Il Makiage is betting on hyperspectral imaging software as it builds out two stand-alone brands, the first of which will bow this year.
The company has invested more than $40 million to acquire Voyage81, an artificial intelligence computer vision start-up that uses a proprietary physics-based algorithm to convert pictures taken via camera or mobile phone into higher-resolution images that depict a wider range of colors.
Voyage81 is Il Makiage’s first tech acquisition since it acquired NeoWize in 2019. Voyage81’s patented technology will expand on Il Makiage’s existing AI capabilities, with which it developed its own shade-matching algorithm, while saving on data acquisition costs, Oran Holtzman, chief executive officer of Il Makiage, told WWD via phone.
“The addition of vision capabilities provides another dimension for our information, which will allow us to rapidly expand our capabilities in existing and future domains with a lower amount of data needed for our machine learning model,” Holtzman said. “When we are launching a new product or in a new country, we need to collect data again to train our model. By adding a [computer] vision layer on top of that, it will reduce substantially the amount of data needed. It means fewer users to be able to create better matches.”
Voyage81, whose technology is available via app and eventually, a hardware version, allows for more in-depth analysis of skin and hair features. Its software can “depict facial blood flows” and “map out melanin and hemoglobin content of skin based on a selfie,” said Dr. Boaz Arad, cofounder and chief technology officer of Voyage81.
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“This is a game-changer for beauty and wellness overall,” he said. “Hyperspectral vision is even more generalizable because a single hyperspectral image can provide more information than hundreds, or even thousands, of conventional RGB images.”
Despite last year’s reports of low makeup sales due to COVID-19, Il Makiage entered a period of high growth during the pandemic. The cosmetics company is projecting to reach $250 million in sales via its own website this year, it reported to WWD. With more than 25 million users and 5 million customers, Il Makiage reported that it has more than doubled its business each year since its 2018 launch.
Holtzman attributes the company’s growth to its investments in proprietary technology, its product formulations and its online customer experience.
“Since we started, we have shifted millions of customers to online. Forty-six percent of our customers [previously] never shopped for beauty online,” Holtzman said.
Il Makiage employs more than 200 people, including a technology team of 80. It has an office in New York City and a research and development center in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The company is gearing up for the launch of two stand-alone brands, the first of which is in the wellness category and expected to drop this year.
“Our broader strategy was to launch a new stand-alone brand every 18 months to disrupt more offline-dominated categories using the same technology that we built for Il Makiage,” Holtzman said. “We are launching our second fully independent brand in a few months. We spent two years building that, and we are already building our third brand.”
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