While the beauty industry has been known to lag in the digital space, L’Oréal USA hopes to give it a boost with its Women in Digital program, which supports female entrepreneurs who have created innovative online companies.
This year’s event, the second to date, featured plenty of invention, including Poptip, which enables audience participation with a text analysis algorithm.
As part of this initiative, three out of more than 1,600 nominees were honored Wednesday at Three Sixty Degrees in New York City during the company’s second annual Next Generation Awards, which featured special guest Olivia Munn.
“A very small percentage of start-ups are started by women,” said Marc Speichert, L’Oréal’s chief marketing officer. “Our primary target is women at L’Oréal, so what a great opportunity to identify women that create their own digital platforms and partner with them so that we can have a landscape designed by women for women.”
Each winner was chosen based on her potential to change and push the boundaries of the digital landscape and could provide potential technologies that could be utilized by L’Oréal for future projects.
“The whole program has been evolving, and we now have all these amazing companies and entrepreneurs that we can go to to solve business problems and challenges that we didn’t have before we started this program,” said Rachel Weiss, vice president of digital strategy and innovation for L’Oréal USA. “I’m meeting with people all the time, which allows me to optimize those relationships and bring early state technology to life.”
This year’s honorees were Heather Marie, founder and chief executive officer of 72Lux; Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, founder and ceo of Joyus, and Kelsey Falter, founder and ceo of Poptip. An advisory board featuring L’Oréal executives, venture capital partners and the L’Oréal USA Women in Digital board of advisors — made up of female business leaders like Arianna Huffington, president and editor in chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, and Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing solutions at Facebook — selected the winners. Honorees will be given the opportunity to meet with L’Oréal USA executives and receive a mentorship from advisory board members and program partners.
Addressing the entrepreneurs and audience, Munn asked how a woman succeeds in a male-dominated world, and although she lost her place in the program, she bounced back by beat boxing.
“Go big or go home,” she said.
For her part, Marie created 72Lux, a software company with patent-pending technology that enables digital publishers to sell the products they feature. When a customer wants to purchase the product they are reading about, he or she clicks on the item and a light box pops up that matches the branding of the site. Then the customer can purchase it right then and there.
“We can do a lot of innovative things that maybe no one else has tried yet,” said Marie. “Because it takes guts to put your brand out there.”
Meanwhile, Singh Cassidy is focused on bringing women an online video shopping experience. Joyus’ team of fashion, beauty, health, fitness and lifestyle experts share their tips and product finds to help customers find their ideal items.
“Think of it as a premium [interactive] video with the ability to shop,” said Singh Cassidy. “It’s authentic storytelling, premium production value and awesome products.”
Falter’s software platform, Poptip enables crowd participation with a text analysis algorithm. The platform has two products: Poptip Questions, which offers the ability to ask questions and surveys over social media, and Poptip Zipline, which offers real-time conversation synthesis for news organizations and brands.
“From a news perspective, CNN asked a question last Friday about the Zimmerman trial, and they were able to incorporate the crowd’s opinion into their actual news reporting,” said Falter. “So instead of just airing a single tweet on air, they’re able to show this is what thousands of people have said in real time and show that information.”
At the end of the night, Weiss announced a L’Oréal Women in Digital partnership with Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors. Weiss presented them with a $25,000 college scholarship for a graduating student of their curriculum to pursue a degree in technology or a related field.
“My dream is that these girls can one day work at a company like L’Oréal,” said Weiss, adding that the company also held an internal competition to encourage brands to figure out ways to implement new technology. “Our goal is to create technology by women for women, and we need women internally just as much as we need to support the external community.”