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Digital Download: Silicon Valley Founders Launch Comprehensive Beauty Search Engine

Mira pulls information — from reviews to ingredient intel — from all over the web so consumers can research products in one place.

Two Silicon Valley tech guys are looking to solve what they call “low e-commerce engagement” in beauty sales.

To do it, they’ve created a comprehensive online beach search platform called Mira.

The app, which is available on iOS devices, guides users through a question-and-answer process to lead them to products that meet their needs. If they already know what products they’re interested in, Mira can guide them to reviews from people who look similar to them, or have similar skin types. Then, if a user decides to purchase, they are presented with e-commerce options at potentially differing price points. If they do purchase, Mira collects a fee, which varies depending on the retail partner, the cofounders, Brandon Garcia and Jay Hack, said.

The idea is to take some friction out of the online beauty shopping process, but also the discovery process. Through Mira, beauty shoppers can get information on everything from texture to ingredients, all in one place.

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“[Beauty is] a really good [category] for e-commerce because it’s really small, it’s easy to ship, you have this high [stockkeeping unit] count, which means it’s hard to stock in a physical retail location, you have this core demographic of tech-savvy young women, etc.,” said Garcia.

Mira’s cofounders noted that while beauty consumers were certainly tech-savvy enough to hit social media and do online research before they purchased products, they weren’t necessarily choosing to buy online. “Why it is that the consumer is so comfortable engaging with beauty-related media online, but their buying behaviors don’t actually reflect that? The answer…is that it’s such a complicated purchasing decision to make,” Garcia said.

According to the founders’ observations, consumers will frequently open multiple online tabs in the process of doing their research — one for YouTube, one for Sephora reviews, one for ingredient Googling. “We call it ‘attack of the tabs,'” Garcia said. “There is no way this is the most efficient way to go about getting that information.”

So the pair decided to create Mira, which is meant to provide users everything they need to make a purchase decision in one place, in two minutes. The app gathers information from videos and text across the web, and then distills it into what’s relevant for each user.

“We can say, ‘this product is in the 80th percentile of creaminess because we have 3,000 reviews that say it. We’ve gone ahead and highlighted them for you,” said Hack. But, if consumers want, they can click into the individual pieces of information themselves for further investigation.

Elements like creaminess, not oxidizing, hydrating, not creasing and mattifying are shown below each product with a green bar that extends to the right, signifying just how much of each attribute a product is said to have.

Users can also post and answer questions. While right now users are sent to retail pages to buy products, the longer-term vision is for them to buy everything from mainstream brands to microbrands on Mira. “So a one-stop shop, universal shopping cart,” Hack said. The first version of the shopping element is likely to be rolled out in two to three months, the founders said.

“Looking years down the line, hopefully not too many years, maybe even a year, we think there’s incredible opportunity to bring together all the key stakeholders in this conversation — the brands, the consumers, the content creators and basically be that platform where they’re having this conversation,” Hack said. “Eventually there’s no shortage of opportunities to capture the value from being that centralized conversation platform.”

While the beauty industry does have some search options — beauty is a major category for YouTube, and the Environmental Working Group has built out a database of ingredients — Mira’s offering adds a new tool for a group of consumers increasingly interested in the details behind beauty products. It comes at a time when brands have taken over some of the responsibility for education — Biossance has unveiled the Clean Academy, and online retailer Feelunique Tuesday said it has partnered with Evrelab to analyze product ingredient lists and simplify them for consumers.

Mira, which officially launched Oct. 15, has already attracted a host of big-name investors, including Unilever Ventures, Founders Fund and 14W.

For Garcia and Hack, who were college roommates at Stanford and participated in hack-a-thons, this is their first foray into the world of beauty. With backgrounds in artificial intelligence and data, they weren’t necessarily big beauty guys when they started working on Mira, but Hack noted that he now has about five eyeshadow palettes on his desk and a Smashbox lipstick, which he’ll “swatch on [his] arm every now and again.” 

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