Beauty tech startup BoldHue raises capital to ship its ‘Keurig for makeup’

Have you ever wanted a personalized makeup dispenser? Well, BoldHue‘s co-founder and CTO Karin Layton has built just that: A device that aims to be the “Keurig for makeup.”

BoldHue’s device essentially scans your face and dispenses a customized foundation formula that matches your skin tone. The beauty tech startup on Tuesday said it had raised a $3.37 million round led by Lucas Venture Group, with participation from Mark Cuban and others. 

Layton, a former aerospace engineer for Raytheon, thought of the idea when she was getting ready for work one day and realized her new expensive foundation bottle didn’t match her skin tone. As a painter in her free time, Layton decided to combine engineering and her knowledge of color theory to create the first of many prototypes. 

The countertop-sized device, to be priced at $295 upon release, operates using a “wand” that you place on different parts of your face to capture your skin tone. The device uses a proprietary skin typing algorithm to analyze your skin type and create the correct foundation shade using five pigments: blue, black, red, yellow and white. It will then dispense a week’s worth of foundation. 

“In the back end, it’s pulling that person’s [data] and taking this many white droplets, droplets of red, yellow, so on and so forth,” co-founder and CEO Rachel Wilson told TechCrunch. “It really is custom to you, because every drop is accounted for your skin.”

Image Credits: BoldHue

The fresh capital will be used to ship BoldHue’s first round of devices and support hiring and marketing initiatives. In the next few months, 10,000 units will go out to a waitlist of 40,000 people (most of whom saw BoldHue’s viral TikTok videos) before it becomes available to the general public. BoldHue will also conduct a nationwide roadshow, during which team members visit major cities to promote the product. 

Since the device hasn’t shipped yet, we haven’t been able to test it. However, if accurate, this could be a promising tool for many people. Despite online foundation-finder quizzes or mobile apps that use a photo of your face to match colors with your skin tone, many people still struggle to find the perfect shade. This could be because their skin tone fluctuates due to a medical condition or even just from sun exposure. In addition, makeup brands have historically neglected shade diversity in their products, and many large companies have been criticized for their lack of darker shades. 

“There’s a growing need from the consumer for being inclusive, and brands have been starting to try to service that need,” Wilson said. “Online shade-matching quizzes are great, but it puts a lot of guesswork on the consumer. And by the time they get it delivered in the mail, it may not be a match, or one day, the sun changes your skin complexion, and now you’re a different shade. … [Then] there’s in-store, where you go get shade-matched, but it’s very time-consuming and still limited in nature,” she added. 

These types of machines aren’t new. At the CES tech conference in 2020, L’oréal announced “Perso,” which dispenses a single dose of lipstick or foundation matched to your skin color with help from its AI-powered mobile app. YSL also sells a custom lipstick creator for $350. 

BoldHue aims to be a more advanced option, however. It also dispenses a week’s worth of product, unlike L’oréal’s single-dose machine. 

A BoldHue starter kit comes with a full cartridge set that includes the first month of foundation, along with additional accessories like jars and spatulas. Additionally, its companion app notifies you when you’re running low on pigment so you can purchase refills for around $15 to $20 each. The startup will also release a premium package for makeup artists so they can buy cartridges in bulk. 

“On average, you’re going to come back and replace about one cartridge a month. So it’s not overly exorbitant and not forcing people to buy all of them all the time,” Wilson told us. 

Image Credits: BoldHue

In the long term, BoldHue plans to introduce a virtual try-on app that will offer more personalization options. This app will let users adjust the amount of pigment to their preference. Additionally, BoldHue wants to explore partnerships and expand into other makeup categories.

“We’re thinking about how we can service other pain points in the market with a tech deliverable, whether that’s us creating the formulations or it’s partnering with people who create formulations that can sit within our device,” Wilson said. “Again, we talk about Keurig because it’s similar. They launched with their own coffee pods, and now there’s Starbucks, Dunkin. … So that’s kind of what we envision, too, for foundation. We can do anything with color so we’ll probably get into other categories as well,” she added. 

Other investors who participated in the recent seed round are Backstage Capital, Capital Eleven, and Tacoma Ventures. BoldHue initially raised $2 million from friends and family of the company, bringing its total amount raised so far to around $5 million.

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