Shaping the Future of Beauty — Meet the Top 5 Beauty Startups of the NX NIVEA Accelerator
The beauty industry is one of the fastest growing and changing markets in the world, opening doors for new opportunities on a daily basis. Incumbent firms are constantly being challenged by young, dynamic startups who are reshaping the market. Particularly in a country such as Korea, which is viewed as a global beauty hub, this development can be witnessed. For many years already, Korea has been home to a vast number of innovative beauty brands and beauty products, which continue to mark their global footprints, particularly in the Asian markets. For exactly these reasons, the NX NIVEA Accelerator was established over a year ago in Seoul, the beauty heart of Korea. The NX program, led by the German cosmetics giant Beiersdorf (with brands including NIVEA, Eucerin and La Prairie), aims at identifying and collaborating together with disruptive beauty startups from Korea.
NX’s first batch of beauty startups, introduced in the article Five Korean Beauty Startups and their Founder’s Stories, has been a successful start of the program last year. This positive performance was highlighted when Beiersdorf invested in the Korean beauty startup LYCL (unpa.Cosmetics). Jacek Brozda, Co-Founder NIVEA Accelerator, explains further: “Last year we launched the first global accelerator program for beauty startups in Korea. Now we aim to become the leading beauty accelerator in Asia by 2022.” Keeping the positive momentum, NX selected the second batch of startups to join the NIVEA acceleration program . After several months of scouting and evaluating 250+ candidates, NX announced it’s top five beauty startups:
Introducing the Five Beauty Startups of the NIVEA Accelerator Batch II
1. Femmue — Skincare Inspired by Flowers
Year of establishment: 2015
CEO: Kelly Chung
Kelly Chung, Femmue’s CEO, drew her inspiration for her startup from personal experiences. Starting as a beauty entrepreneur already in 2008, Kelly could feel the effects of an entrepreneur’s busy work schedule on her body. Feeling a disconnect between her mental and physical self, as a result of fatigue and stress, led her to embrace the idea of self-care and self-love with greater appreciation. She treated herself to weekly flower arrangements to personally put her mind and body at ease, which also represented the starting point of her journey with Femmue.
Established in 2013, Femmue aims at bringing self-love to your home through the energy of flowers, or what the CEO likes to call “Flower Therapy”. All of Femmue’s products revolve around the healing aspects that flowers bring to cosmetics including functions such as destressing, strengthening and supporting of the skin. Flowers are a diverse ingredient, allowing Femmue to experiment with different scents, colors and textures depending on the desired product outcome. As a brand, Femmue presents itself as a colorful and vibrant, yet sophisticated beauty brand that consistently places flower therapy at the core of its products.
“We are passionate about encouraging women to change beautifully through flowers and FEMMUE” — Kelly Chung
Femmue’s best-selling products include:
- Camélia 73 Oil
- Flower Infused Fine Mask
- Dream Glow Sheet Mask
2. Beigic — Minimalistic Skincare Brand Powered by Coffee
Year of establishment: 2016
CEO: Kate Namgung
The brand Beigic revolves around one main ingredient: coffee. Specifically green coffee bean oil. This hero ingredient brings about numerous skin benefits as it is rich in antioxidants, essential amino acids, vitamin E and natural caffeine for the skin. Antioxidants and vitamin E are closely linked with skin brightening effects and increased skin elasticity, whereas essential amino acids support the natural collagen and elastin production, contributing to skin regeneration and pore tightening. The caffeine within green coffee beans boosts blood circulation and skin metabolism allowing the skin to glow with radiance. All of Beigic’s products support a 3-step skin solution suggested by this unique coffee-infused beauty brand: release, recharge and defend your skin.
After a long battle with poor skin herself, Kate Namgung — CEO and founder of Beigic, was motivated to create a beauty brand that she could rely on and recommend to people faced with similar struggles. The CEO’s intention was to make every day skincare routines an enjoyable time of day, rather than an onerous essential step. To Kate, taking care of her skin has become a precious ‘feel good moment’ in her busy life where she is able to entirely focus her attention on her personal well-being. Having established a brand that predominantly emphasizes feelings of tranquility and serenity, or what Kate likes to refer to as ‘the little Beigic touch’, her ultimate wish is for consumers to one day see her brand the way she does, and thereby create a homogeneous image for founder, employees as well as consumers.
“We are committed to adding little indulgence and pleasure to your everyday skincare rituals — the little BEIGIC touch that completes your skincare rituals, your mood and your day” — Kate Namgung
Beigic’s best-selling products include:
- Regenerating Oil
- Correcting Exfoliator
- Comforting Cream
3. Woohwaman — Interactive Beauty Community Platform
Year of establishment: 2019
CEO: Doyeon Kim
Woohwaman offers an interactive user platform that allows consumers to share their beauty product ideas, complaints and recommendations. Based on these user suggestions, Woohwaman thoroughly evaluates the feasibility and marketability of the suggested products before starting the development process. Through a one-stop production process, Woohwaman is able to efficiently produce, sell and advertise its own products, which can eventually be purchased in the ‘Woohwaman Store’, its own e-commerce platform. Since Woohwaman’s business model is strongly user-driven, they have developed a 4-step reward system in order to incentivize users to pitch their ideas. Notable examples of products that have been launched since Woohwaman’s establishment in 2019 include the Osak Hand Gel and the Osak Hand Wash.
Doyeon Kim, CEO of Woohwaman, first drew his inspiration for the company when witnessing the attention K-Beauty was receiving internationally. Wanting to create a company that took a more unconventional business approach, Doyeon soon found a niche opportunity to create a business concept that was entirely user-driven. Looking back, “I wanted to set up a company that makes products quickly by identifying trends in fast-changing user needs. After all, the most interesting part of being an entrepreneur is the process of making ideas into products.” With the help of its distinctive platform, Woohwaman today is able to plan, manufacture and sell user-driven products, each backed by an unparalleled user story.
“Our vision is to become a global community that attentively listens to people’s needs and delivers beauty solutions for all.” — Doyeon Kim
4. Ice Creative — Platform Creating Beauty with Influencers
Year of establishment: 2017
CEO: Eunha Kim
Ice Creative is a dynamic influencer network that serves two major functions. Firstly, Ice Creative co-creates products together with fashion, beauty and lifestyle influencers based on their unique stories and personalities. Throughout the process, influencers engage in frequent communication with their fans to let them in on the product development and decision-making process. Secondly, the platform can also be utilized by third party brands to create external promotional content. With a network of over 100+ top Korean beauty influencers, external brands are sure to find exactly what they need. Besides product and content creation, Ice Creative also organizes the “Comet Beauty Festival” — the largest influencer and consumer beauty event in Korea. Once a year, beauty brands, influencers and consumers come together to interact and showcase their latest products.
But as founder and CEO of Ice Creative, Eunha Kim is also faced with the harsh realities of running a business that heavily relies on human resources. She feels a great sense of responsibility for her entire ‘Ice Creative Crew’, especially the influencers who often have to withstand malicious comments and remarks from the outside world. In tough situations like these, Eunha likes to remind her team of the deeply rooted values for which Ice Creative stands, namely: creativity, authenticity and professionalism. Therefore, Eunha takes pride when top influencers approach her personally to join the Ice Creative network. As the one in charge, she can closely align her vision and goals with the direction in which Ice Creative is headed to create added value for everyone participating in the Ice Creative journey.
“We are a top of the line branding company specializing in support and growth of influencers around the world.” — Eunha Kim
5. AIONCO (AFSMALL) — A Global Beauty e-Wholesaler
Year of establishment: 2015
CEO: Justin Jun
AIONCO is a cross-border e-commerce tech and cross-border fulfillment startup which runs three different business models:
- AFSMALL — Global Beauty e-Wholesale platform
- AFSWORKS — Global Beauty fulfillment service
- FOKLI:N — the startup’s own hygiene and skincare brand
AIONCO, a South Korean B2B platform of K-Beauty products for global e-commerce, was established in 2015. Within four years, the Korean platform that connects local cosmetics suppliers with foreign buyers all over the world has garnered over 900 vendors, representing markets in 60 different countries. Some of these vendors include China’s Alibaba, as well as individual sellers on marketplaces such as Amazon and Lazada. By having their own wholesale platform (AFS MALL) and fulfillment logistics service (AFS WORKS), AIONCO is able to convert existing value chains into one integrated process and thereby shorten the duration of the procedure.
What sets AIONCO apart from other online wholesalers is that ”our company allows retail buyers abroad to have easier access to a wide range of K-Beauty products via our website called ‘AFS Mall’. We allow them to order ‘a little bit of everything’ on a weekly or even daily basis unlike in the past when buyers had to purchase in bulk and order on a monthly basis.”
“Our vision is to connect numerous buyers and suppliers from all over the world through AIONCO’s own platform based on high-end technology, and furthermore to establish one global supply chain network.” — Justin Jun
Coming July 1st will mark the starting date for the five newcomers in the NX program. Even though this also implies saying farewell to the first batch of startups, NX will continue to uphold a positive relationship with its previous program members by welcoming them into the newly established alumni network. However, having selected five ambitious new joiners into the program, NX is excited to explore the new potentials that lie ahead for the startups, as well as the Global Beiersdorf Group.