Openface is a service for skin analysis and creation of personalized cosmetics. You go to the site, fill out a questionnaire, send your photo, consult with a dermatologist and receive a care product that was made taking into account all the needs of your skin. The startup was brought to life by three girls. Having extensive experience in the IT industry, they cheered up the conservative Russian beauty industry: they combined technology and classic production. This is not a unique project, but in Russia such startups can still be counted on the fingers of one hand. Now Christina, Natasha and Dina are working on entering the European market and want to expand the range of products - at the moment you can order only personalized serum. Beautyhack.ru talked with the co-founder of the project Kristina Farberova about how to assemble a team for a beauty startup,what ways to attract investments and how to produce high-quality individual cosmetics.
Who creates the Openface project
Doing your own thing is incredibly scary! Therefore, when I had an idea for a project, I just lived with it for a very long time, thought it over, told my friends, my mother. We already knew Dina, one of the company's co-founders - we worked together in different IT companies. I told her about my idea and offered to become a part of the team, at that moment she considered various job offers, and also helped me take the first steps with Openface. At some point, I thought that I would never be able to persuade Dina to embark on this adventure, because work at Yandex seems to be much more stable.
At the same time, at a mulled wine party, where there were guys from the entrepreneurial community, I met Natasha. She turned out to be so smart that it absolutely fascinated me. She is a chemist, she worked for seven years in a large Russian company that produces and distributes cosmetics (in particular, the Vivien Sabo brand was created there). Later Natasha explained to me that while working in the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) field, you accept certain rules: this sector is quite conservative, densely and deeply immersed in offline, much less digital. And in Openface, she was just interested in the idea of taking an offline product and service and moving it all online.
After a while we met, I showed the first landing page, and Natasha started helping me. I remember how we went to a party together after three hours of finishing the financial model of the project. I was filled with an incredible feeling of gratitude to Natasha, because the person invested in the project not only his time, but also his expensive skill. I then said: "Thank you very much, I can't imagine how I could thank you." She responded very cinematically, in the spirit of Pay Another: “I do this because I'm interested and because I see value in it. Then do something good for the other person. " The project began to move, and I timidly asked Natasha if she would like to join us more thoroughly. She agreed. Dina, who is currently involved in the technological part of the product, came towhen we already found some money and offered her a more tangible offer.
So the puzzle came together. Dina and I have previously worked in a huge 2GIS company with streamlined processes and a vertical management system, as well as in various startups, where everyone performs completely different tasks and where everything is always on fire. Therefore, when we were ripe for our project, we already had the experience of building a team and fewer illusions about what will happen next. Natasha brought chemists to the team (many of them were involved in Splat, Amway projects). Then the technologists came - a lot depends on the production part, and it is very strong here, because competent people work here. Now for all of us, this is full-time work.
As my friend said: “For your first startup, you chose a very complex product! I couldn't just make a cream or open an online cosmetics store."
The next stage is the search for investments
In the IT industry there is such a concept - "valley of death". This is the period in the existence of the project when it can easily die. Most often this happens when you already have some success, but the product has not been tested by the market, sales have just started, and the risks are too great for venture capital funds - it is very difficult to survive at such a moment. Initially, you usually have a lot of energy and enthusiasm, which allows you to move forward. You are not afraid of thoughts: “This is a too risky idea” or “I don’t have that kind of money”, you just go and do it. This is a great resource state!
Everything that you can invest in at the initial stage is your idea and team. It is not for nothing that many entrepreneurs call the first round of attracting investments - FFF: friends, family and fools. The first money is given either by your loved ones or by those who believe in the idea. We received the first checks from a business angel from the USA and people from our close circle. At the same time, we went to Russian funds, met with business angels, talked with entrepreneurs. A popular phrase we've heard is “You have such a great product. Why don't you do it in the West? " It is no secret that local investors are more interested in Western projects - these are completely different opportunities and money.
We are often asked: "Is it true that it is more difficult for women to get investments?" In my subjective opinion, this is true. The creator of one successful Russian startup once told me that one day she came to the fund, five men sat opposite her, who asked her why she was not wearing makeup, she did not respect them so much?
We were once asked to add at least one man to the presentation, because all the girls in the team are a little scary story. It is clear that this is not a widespread practice, but there is a feeling that women are trusted a little less in our country.
In the autumn, we went through acceleration at Baltic Sandbox. The accelerator helps us open a company in Lithuania in order to enter the European market and attract Western investments. But then the pandemic made its own adjustments. In order to open a company in the European Union, we received a start-up visa and had to obtain a residence permit. But three days before the trip, the borders were closed, and we were left in an absolutely anecdotal situation. For two months they could not do anything, they started making crazy plans for how our co-founder Natasha could get to Lithuania. As a result, she was sent by train to Pskov, where she crossed the border with Latvia and ended up in Lithuania, served a week's quarantine and began the process of opening a company. The whole life of a startup is an absolute adventure, in which there is a place for both good luck and disappointment. The main thing here is to understandare you ready to trade your comfortable life for endless risk.
About the production of personalized cosmetics in Russia
In fact, Openface is a very complex project. It has a large technological part. We develop algorithms, and they are much more complex than the story about "take the test and find out what kind of tree you are." This is working with data, development, product, design. On the other hand, there is production - another world with its own laws.
We work with contract manufacturing for Gamma Cosmetics in Podolsk. We're lucky it didn't close during the pandemic. But, like many, there were problems with raw materials due to the closure of borders.
We do not cook cosmetics from unicorn horns or cayenne pepper extract, for example. We use traditional ingredients, the effectiveness of which has been tested and proven - acids, retinoids, moisturizing ingredients, peptides, etc. The principle of their action is well understood. The essence of personalization is to ensure that the client receives the most suitable product for him. The main task of the manufacturer is to choose the right components and their concentration. Therefore, we have developed a matrix to understand what effect each asset has, in what concentration and to whom it will be useful. For example, there is everyone's favorite niacinamide - it works in completely different ways in different concentrations. From 0.5% to 2% - as a moisturizing and restoring protective barrier component, 4% - as a sebum-regulating and anti-acne component. 5% - as a depigmenting agent. Knowing this information,you can create formulas, combine components and get different effects.
Since all cosmetics must be certified, we develop a large number of mathematically verified formulas and receive documentation for each. For each such composition, we collect feedback, then go through all this information with analysts and chemists. The skin is a complex organ that is influenced by many factors. The same assets will work differently on different skin - there are many nuances here. Our task is to select the right ingredients for solving specific client problems.
There are ingredients with proven efficacy that are approved for use in products for problem skin - we work with them. These are some forms of retinol, salicylic, azelaic, glycolic acids, niacinamide. There are studies that prove that azelaic acid shows the effectiveness of the relevant benzoyl peroxide, which is among the top 3 ingredients for acne. At the same time, the acid works more delicately and less destructively affects the protective barrier of the skin.
We are always interested in the test, what kind of cosmetics a person uses. It often turns out that these are completely different products that may not be combined with each other and even interfere with bringing the skin to its normal state.
One of the myths that you also have to work with is the instant effect of cosmetics. It happens that people are surprised why on the second day of using the product they do not have a new face. Recently I talked with a dermatologist, we discussed what she does if she prescribes a remedy for a person, but it does not help him after a while. She replied that some products really need more time - so we continue to use it further. The same retinol doesn't work on the second day. Acids also give visual impairment at first - it's like peeling with a beautician.
Many problems can be solved with cosmetics, but there are situations when it is important to see a doctor. We do not treat skin diseases. And if we see that a person comes with such a request, then we always advise you to go to an in-person appointment with a dermatologist.
About the place of artificial intelligence in the project
There are a lot of conditions and patterns in the test that we offer our clients to pass. It is important for us to understand what climatic conditions you live in, what your lifestyle is, what kind of skin, what products you already use. Then you get a report, which is generated based on the results of the automatic test verification by the algorithm. After your questionnaire is reviewed by a dermatologist and can make his own changes to the formula - this is normal, we do it on purpose, since now our algorithm is quite young and will improve and become even better.
By the way, in the US, many companies write that they do not use artificial intelligence. For a person to have the feeling that someone alive and competent was examining his profile - for many it matters.
The most important strategic goal for us now is to start working in Europe. To do this, we open a company in Lithuania and attract Western investments. It will be a big challenge. We also want to refine the algorithm that works with photographs, we are discussing the launch of other means, because people often ask: can I also have a cleanser along with the serum.
I believe in the idea of personalization. Focusing on the needs of an individual is now more important than ever and right. That is why Openface meets the spirit of the times.
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