our relationship with beauty and wellness, but it’s also going to fundamentally restructure everything we do and how we interact. I really don’t believe we can do it better than nature. It’s about taking that function made for biology and transferring that to the human system—this is why biotech and synthetic biology are the future of the beauty industry.
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