The Future of Beauty is Here: Meet the Top 5 Beauty Startups of the NX NIVEA Accelerator
The moment has finally come again, after several months of scouting and evaluating the third cohort for the NX NIVEA Accelerator has been selected. The NX program, led by the German skincare giant Beiersdorf (with brands including NIVEA, Eucerin and La Prairie), focuses on innovating and revolutionizing the beauty industry by identifying and collaborating together with beauty startups from South Korea. Following the success of its NX NIVEA Accelerator in South Korea, the program expanded to China in June 2021.
There is no better time than now for startups to disrupt the beauty industry. With changing beauty standards and consumer needs, the beauty industry opens new doors for ideas and innovation. Including unique circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic have been drivers for change. After two successful batches in 2019 and 2020, NX announces the winner and cohort of this year’s 2021 NX program:
Introducing the Five Beauty Startups of the NX NIVEA Accelerator Batch III
1. rom&nd — Consumer-centered Cosmetic Brand
Year of establishment: 2016
CEO: TaeUk Kim
From an initial idea to build a wedding hair and makeup brand, TaeUk Kim founded rom&nd in 2016. rom&nd is now Korea’s fastest growing cosmetics brand that offers a range of different lip, eye and face makeup particularly loved by Millennials and Gen Z.
Since the very beginning, rom&nd has harnessed the power of social media and community by collaborating with different beauty bloggers like one of Korea’s biggest beauty YouTuber Saerom Min (Gaeko). This gave rom&nd the opportunity to get closer to beauty consumers and build a deep understanding of their needs and desires. rom&nd continued to conquer the digital space by building a loyal beauty community.
What makes founder TaeUk Kim most proud is the fact that rom&nd was build from the ground up to express and reflects consumers. The biggest value that TaeUk Kim seeks with rom&nd is the relationship and connection with consumers by communicating through content and product as a medium. Community and consumers are in the center of the brand. New launches and editions are inspired and created with consumers through design thinking processes.
“In both personal and business wise, the source of inspiration is always the consumer. We are trying to produce analytical and creative results based on deep empathy with consumers.” — TaewUk Kim, rom&nd
rom&nd’s best-selling products include:
Natural daily makeup products “Juicy Lasting Tint” and “Better Than Eyeshadow Palette” are loved by customers globally.
2. PowderRoom — Korea’s First & Largest Beauty Platform
Year of establishment: 2003
CEO: Sukyung Kim
In 2003, PowderRoom was started as a Naver Cafe and over the years it has evolved into the No.1 beauty community. It is the largest beauty platform in Korea with 3.7 million members and subscribers.
The unexpected pandemic affected expansion and growth plans for PowderRoom. Despite that, Sukyung Kim and her team showed resilience and successfully launched their first dedicated PowderRoom app, which also helped to further expand from Naver Cafe to other social channels like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube with 1.95 million members.
PowderRoom creates a trusted place for beauty fans to get informed and discover the latest beauty trends, tips, tricks and products. Users and brands fill the platform with valuable content like tutorials, MOTD (Makeup of the day), beauty routines, as well as reviews on products and more.
Particularly appealing to Millennials and GenZ consumers is the “Co-Creation” ability of PowerRoom, where brands and consumer community connect through content creation. By leveraging this ability, PowderRoom launched a creative cosmetics brand called ‘AMTS (All My Things)’ based on its extensive user network. Through the continuous effort and growing community, Sukyung Kim strives to make PowderRoom a service and company that can deliver value, communicates sincerely, and grows together with PowderRoom members as well as business partners.
“PowderRoom is committed to connecting beauty brands with consumers who love personal grooming and beauty. We envision working and growing with users who are ardent participants, communicators, and value-creators through daily practice on beauty in the PowderRoom.” — Sukyung Kim, PowderRoom
3. Kuoca — Order-made Fresh Skincare
Year of establishment: 2019
CEOs: Benjamin Yu, Jisu Kim
With a love for food, Benjamin Yu and Jisu Kim have founded Kuoca, a Korean skincare brand that incorporates top quality, naturally sourced ingredients like white Truffle or Chaga mushroom inspired by fine-dining. Not only the ingredients and blending for the products resemble fine-dining, but also the unique production process. Since 2019, Kuoca has revolutionized conventional production and distribution by offering order-made skincare through small-batch production from a boutique factory. All products are made within 30 days of sale in order to maintain freshness. The fresh production and consumption cycle allow formulas to be potency-centric rather than preservation-oriented. This new production process presented initial challenges for the founders. But with lots of effort and time, the founders Benjamin Yu and Jisu Kim successfully convinced suppliers and partners.
All in all, the ingredients, the blend and the production together create a unique fine-dining like experience for customers. For the future, Benjamin Yu and Jisu Kim hope to expand Kuoca globally and to launch exclusive culture-specific product lines blending ingredients commonly used in local fine-dining.
“Clean beauty leads current trends and fresh beauty is next, we believe. A growing number of brands will emphasize freshness, which will shift the paradigm from clean to fresh. Kuoca wishes to be the leader in fresh beauty.” — Jisu Kim & Benjamin Yu, Kuoca
Kuoca’s best-selling products include:
Customers especially love their best-selling product “Cream Blend”, which has won multiple awards to be named the best anti-aging cream in Korea.
4. Picky — Global Skincare Platform Connecting Brands and Consumers
Year of establishment: 2020
CEO: Jihong Lee
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic back in February 2020, Jihong Lee founded Picky, a digital community for global beauty consumers, where consumers can discover new, interesting brands and products around the world.
However, starting a business during a pandemic also means running a team remotely. This was a big challenge for the founder, but what truly motivated Jihong Lee to continue was the purpose of solving real problems for consumers. As the world was going through a lockdown, everything went digital, which made it harder for beauty consumers to discover the best products and brands for them with offline stores closed. Picky presents a solution for the challenge of too many choices and a lack of authentic information. Since Picky’s launch, the community has grown to a user base of 130K+ skincare enthusiasts.
Besides having a community of skincare lovers that will share experiences and give honest reviews, signing up at Picky includes a skin analysis with product recommendations based on your skin type, skin goal and preferences. Using Picky gives consumers insight into ingredient information of over 50,000 various skin care products and the database is growing.
Not only will consumers benefit from Picky with authentic information and education, but also, brands get the chance to launch their new products in a cost-effective way to drive engagement and get exposure to skincare fanatics around the world. Jihong Lee’s goal is to bring consumers and brands around the world closer together, particularly Korean skincare brands through Picky.
“We are committed to building meaningful relationships between global beauty brands and consumers in the hyper-connected world.”– Jihong Lee, Picky
5. Lillycover — Customized Skincare Solution with Smart Factory
Year of establishment: 2016
CEO: SunHee An
Having worked as a researcher and in the medical field in the past, SunHee An, the founder of Lillycover has gained years of valuable experience for her startup. During that time, she encountered a common challenge among consumers, the difficulty to understand their own skin, skin conditions and changes. Given this, the idea for Lillycover, a customized skincare service, originated. The startup announced that it has raised $4 million in a Series A funding round led by POSCO Capital, TBT Partners, IBK, KITE Entrepreneurship Foundation and more.
Lillycover’s skin device for skin diagnosis and plasma management, ‘MUILLI,’ works with big data and artificial intelligence algorithms in order for users to easily understand their unique skin type. Subsequently, customers receive fully customized skincare products on a subscription service based on their individual needs. Lillycover’s products are freshly, accurately and cleanly manufactured and delivered right away.
Even though founder SunHee An’s entrepreneurial journey and her idea to combine science and beauty was not always easy, the joy she receives from happy consumers using her solution overweight all challenges. With her skincare innovation, she provides a valuable solution to anyone with any type of skin. Every skin is different and founder SunHee An celebrates diversity and personal preference. Knowing her solution will help to give everyone the chance to have beautiful skin that motivates her work daily.
“Based on big data and artificial intelligence algorithms, we provide a regular subscription service that allows users to easily understand skin changes and receive daily customized skincare for each individual customer.” — SunHee An, Lillycover
Currently, the most popular product from consumers is the portable skin care device for skin diagnosis and plasma management ‘Muilli’. Also, the newly introduced customized cosmetics BalanX is expected to be greatly loved by consumers in the future.
After a successful year, it is time to say goodbye to the previous NX cohort. Now part of the NX alumni network, NX will continue making an effort to keep the great relationship also in the future. From July onwards, the above introduced newcomers will get the chance to learn and grow further through the NX program and the corresponding resources.
“We are proud to expand our regional scope and create further synergies between Beiersdorf and our NX startups. We will continue our journey to become the number one beauty accelerator in Asia by 2022.” said Jacek Brozda, Head of Ventures and New Business at Beiersdorf Korea and Co-Founder of NX.
For the first time, this year also five beauty startups from China will be part of the NX program. By leveraging its global network, NX will boost up dynamic collaborations between Beiersdorf and the selected startups. NX is extremely excited to support the beauty startups on their growth journey.