Julep Beauty Incorporated, a new cosmetics brand and e-commerce platform has raised $10.3 million in Series B financing led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from Maveron, the venture capital firm co-founded by Dan Levitan and Howard Schultz. Existing investors also include Troy Carter and Precedent Investments, a joint venture capital fund financed by James Lassiter, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, and Jay-Z’s music group Roc Nation. Western Technology Investments and Version One Ventures are also participating.
The startup was founded by former Starbucks executive Jane Park as a way to blend social connections, recommendations with cosmetics and beauty retail and e-commerce “my vision is to bring a new social approach to the beauty industry by having a two-way conversation online with our fans, incorporating their ideas directly into our rapid product innovation cycle,” she explains.
The company produces its own nail polishes, mascaras, moisturizers, lip glosses, face creams and other cosmetics that are sold on its site. The brand also has a monthly beauty and subscription service, through which it distributes its own products.
But where the startup hopes to differ is in its engagement with its customers. When participating in the startup’s subscription “maven” program, users take a quiz to figure out what their ideal colors are for makeup, nails and more. This creates a style profile for each user.
The site also wants users to actually give their input on what Julep should be selling when it comes to colors, styles and more, and is crowdsourcing this information for product development. The company is also focusing on speed to market, and has been able to produce more products in an 18-month span than any other beauty company. In total, Julep has launched 52 different products in a year, including 186 nail colors. Part of this freedom to produce is because Julep isn’t constrained by shelf space, like most in-store beauty brands. The compressed cycle allows Julep to remain nimble and figure out what works and sells and what doesn’t.
And much of Julep’s marketing so far has been through word of mouth, explains Park. The beauty and cosmetics industry is a $160 billion market that is ripe for disruption, she says. Julep, which also operates a number of nail salons, is participating in a new vertical in e-commerce that Warby Parker and others have pioneered.
Because Julep produces its own products its margins are low. Park says that the company is fully focused on creating a major brand in the cosmetics world. The new funding will be used towards developing products in other categories of makeup and color cosmetics.