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Digital Democracy: Why KIKI World Is Putting the Power Back in the Hands of the Consumer

Published January 30, 2024
Published January 30, 2024
KIKI World

“Design is the language of adoption. You can create the most beautiful technology or piece of content, but if it's not culturally relevant and it doesn't have an appeal, it doesn’t matter,” Jana Bobosikova, CEO of KIKI World, states.

That magical intersection of design, innovation, and relevance is exactly the space where KIKI World sits: a co-creating community that allows its members to actively mold the brand’s future products, offering them points for each interaction that can be redeemed for free products, exclusive experiences, and discounts. SKUs created by the people, for the people. Rather than creating products which customers may or may not buy and that could potentially end up in the graveyard of cosmetics (landfills), KIKI World is taking a precise and considered approach to product consumption. Formulas are made with ingredient safety and product performance in mind, packaged in aluminum exteriors to reduce waste, with smartphone-activated NFT chips integrated into the packaging to activate further rewards with each use.

And because no beauty brand could exist without the community that supports it, KIKI World is going beyond the traditional loyalty program to show their gratitude; their members are not only active participants in the brand, but also owners, thanks to its onchain structure.

A Meeting of Minds

The company’s leadership team brings together a trio of innovative minds. Bobosikova also headed up innovation strategy firm EPIC FutureLabs, working with brands like Sephora and C16 Biosciences. Ricky Chan, Chief Creative Officer (CCO), has advised a plethora of influential brands such as Violet Grey and Nike. Brendon Garner, Chief Product Officer (CPO), has scaled companies and worked with industry leaders like Google.

They were introduced by Jasmina Aganovic, the CEO of biotech innovator Arcaea in 2021. “She said, ‘You should get in a room together and something cool will happen,’” Bobosikova recalls. And how true that prediction turned out to be. “We had various successful agency backgrounds, if we were going to set some resources aside to do something together, it had to be next-level,” she states. With Chan helming the creative side, Garner lending his digital expertise, and Bobosikova working on the product development and supply chain, a magical alchemy rendered KIKI World.

“The original thought behind KIKI World was: How do we create digital products and a physical product company? Most beauty brands use the internet to sell physical objects; we felt that is so disconnected with how our lives are. It feels 100 years apart. We express ourselves and have so many identities online, but you go into a store and try to do a similar thing in the physical world, and it's a bit awkward. We wanted to create a more fluid, digital-physical brand where it would be normal to play with it online and then also find it in-store,” she explains.

In 2022, the start-up was accepted out of 8,000 applicants into the a16z crypto accelerator, Crypto Startup School. “It has been an incredible recognition but also just very helpful for our team to  learn from like people that incubated the most successful protocols and start-ups and do cryptography and quantum computing. There's a lot of primary research that goes on in these communities, which is very different from how a CPG fund works, so the level of support and alignment that you get from partners like this is a very smart way of working, and I feel grateful that as a consumer brand, we get access to that,” she remarks.

Further investors soon followed, like Red DAO, Double Down, FirstLight, and 2 Punks Capital. “Red DAO are interesting to us because they have vast experience with digital product and the economy around it and  knows the creators. It's been really important to us to get the right partners on board. Our investor from Double Down has told me ‘You’re too consumer for crypto, and too crypto for consumer.’ That’s a great place to be,” she says. “We have two types of investors: one that invested in this very big software protocol future of Kiki—we're building a platform where eventually layers of that can be utilized by other companies—and then there are investors who we have that solely invested in this [current model]. Our challenge as a company is to do both quickly and well, rather than trying to do too much at this time.”

Crafting a Co-Creating Community

Blockchain provided the infrastructural solution to the founders’ search for this fluid brand structure that prioritizes its customer community in a new way. In addition to co-creation, the platform offers digitized product ownership, which takes the form of the KIKI World Pass, a nontransferable token that exists on the Polygon blockchain platform, and is linked to each member’s Dynamic Profile. The Dynamic Profile, available to all with only an email address needed, removes digital barriers and is updated each time they vote, use product, and engage with the brand’s platform. Sign up rewards them with 50 points. For their first time voting they will receive 50 points; after that, five  points per vote. Accumulated points can be exchanged for free products and special discounts.Through minted product-specific NFT collectables, members can advocate for and create decentralized experiences through their favorite products within the peer-to-peer network. Members determine how much of their data is shared, offering a new form of transparency and trust.

The fact that KIKI World doesn’t refer to its participants as customers but instead members may seem like a small terminology switch, but for Bobosikova, Chan, and Garner, it was about reshaping the entire concept of brand-building—a concept that was met with immediate enthusiasm. Within six weeks of launch, 3,000 members had signed up to KIKI World. Ninety percent of the brand’s community is 18 to 24 years old, with a 20% male audience. A majority of members reside in Chicago, New York, LA, and Miami, with an influx from certain Asian regions such as Japan and growing international demand. With over 1,500 token holders, the company is currently one of the largest onchain communities.

“It does a lot of the things that you expect from a loyalty program. But it is built with the mission to make you a co-creator and co-owner of the products that you use. People that get it get it, and I am very grateful for every one of our members who is along for the journey. Once our members vote four or five times, they're really in,” she comments. With its circular model of loyalty-led engagement, “The underlying thesis and the integrity of what we're doing is that you should be rewarded for what you do.” That doesn’t just translate to more engagement, but valuable feedback and real-time data that is helping to inform the future evolution of the company (assisted by its on-site engineering team).

“Design is the language of adoption. You can create the most beautiful technology or piece of content, but if it's not culturally relevant and it doesn't have an appeal, it doesn’t matter.”
By Jana Bobosikova, co-founder + CEO, KIKI World

Expression First, Technology Second

The brand was revealed in May 2023, with early July marking the launch of the first product, the Pretty Nail Graffiti pen. A peelable nail product packaged in an airtight, aluminum component, the water-based formula allows for an easy (and damage-free) switch of nail colors on-the-go.

“It's a whole new philosophy and how commerce could and should work if you have the right technology in place. We've had merchants approach us asking if we are a color brand or a skincare brand? No, we're an expressive brand,” the founder proudly states. “That is why we chose to launch with a nail polish, because it's a category that's very multi-gender, as of recently, it had a renaissance, and we felt that out of all the categories that were on the roadmap, we can bring the most innovation here.”

KIKI Members selected shades over the course of six weeks. Thanks to robotics and AI, lead time to production is one month. In the case of its first launch, Nail Graffiti Pen, customers were sent product a week after voting closed. With 21 variables on their backend, the brand allows for members to vote on factors ranging from color to scent to skin or hair type specific formulations.

“Our voting tree is built to be very big, but then obviously the lead time will be longer. If you launch a new brand and then take people on a 12-month development journey, out of the 100 that start, how many do you end with? We're walking this thin line of where do we create a critical mass of a community where we can gradually start these longer journeys? We have deeper investment, and people love our product and are excited. We see customers submitting their ideas and that's the kind of thing that we want to get really strong at; using simpler co-creative variables and then gradually going bigger, starting products together from scratch. But that would be a really tall order when you don't have the trust, credibility, and critical mass of a community,” she adds.

Since its debut, there have been additional launches bringing that ethos to life. The Play Paint Markers is a liquid color cosmetic product with a pointed precision brush. The layerable, longwear formula comes in eye-catching shades such as a holographic shimmer, chrome silver, vibrant blue, and periwinkle, with eight times more content than the average pen product. A temporary hair paint, One Night Strand comes in a lilac, neon green, and pastel pink color option, which stays in the follicles until the next wash, which means all the experimentation without the stress on strands. Its Blemish Patches are hydrocolloid circles that come in a holographic finish with smiley face, lightening, and twinkle star print options.

Radical ideas can often be polarizing; something the founders have experienced in response to their premise firsthand. “It is a definitely an ambitious way of working forward and very binary. We see some supply chain folks get on board and want to talk to us about their innovation—it is about bringing chemistry to the customer, which is what we want, to highlight a lot of technologies and partners. Then there are some partners that are demand a 100,000-unit MOQ, so unless you are going to do that, they are not interested. That's fine too; time will tell,” she says. “We're very thoughtful about bringing out packaging innovation, formula innovation, and then doing predevelopment at a compliant stability level, but then we're not making any bulk until we see what customers want. The allocation of resources and the goal for that is to be ultra efficient. There are a lot of vendors that think we're totally crazy, this is never going to work, and that told us to eff off. But there's also a lot of vendors that say, ‘Oh my god that's so smart. We can see on your website what people want that like allows us to work so much better.’”

Time will also tell when it comes to possibly expanding the brand’s retail presence from DTC. “We have been approached by some fabulous partners, and we're being very thoughtful about how we execute. The idea of voting and playing with a lab sample product in- store is a very complex execution at a publicly traded retailer layer, but it is a new engagement in retail that  we're very interested in and are looking at,” she explains.

Even PR strategy is an entirely different ball game in KIKI World. Instead of sending out free product to the press ahead of launch—after all, how can you send someone a product that hasn’t been created yet?—its founders are starting a lab series of activations to show editors the lab versions of upcoming products. The brand is also looking to host co-created, co-hosted partnerships like AR experiences, including makeup artist-created looks for digital worlds.

“There's this opportunity to create a whole economy around expressiveness using AR as a technology,” Bobosikova adds. “With technology today there are so many ways you can do business. It's a bit bizarre that we're on this roller coaster of one way of doing it. There's a huge opportunity to change the conversation. There's a lot of opportunity for more creativity, new business models, new ways of thinking about your assortment and the growth of your business.”

As for future releases, a hardball cleanser and microfluid moisturizer are on the horizon. However for KIKI World’s founders, the ultimate vision isn’t just about the newest product at hand. “Our goal is to have the entire world be KIKI members so that every product is created with somebody that wants to use them in mind rather than the industry telling people what to buy,” Bobosikova states. “What's been really great for us is that some of the largest companies in the world appreciate the value of what we're doing because we're helping them solve capital allocation at an inventory level and have customers involved. We have some big opportunities ahead of us.”


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