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.