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L’Oréal and Founders Factory Reveal First Tech Start-ups for Accelerator

The five companies cherry-picked for the program are wide-ranging in scope and provenance.

PARIS – The first five beauty-tech start-ups selected for the accelerator run jointly by L’Oréal and Founders Factory are wide-ranging — in scope and provenance.

They were chosen among 180 applications received from entrepreneurs around the globe. Of them, nine were picked to present at the French beauty giant’s headquarters in Clichy, outside of Paris. The shortlist was then whittled down to five.

These include InsitU, which offers made-to-measure, natural skin care available through an online store. Greek nuclear medicine scientist Maria Salichou founded the brand.

“It’s a full digital experience,” Lubomira Rochet, L’Oréal chief digital officer, told WWD. “We see a lot of synergies with our labs, in terms of formula, in terms of how we can help that start-up to scale its personalized skin-care business. It taps into the big personalization trend.”

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Preemadonna is the brainchild of Pree Walia, of the U.S. Her concept involves a Nailbot device and application allowing people to design and print art onto their nails, via their phone, in seconds. To date, 30,000 people have tried it. “It’s about creativity, personalization,” said Rochet. “It’s like the emoji of nail art.”

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Sweden’s Fredrik Segerby and Norway’s Didrik Svendsen cofounded London-based Tailify, which links large brands with social media influencers to develop campaigns while also letting the influencers track, distribute and monetize their content. “It’s about creating a platform,” continued Rochet. “Influencer marketing is a big part of our marketing today.”

Hailing from Lithuania, Martynas Nikolajevas conceived Veleza. “It is an app which builds a community — of beauty experts on one side and of beauty advice-seekers on the other side,” said Rochet.

The technology is meant to enable users to learn about new products that are in sync with their needs and also provide inspiration, advice and product reviews in real-time.

Employing location technology, Shanghai- and Hong Kong-based Cosmose, created by Miron Mironiuk of Poland, focuses “on online to offline marketing — how can we provide the right marketing message when people are shopping offline,” said Rochet.

As reported in May, L’Oréal invested in London-based digital accelerator and incubator Founders Factory as part of its strategy of fostering beauty-tech start-ups. With the deal, the French beauty giant became Founders Factory’s exclusive partner for such investments worldwide. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The two groups are to jointly invest in and scale the early-stage start-ups, acquiring competitive intelligence and therefore a competitive advantage. Companies in the accelerator will for six months receive business, digital and product guidance from Founders Factory, while L’Oréal is to facilitate meetings between its brands and the start-ups, giving advice on marketing, beauty expertise and consumer insights, plus access to its laboratories.

L’Oréal will on an ad-hoc basis decide on the type of ongoing partnership it might have with the start-ups. “We close no doors,” said Rochet.

In addition to working with five new companies in the program every six months, L’Oréal and Founders Factory are to co-create two companies yearly.

“Innovation has been at the heart of our DNA forever. Today the question is how can we do even more, with digital being such a big part now of our marketing and so central in the new behavior of consumers,” said Rochet.

Digital is swiftly gaining muscle. In the first half of 2016, for instance, L’Oréal’s e-commerce sales rose 33 percent, generating about 6 percent of total group revenues.

L’Oréal, after starting its own tech incubator in 2012, began working with outside entities to bolster its innovation further. Using open innovation, the goal is “for us to be able to support our businesses, our brands, to build new services [for] an even better consumer experience,” said Rochet.

L’Oréal has worked with Image Metrics on Make Up Genius, the virtual makeup coach downloaded 20 million times; with MC10 and PCH for My UV Patch, billed as the first stretchable skin sensor designed to monitor UV exposure, and with Withings (now part of Nokia) on the Smart Hairbrush for Kérastase.

In late December, L’Oréal also revealed an investment in the early stage fund managed by Partech Ventures, an international venture capitalist firm headquartered in Paris.

“We will, of course, be exploring things in Asia,” continued Rochet.

Looking ahead with Founders Factory, L’Oréal aims to continue delving into “the themes of connected objects, virtual reality and augmented reality, and also to add new fields that are very interesting to us — for example, artificial intelligence,” she said. Alluring, too, is what’s related to social networks, data and new e-commerce models.