Meet Memebox, Y Combinator’s Korean Beauty Import

Not many companies in the Y Combinator stable have executives who’ve spent time at both Tom Ford’s fashion powerhouse and the Korean online ticketing platform TicketMonster. I’m betting Memebox is the only one.

It’s the first Korean company accepted into the Y Combinator program and arguably one of the more mature, with a $1.5 million round of venture funding already under its belt and a strong base of customers across Korea.

Founded by Hyungseok Ha, a graduate of Parsons School of Design who worked for Tom Ford before moving back to Seoul and working for TicketMonster in Korea, Memebox is similar to Birchbox in that it sells customers curated beauty products that arrive in an aesthetically appealing package.

Birchbox’s model has been embraced by venture investors, and the company is reportedly out on the road looking to raise another $50 million in financing on top of the $11.9 million the company already has in the bank. Other startup competitors like Cult Cosmetics are also pursuing the cosmetics market with an innovative makeup package.

For Y Combinator partner Kevin Hale, the similarities between Birchbox and Memebox end at the box. “They do sell these beauty boxes, but they don’t have monthly subscriptions. Each box is numbered and they have products that are in discrete runs,” Hale said.

Another difference is that Memebox has gone straight to the Asian cosmetics manufacturers like Cosmax to fill its boxes, using the Asian brands as a selling point. And Memebox is looking to launch a brand of its own.

“U.S. customers tend to think that Asian companies have better skincare products,” said Ha. “We’re continuing to push the skincare products more than the makeup products, and the price point we’re bringing to the U.S. is lower than Sephora.”

Despite a minimal marketing and sales presence in the U.S., the company has managed to pick up 10,000 customers across the country and applied to Y Combinator to help with its expansion here, Ha said.

“Even thought it’s been two years that we’ve been running the company in Korea, we’re new here [in the U.S.] and we thought we should partner with someone,” said Ha.

Down the road Memebox expects to start selling more of its own branded products, and has plans to expand its U.S. operations significantly, Hale said.

“I can see them being the next LVMH,” said Hale. “There’s no limit to their ambition.”