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Beauty products eCommerce startup heads for big brand status with $10.3 million Series B funding

A poten­tial­ly major new beau­ty prod­uct brand is in the mak­ing, thanks to the rise of ecom­merce plat­form and cos­met­ics start­up Julep Beau­ty Incor­po­rat­ed, which has just net­ted Series B fund­ing total­ing $10.3 mil­lion.

That’s the kind of fig­ure to stir a hint of envy in the job­bing e‑commerce man­ag­er, e‑commerce ana­lyst and web con­tent man­ag­er, even if they can’t help being impressed.  The fund­ing was led by Andreessen Horowitz but boast­ed a glit­ter­ing list of oth­er par­tic­i­pants, includ­ing ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Maveron and exist­ing investors James Las­siter, Will and Jada Pin­kett Smith and rap artist Jay‑Z’s band Roc Nation.

Addic­tive cus­tomer engage­ment

Julep is the brain­child of erst­while Star­bucks exec­u­tive Jane Park, who says that her vision was to “bring a new social approach to the beau­ty indus­try by hav­ing a two-way con­ver­sa­tion online with our fans, incor­po­rat­ing their ideas direct­ly into our rapid prod­uct inno­va­tion cycle.”

The start­up melds per­son­al rec­om­men­da­tions and social con­nec­tions with beau­ty retail and e‑commerce.  It pro­duces its own brand of lip gloss­es, mois­tur­iz­ers, face creams, mas­caras, lip gloss­es, nail pol­ish­es and oth­er cos­met­ics, all of which are on sale from its site.

But what makes Julep a poten­tial­ly dis­rup­tive force in the $160 bil­lion cos­met­ics mar­ket is its approach to cus­tomer engage­ment: it offers a month­ly beau­ty and sub­scrip­tion ser­vice, and cus­tomers join­ing the “maven” sub­scrip­tion pro­gram par­tic­i­pate in a quiz to work out their opti­mal col­ors for nails, make­up and much else.  Each user ends up with a bespoke style pro­file.

Cus­tomers using the site are also encour­aged to give their views on what styles and col­ors they think Julep ought to be sell­ing, and the result­ing data is crowd­sourced and fed into prod­uct devel­op­ment.

A major new brand?

Speed to mar­ket is a par­tic­u­lar focus: amaz­ing­ly, it has pro­duced more prod­ucts in 18 months than any rival beau­ty com­pa­ny, launch­ing no less than 52 prod­ucts (includ­ing 186 nail col­ors) in a year. There’s none of the shelf space con­straint faced by in-store cos­met­ics brands to con­tend with, so the start­up has much greater free­dom to pro­duce.

Park says the new fund­ing will be chan­neled into prod­uct devel­op­ment in the col­or cos­met­ics and make­up cat­e­gories.  And she’s set­ting her sights high: Julep, she says, is “ful­ly focused” on cre­at­ing a major new cos­met­ics brand.

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