Billie Eilish isn’t afraid to stand out when it comes to her wardrobe, especially when it comes to millennial nostalgia. Billie Eilish wore a Powerpuff Girls suit, paying homage to one of the best Cartoon Network shows from our childhood.
Eilish wore the suit to the ASCAP Pop Music Awards in Beverly Hills, where she was presented with the Vanguard trophy by Julia Roberts. The award is given in recognition of “the impact of new and developing musical genres, which help shape the future of music.” The first two musicians to be awarded the honor were Björk and Soul Asylum back in 1996.
To receive the award, Eilish decided to wear a suit that was decorated in millennial pop culture relics. The Powerpuff Girls might have been before the 17-year-old’s time, but that doesn’t mean Eilish can’t appreciate Cartoon Network reruns. The suit in question consisted of a khaki utility vest and beige cargo pants. The two items were stamped with over-sized motifs of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup. The superheroes looked like they were in fight mode on Eilish’s outfit, where the characters appeared to be jumping into action — probably to fight Mojo Jojo or the Gangreen Gang.
The nostalgic suit was then paired with an oversize white button-up shirt, a Gucci messenger bag, and retro cat eye sunglasses. The white sunnies came from Privé Revaux, and they were the Bermuda sunglasses that cost an affordable $29.95.
Eilish is known for her baggy suits, preferring to wear eye-catching and shapeless pieces. Part of that has to do with fashion, and part of it has to do with having one’s body scrutinized by the public.
In a recent campaign video for Calvin Klein, Eilish shared, “I never want the world to know everything about me. I mean, that’s why I wear big, baggy clothes. Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath. Nobody can be like, ‘Oh, she’s slim-thick, she’s not slim-thick, she’s got a flat ass, she’s got a fat ass. No one can say any of that because they don’t know.”
Scrolling through the artist’s Instagram, you will see a grid full of hoodies, tracksuits, and baggy suits, much like the Powerpuff Girls one. But that’s not to say Eilish also doesn’t wear those silhouettes for fashion purposes. Eilish enjoys that the aesthetic pushes boundaries.
“I just like dressing out of my comfort zone. I want to dress in a way that if I was in a room full of people wearing regular clothes, I would be like, ‘Oh, I bet everyone’s looking at me.’ I want to feel that way. That’s my casual,” Eilish shared in an interview with Harper´s Bazaar.
“I am not comfortable when I’m wearing just some jeans and a shirt. I just feel wrong…” Eilish said. “So my friend said, ‘Billie just likes to feel super judged.’ I love being judged. I’m here for it.”
When it comes to the Powerpuff Girls outfit, there will be nothing but appreciation — especially from those who grew up with the Cartoon Network staple.
…while I was running Techweek that I came up with the idea to launch Codeverse. The idea came from a documentary I saw, called “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap”, which focuses on the lack of women and minorities in STEM fields. After viewing the documentary, Craig and I did a ton of research, over the course of two years, on the various camps, schools, tools, apps, games and resources that exist today to teach young children how to code. In July 2017, we officially opened the doors to our beautiful, state-of-the-art coding studio in Chicago!
I had the pleasure to interview Katy Lynch. Katy is the Co-Founder of Codeverse, the world’s first fully interactive coding school and educational tech platform that teaches kids to code. Codeverse is built with intuitive tools to make learning code approachable and fun, and most of all, rewarding. The self-guided curriculum is designed for learners as young as 6 and introduces all the foundations of computer programming while incorporating common core subjects including art, history, science, and math. Their mission: Teach a billion kids to code.
Thank you so much for joining us Katy! What is your backstory?
I moved to Chicago from the U.K ten years ago. In 2008, I landed my first startup gig, working for Facebook’s largest travel application, called Where I’ve Been (which was founded by my now husband, Craig Ulliott.) For two years, I single handedly managed their online community, helping them grow from zero to almost 10 million active members. Where I’ve Been eventually sold to Tripadvisor in 2010, and I decided that I wanted to help other startups, like WIB, with their social media strategy full time. So, I spun off and started SocialKaty, a full service social media marketing agency in August 2010. I ran SocialKaty for 4 years until it was acquired by Manifest in July 2014 — exactly a week before my 30th birthday! After the acquisition, I left Manifest to become the CEO of Techweek, the nation’s largest traveling technology festival. Interestingly, it was while I was running Techweek that I came up with the idea to launch Codeverse. The idea came from a documentary I saw, called “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap”, which focuses on the lack of women and minorities in STEM fields. After viewing the documentary, Craig and I did a ton of research, over the course of two years, on the various camps, schools, tools, apps, games and resources that exist today to teach young children how to code. In July 2017, we officially opened the doors to our beautiful, state-of-the-art coding studio in Chicago!
Which person or which company do you most admire and why?
Elon Musk. He is an inspiration to me for various reasons. He’s a self-made billionaire, intellectually curious, a huge risk-taker, and a total badass! What he has done with PayPal, SpaceX, The Boring Company, SolarCity, and Tesla is absolute genius. He is disrupting multiple industries at once with his innovative ideas, and truly is a great role model for any aspiring or serial entrepreneur.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve been in the tech community for almost 10 years, and everything I have done has led to Codeverse. This is mine and Craig’s legacy company. Our mission is to “teach a billion kids to code”, and we’re making sure that we bring the Codeverse experience to kids in underrepresented communities. In fact, we’re actively working with AfterSchool AllStars Chicago, Boys & Girls Clubs Chicago, Little Village Academy, and other organizations to make sure that all kids are equipped with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in this digital day and age.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started?
You’ll fail a lot, and that’s OK — You’ll constantly make mistakes as a startup founder. What determines your fate is how you handle these mistakes. My biggest advice is to learn from your mistakes, pick yourself back up, and swiftly move on.
Ultimately, it takes passion, perseverance, and a willingness to work really hard every day to be successful.
It’ll change your life — The media glamorizes entrepreneurship, making it sound easy, sexy, and fun. But, it’s actually quite the opposite. Entrepreneurship is extremely difficult and rips you out of your comfort zone. It challenges you, and forces you to make hard, life-altering decisions. You will experience the highest highs (as you become successful and celebrate “wins” with your team) and the lowest lows (as you make countless mistakes) and you will quickly learn to adapt to the good and bad situations that happen on a daily basis.
Take risks and trust your gut — This is so important, When you are young, you can afford to take a lot of risks. When I was much younger, I used to double-guess myself, or take too much time making decisions. I’d say “no” to great opportunities because I felt that I wasn’t qualified enough to do the job. I lacked confidence.
Say yes to interesting opportunities. Be inquisitive and open-minded. Challenge people and ideas.
Stop thinking about what you wantto do. Take action and actually do it!
Your biggest champions will be other entrepreneurs — When you become an entrepreneur, you experience a shift in your mindset. You will only want to surround yourself with positive people who understand you, your profession, and the trials and tribulations of what it means to be a business owner.
As you become more successful as a startup founder, it becomes harder to relate to those who are not business owners. This is a tough pill to swallow initially (because you want your friends and family to be as passionate as you are about your business!), but the reality is that you will receive more support, guidance, and feedback from individuals who are on the same startup journey as you.
Learn every aspect of your business — You don’t have to be an expert, but you do need to have a general understanding of what is happening in each department. Learn about the technology you use, your product, the financials, your marketing strategy, your PR efforts, and sales.
A new sell out product for spots, which is now back in stock, has been getting five star reviews.
ZitSticka is a transparent sticker perfect for when you get a spot out of the blue – as you can place the circular sticker over the spot and let it do its magic.
Containing 24 microdarts it dispenses a blend of spot-combatting ingredients, including Hyaluronic Acid and Niacinamide: (B3), beneath the skin’s outer layer.
The product, costing £27 for a pack of eight, which has just come back into stock, sold around 250,000 previously and those trying to get rid of spots are raving about how great the product is, with one even calling it ‘life changing’.
ZitSticker is a transparent sticker perfect for when you get a spot out of the blue – as you can place the circular sticker over the spot and let it do its magic
Containing 24 microdarts it dispenses a blend of spot-combatting ingredients, including Hyaluronic Acid and Niacinamide: (B3), beneath the skin’s outer layer
The spot sticker which is water resistant and dermatologically endorsed can be worn over night or even when you’re getting ready for a night out.
Beauty fans are so happy with the product they’ve been giving it five star reviews, one, who titled her review ‘life-changing’ said: ‘I don’t usually write product reviews but this has completely changed my life!
‘My skin is very sensitive and I have cystic acne (the one that is under the skin and you can’t pop!) which I have been taking various prescribed antibiotics and treatments to try and calm down for about four years now.
‘I was pretty skeptical about this product, it’s expensive for only 8 uses and as a student I don’t have much disposable income, but I decided to try it out. Well folks, my skin hasn’t been so clear since I was a preteen!’
The sell out product, which has just come back into stock, sold around 250,000 last time and those trying to get rid of spots are raving about how great the product is, with one even calling it ‘life changing’
‘The patches are clear and very subtle, none of my friends noticed them until I pointed them out! If the idea of the darts freaks you out (same) just know that it doesn’t hurt at all!’
Others said that it was a game changer for their spots and was on their SOS list. One also said: ‘Worked SO well, and quickly. Let’s just say I’m not excited to get another zit, but I’m not that worried either!’
Another admitted: ‘I was aware of the hype around this product after reading about it but wasn’t expecting them to be that different from other zit patches.
‘Turns out they are quite different and while the microdarts stung slightly (maybe i’m a wimp?) they definitely helped to get the product into the core of the zit!! My pimple felt like it had been fast-forwarded.’
However another reviewer said that it had changed her skin forever. She explained: ‘I had suffered with moderate-severe acne throughout my teenage years.
‘Now in my 20s, a combination of dietary changes and good skincare had helped to ease the most of it, aside from the painful cystic acne that would appear on my chin and cheeks the week before my period was due or when I had eaten something containing dairy.
‘I decided to give these patches a go out of sheer desperation – I had several important events coming up and I could feel that the spot brewing was going to be HUGE.
‘While that particular spot was too far gone for the dramatic effects of the patch to take place, the redness, size and longevity of it was severely reduced.’
Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a newsletter published every Saturday that dives into the week’s most noteworthy venture deals, fundraises, M&A transactions and trends. Let’s take a quick moment to catch up. Last week, I wrote about an alternative to venture capital called revenue-based financing and before that, I jotted down some notes on one of VCs’ favorite spaces: cannabis tech. Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets.
This week, I want to share some thoughts — questions, rather — on beverages. Just as my inbox has been full of cannabis-related pitches, it’s also been packed with descriptions of new…drinks. Perhaps the most noted so far is Liquid Death, canned water for the punk rock crowd, because why not? Liquid Death has attracted nearly $2 million in funding from angel investors like Away co-founder Jen Rubio and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. Before I tell you about a few other up-and-coming beverage makers, I must beg the question: Does the beverage industry need disrupting?
Founders say yes. Why? For one, because millennials, according to various studies, are consuming less alcohol than previous generations and are therefore seeking non-alcoholic beverage alternatives. Enter Seedlip, a non-alcoholic spirits company, for example. Or Haus, launching this summer, an all-natural apéritif distilled from grapes that has a lower alcohol content than most hard liquors. Haus, like any good consumer startup in 2019, is shipped directly to your door.
Bev, a canned wine business that recently raised $7 million in seed funding from Founders Fund, thinks marketing in the alcohol industry is the problem. Founder Alix Peabody designed a line of female-focused canned rosé. If you’re wondering why alcohol needs to be gendered in such a way, you’re not alone. Peabody explained most alcohol brands cater to men, and that’s a problem.
“The joke I like to make is there’s a go-to type of alcohol for every type of bro and we just don’t have that for women,” Peabody told TechCrunch earlier this year.
Finally, the wellness movement is taking over, driving VCs toward some odd upstarts. From wellness chat and journaling apps to therapy substitutes to fitness companies, stick wellness in a pitch and investors will take a second look. More Labs, for example, is backed with $8 million in VC funding. The company is readying the launch of Liquid Focus, a biohacking-beverage that claims to “solve modern-day stressors without the negative side effects.” Finally, Elements, “an elevated functional wellness beverage formulated with clinical levels of adaptogens to give your body exactly what it needs in four categories (focus, vitality, calm, and rest) for specific cognitive functions” (damn, what copy), recently launched. It doesn’t appear to be funded yet, but let’s just give it a few months.
There’s more where that came from, but I’m done for now. On to other news.
I almost skipped IPO corner this week because no big-name companies dropped or amended their S-1s or completed a highly anticipated IPO, as has been the case basically every week of 2019. But I decided I better give a quick update on Luckin Coffee’s tough second week on the stock market. Luckin Coffee, if you aren’t familiar, is Starbucks’ Chinese rival. The company raised more than $550 millionafter pricing at $17 per share a little over a week ago. Immediately the stock skyrocketed 20 percent to a roughly $5 billion market cap; then came concerns of the company’s lofty valuation, major cash burn and uncertain path to profitability. Luckin has dropped around 25 percent since closing its debut trading day. It closed Friday down 3 percent.
Y Combinator, the popular accelerator program and investment firm announced this week that it has promoted longtime partner Geoff Ralston to president. This comes two months after former president Sam Altman stepped down to focus his efforts full-time on OpenAI. The promotion of Ralston is an unsurprising choice for YC, an organization that employs roughly 60 people, many of whom have been affiliated with it in one way or another for years.
The Los Angeles ecosystem is $76 million stronger this week as Fika Ventures, a seed-stage venture capital firm, announced its sophomore investment fund. Fika invests roughly half of its capital exclusively in startups headquartered in LA, with a particular fondness for B2B, enterprise and fintech companies. The firm was launched in 2017 by general partners Eva Ho and TX Zhuo, formerly of Susa Ventures and Karlin Ventures, respectively. The pair raised $41 million for the debut effort, opting to nearly double that number the second time around as a means to participate in more follow-on fundings.
Our premium subscription service had another great week of interesting deep dives. This week, TechCrunch’s Lucas Matney went deep on Getaround’s acquisition of Drivy for his latest installment of The Exit, a new series at TechCrunch where we chat with VCs who were in the right place at the right time and made the right call on an investment that paid off. Here are some of the other Extra Crunch pieces that stood out this week:
If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase News editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I discuss how startups are avoiding IPOs and VC’s insatiable interest in food delivery startups.
Modsy, a San Francisco-based startup developing a platform that lets property owners create virtual renderings of rooms and restyle them in real time, today announced that it’s raised $37 million in funding led by TCV, with participation from Norwest Venture Partners, Advance Venture Partners, and Comcast Ventures. CEO and founder Shanna Tellerman said the capital infusion, which follows a $23 million series B round in December 2017 and brings the company’s total raised to $71 million, will enable Modsy to scale while investing in 3D automation, expanding its marketplace, and “upleveling” its services.
“Modsy is the future of furniture shopping, and we are thrilled to partner with such a forward-thinking and customer-centric firm like TCV to help us fulfill our vision,” she said. “I founded Modsy on the premise that in the future we would all be shopping from a personalized catalog-like experience within a virtual version of our real homes … We are excited about partnering with TCV to build Modsy into a household name and furthering our mission of enabling our customers to create the home of their dreams.”
Modsy’s technology digitally replicates rooms in 360 degrees with furniture from dozens of well-known brands, including West Elm, Crate & Barrel, Anthropologie, Joybird, Wayfair, Pottery Barn, Interior Define, Design Within Reach, Minted, Serena & Lily, Pier 1 Imports, and CB2. Users can purchase any fixture — whether a couch, rug, armoire, or coffee table — on the spot, either through Modsy directly or through partner tools like Crate & Barrel’s 3D Room Designer and CB2’s CB2 Interiors.
Here’s how it works: First, Modsy customers snap photos and take measurements of their spaces and complete a style quiz, indicating their preferences, budget, and constraints. The answers feed into a proprietary algorithm that attempts to suss out their taste and style, which Modsy collates (along with the pics and dimensions) and forwards onto its team of designers. Customers get two virtual design plans of their room, and from that point forward, they’re able to consult with Modsy’s team or fine-tune with a self-service 3D Style Editor suite, and shop retailers from which they receive exclusive discounts and promotions.
Modsy says it’s created over two million shoppable room renders since its 2015 launch.
Above: Modsy rendering.
Augmented reality (AR) interior design tools aren’t exactly novel. One of Swedish retail giant Ikea’s smartphone apps — Ikea Place — lets users preview home goods by dragging and dropping them in-scene, and Sotheby’s last year partnered with Roomy to launch a virtual staging app called Curate that enables prospective buyers to fill homes with their choice of decor and view the results in real-time 3D. Meanwhile, Wayfair’s Android app recently gained an AR feature that lets customers visualize furniture by holding up their smartphones.
But unlike its competitors, Modsy has built bespoke services like Live Swap atop its platform, which allows customers to quickly swap furniture from within its 3D Style Editor. Moreover, it’s launched a Modsy-exclusive ancillary furniture business — Minna Home — that offers eight styles of sofas and chairs designed in-house from thousands of customer data points and feedback.
It’s a safe bet that this diversification strategy is partly responsible for Modsy’s growing customer base (up 450%) and headcount (151%).
“The U.S. home furnishing market is a massive multi-billion dollar industry and we are seeing a very clear secular shift online,” said TCV executive vice president Tina Hoang-To, who will join Modsy’s board of directors. “Modsy is redefining the way consumers can buy furniture by leveraging technology and machine learning to introduce efficiency, transparency, and affordability to an antiquated home design industry. We are excited to partner with Modsy and believe the company is well-positioned to transform this industry in a significant way.”
Modsy charges $69 for a 3D room model and unlimited revisions with a Modsy designer, with a design turnaround time of six to eight days. The next pricing tier up — Premium — adds in a concierge shopping service; one-on-one video, email, or phone consultations with a project manager; and $150 off the first purchase of $1,500 or over and a reduced turnaround of four to seven days. The $349 plan is identical to Premium, but expands the number of rooms from one to three.
Modsy has over 100 full-time employees and recently filled out its C-Suite with key hires hailing from HotelTonight, StitchFix, and DoorDash. Previous investors include, NBCUniversal, GV, Birchmere Ventures, BBG, and individual angel investors.
NEW YORK, May 16, 2019 – Forbes today announced that Christine Lagarde, Eva Longoria, Norah O’Donnell, Tory Burch, Lindsey Vonn and Jennifer Garner will headline its seventh annual Forbes Women’s Summit, which will take place in New York, June 17-18, 2019.
“Leaders today are navigating a time of unprecedented challenge and change. Across industries and generations, women are catalyzing the next chapter of conversation and seizing on the window of opportunity that this moment presents,” said Moira Forbes, Executive Vice President of Forbes Media and Publisher of ForbesWomen. “The 2019 Forbes Women’s Summit will bring together a community of problem-solvers and visionaries who are rearchitecting industries, driving social progress, and using their unique platforms to create meaningful change.”
The Summit will showcase some of the world’s most recognizable and influential women who are disrupting the status quo with challenging questions and even more powerful answers to lead to transformative change.
Halima Aden, Model & Activist
Maria Bruno, Head of U.S. Wealth Planning Research, Vanguard
Esther Wojcicki, Educator, Journalist, & Author, How to Raise Successful People
The 2019 Forbes Women’s Summit transcends industries and generations to convene a diverse range of female luminaries from the worlds of business, media, entertainment, politics and more. Additional speakers will be announced in the coming weeks on the Forbes LIVE Website. See more details here.
To join the conversation on social use, #ForbesWomen.
The Forbes Women’s Summit is presented by Audi of America and The Vanguard Group. It’s supported by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In the spirit of working together to empower girls and women around the world, a portion of each ticket sold will be donated toward the Girls Scouts of Greater New York.
The Forbes Women’s Summit exemplifies the commitment of ForbesWomen to showcase women who are leading transformative change. ForbesWomen brings together the best curated content across all Forbes communities, including its premium LIVE events and dedicated social platforms. In addition, season two of “Success with Moira Forbes,” a video series featuring compelling conversations with the most notable female leaders, launches this summer.
The defining voice of entrepreneurial capitalism, Forbes champions success by celebrating those who have made it, and those who aspire to make it. Forbes convenes and curates the most-influential leaders and entrepreneurs who are driving change, transforming business and making a significant impact on the world. The Forbes brand today reaches more than 120 million people worldwide through its trusted journalism, signature LIVE events, custom marketing programs and 40 licensed local editions in 70 countries. Forbes Media’s brand extensions include real estate, education and financial services license agreements. For more information, visit: www.forbes.com/forbes-media/.
At the heart of parental sleep anxiety—or sweet, sweet relief—lies the baby monitor, an increasingly polarizing device nonetheless engineered to bring peace of mind. The Miku, which went on sale in January, is a tech-obsessed parent’s dream, combining sophisticated design with artificial intelligence to provide data-filled updates on the sound, motion, humidity, and temperature in the room. Notably, the $400 monitor can also track an infant’s breathing without requiring her to wear a dedicated device. It uses Wi-Fi to stream high-definition video and audio to an app on your phone.
• The Cocoon Cam also broadcasts Wi-Fi-enabled HD video to an app, and at $150, it offers most of the high-end amenities (a breathing tracker, night vision, easy setup) in a more affordable package.
• When it comes to plug-and-play functionality, nothing beats the $200 Eufy SpaceView baby monitor. Using radio technology, which is less hack-prone than Wi-Fi, it transmits video, audio, and temperature readings to a 5-inch HD display—no app needed.
• The $300 Nanit has a premium data-driven subscription service (starting at $120 a year) that uses its sensors and the baby’s age to make personalized sleep recommendations.
Some parents prefer the all-in-one simplicity of a Nest camera, which offers HD video and a two-way talk function, even though it wasn’t designed for this use. What sets the Miku apart is its robust data set, which comes in easy-to-understand charts that put the information in context. (The device does require the sex and birthdate of the child—that may turn off those concerned with data privacy.) Built-in Ole Wolff speakers offer crisp audio, whether you’re playing its waterfall and forest sounds or using the two-way feature to talk to your tot. $400; mikucare.com
In the past five years, Elvie and Willow have transformed the breast pump market, raising a combined total of nearly $90 million and wooing moms with technological updates to make breastfeeding while working a less intimidating prospect.
But even a Silicon Valley breast pump can’t make breastfeeding work for everyone. For reasons ranging from health of the mother or baby to milk supply and blocked milk ducts to work schedules, many mothers find breastfeeding out of reach. Founders and investors are on to the next logical category: infant formula.
“We are not accepting the realities of feeding your child in today’s world,” says Laura Modi, co-founder of a new infant formula startup, Bobbie. “Fifteen to 20% of women physically cannot produce enough breast milk to exclusively breastfeed.”
Bobbie co-founders Laura Modi and Sarah Hardy.
Bobbie, launching this Sunday on Mothers’ Day, raised $2.4 million to debut an infant formula formulated to resemble the more stringently regulated formulas sold in Europe. Made without corn syrup or soy—ingredients in the most widely available U.S. brands—the formula will be sold through a subscription service at $23 a box, with most families using four boxes a month. It’s a concept Modi, former director of hospitality at Airbnb, developed when she found she couldn’t breastfeed and felt embarrassed buying formula at the drugstore.
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While Modi and co-founder Sarah Hardy aren’t necessarily trying to eat into the smart breast pump market, they are taking a cue from its success, and cited that success when pitching to investors. “We learned a lot from their approach in this market,” Modi says. “I don’t think we’ve come across any parent whose story or feeding journey looks like anyone else’s.”
Instead, Bobbie is going after a separate category: mothers who can’t breastfeed and have so far either gone with mass-market products or tried to import better-quality formula from abroad. It’s a market that’s quickly catching the eye of investors, with competitor Nara Organics set to debut soon, and with both companies joining the 10-year-old Medolac, which makes donor milk-based products.
The product falls squarely into two popular investor categories of the moment: millennial parenthood and changing food supply, says Greg McAdoo, partner at Bobbie’s lead investor, Bolt Capital. “Consumers read labels now. Until millennials started having kids, it didn’t matter much in the world of food for babies and food for kids. Now that millennials are having kids, they’re applying the same sensibility to the food that they buy for their kids,” McAdoo says.
Indeed, startups have already dived into baby food, from Little Spoon to Jennifer Garner’s Once Upon a Farm. Formula is a more complicated product—one that comes with both stigma and regulation. “We are entering a space we know is stigmatized,” Modi says. “It’s really important for people to understand where we’re coming from. We’re not trying to get people at the hospital bed.”
Bobbie’s subscription service will only be available in the San Francisco Bay Area for now, but the founders hope to go national in the fall. The company will have “milkmen” who deliver the product to first-time subscribers. And the typical Silicon Valley model of content alongside a subscription makes sense for a product often surrounded by misinformation and lobbying groups, says Vanessa Larco, an investor with NEA who hasn’t invested in Bobbie but has spent time researching the formula space
WITH ITS TRANSLUCENT, STICK-ON ACNE PATCHES, ZITSTICKA WANTS TO CHANGE THE WAY WE PERCEIVE OUR SKIN
The conversation around acne is changing. Thanks to recent films such as Eighth Grade and Lady Bird, which have brought some much-needed visibility to adolescent breakouts, and individuals like Justin Bieber, who last year declared “pimples are in” to his 103 million Instagram follower, and Louisa Northcote whose #freethepimple movement champions positive acne representation on social media, the stigma surrounding acne is slowly starting to dissipate.
And now, the conversation has turned to the way we actually treat acne. In the past, when it came to clearing acne your options included serious medical treatments – your antibiotics, your Accutanes, your contraceptive pills – or a selection of drugstore products marketed towards young teens. In both cases, the messaging largely implied that having acne meant there was something wrong with you that needed treating. But things are starting to change. Enter Australian-born skincare brand ZitSticka.
Coming from a background of science – pharmaceuticals, skincare and tech for Robbie Miller, and human biology for co-founder and brother-in-law Daniel Kaplan – and both having experienced acne themselves, Miller and Kaplan found themselves uniquely suited to create a solution to their – and our – pimple woes. This solution turned out to be “KILLA,” a penetrative stick-on patch that uses microdart technology to prick the affected area of skin and deposit acne-fighting ingredients beyond the epidermal layer, straight into the zit’s nucleus. Transparent and virtually undetectable, the patch can be worn throughout the day which Miller and Kaplan hope will help further the normalisation of acne and encourage people to accept pimples as a part of everyday life that you shouldn’t be ashamed of. This dedication to promoting open dialogue around acne has also manifested in a blog “The Spot,” where they educate readers on skincare in a relatable way, and their “Zitty Committee” where members such as Munroe Bergdorf open up about their skincare journey.
“Our dream is for people to be proud of posting pictures of them in their ZitSticka. The only way to truly help insecurities is to talk about how normal it is,” says Miller. We caught up with Miller and Kaplan to find out more about their journey.
What is the story behind ZitSticka? Daniel Kaplan: The way that it happened was that I got a massive boil on my bum, golf ball size. Then a year later I felt that it was coming back, and the person I saw at the pharmacy told me that I should use Ichthammol which is a drawing salve but it stains everything it touches. It is extremely black and tarry and so he said to place a plaster on top so it doesn’t stain anything. After using this, it was quite literally a lightbulb moment that whenever I get a spot in my life I am going to put a plaster over it. The only person I ever made one for was Robbie, to which he was like ‘let’s just do this!’ and that was how it happened! We looked into the field and found there were no other stickers that actually impregnate a zit with the ingredients, they simply sit on top and after a lot of research, we created ZitSticka.
What did you think was lacking in the industry that you wanted to address with the brand? Robbie Miller: We couldn’t understand how there was no such thing as an impregnated acne patch, with acne fighting ingredients, on the market. We started looking at different technologies that were out there. There were stickers, called Hydroclode stickers, that are used for a very distinct stage of a zit’s life cycle, it’s when you have a pimple right at a head and it uses osmosis to draw moisture out of the skin. The problem with that is that it can only be used at a very distinct stage – the end. So, you have to go through an extended time of suffering, of having a pimple physically and emotionally until it’s at the right stage. So, we obviously did so much research speaking to our target audience about what they are doing, it was amazing how many people had given up with current treatments on the market and how many people were trying crazy, different things because they didn’t know what else to do. And so, we understood that in order to become efficacious we had to get beneath the surface, straight to the source of the infection.
KILLA is ZitSticka’s debut product. Can you explain what it is? How do you use it and how does it work? Robbie Miller: KILLA is a penetrative stick-on patch that uses microdart technology to directly deposit acne-fighting ingredients into early stage spots to halt zit formation in its tracks. The adhesive backing encloses the early-stage zit to protect the vulnerable area and keep it sterile. Each patch contains 24 self-dissolving microdarts which prick the affected area (there’s a satisfying pricking sensation) and penetrate active product beyond the epidermal layer, straight into the zit’s nucleus. In just two hours acne-causing bacteria is killed and the size and redness of the zit is noticeably reduced. Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinamide (B3), and Salicylic Acid are paired with the gentle bacteria busting peptide, Oligopeptide-76 to quickly and effectively prevent acne outbreaks.
What ingredients are used? Daniel Kaplan: KILLA is all about disinfecting the pimple, so there’s an anti-microbial peptide called OLIGO-Peptide 76, which is a disinfectant that kills the acne-causing bacteria. Next, we have Vitamin B3 for anti-inflammation which reduces redness, swelling, even pain. Salicylic acid is included as an exfoliant to unclog pores and then finally we have Hyaluronic Acid which acts as the delivery system for the ingredients themselves, it’s the carrier, but it also helps moisturize the area and flush the area of any build up that was there before which is nice.
Do you worry by offering a product that treats acne, you reinforce the stigma? Robbie Miller: Not at all, I think our brand actually does the opposite. We aren’t a simple medicinal brand that shows old-fashioned before and afters – we are a millennial brand that is effective, but also encouraging, and hopefully, we can help to de-stigmatize the conversation. Our dream is for people to be proud of posting pictures of them in their ZitSticka. The only way to truly help insecurities is to talk about how normal it is!
How do you hope to change the conversation? Can acne be rebranded? Robbie Miller: When acne is spoken about it’s not that authentic, it’s a bit soppy and extremely sad – and it can be but we want to make it like how we talk about wrinkles, or other pigmentation – a part of life. I think bringing a touch of humour or wittiness into it, to say that we all get it, we all suffer from it – but let’s now talk about it and address it – you know when you look at the traditional acne treatments in the market – just from the packaging below it’s very boring. It’s either extremely medicinal or very young looking – for teens and young kids. So, we wanted to beautify acne treatments, so it looked like it’s part of your beauty cupboard, and for the first time you can be proud of your acne treatment, and that’s all part of normalizing this conversation that we all get it.
What do you hope to achieve with the brand? Where do you see the brand evolving? Daniel Kaplan: On a functional level, our debut product was conceived to resolve the notoriously hard-to-resolve underground, cystic, hormonal spot. The brand will evolve (very soon!) into a more complete suite of products that focus on both the prevention and resolution of zits. All the while, we want to beautify pimple routines and bring aesthetic value to a space that’s traditionally not been joyful to engage with.
How are you planning on creating a skin-positive community? Robbie Miller: We’re intent on starting a different conversation around acne; one with more transparency that normalizes acne. In being more vulnerable about spots, we think it’s possible to cultivate a community in which people feel more empowered to treat them. Our tone of voice is really foundational in this—we’re interested in talking to people like people; the same way they talk to their friends. Humour can’t be underestimated either—we’re at once proposing that zits are an entirely normal and non-shameful phenomenon, but that we can help you get rid of them.
What are you working on at the moment? Daniel Kaplan: The first couple of months as a new brand in the (sensitive, contentious) acne space have been very interesting—there’s an extremely concentrated level of democratic feedback to observe, process and act on. Having listened intently to dialogue around our debut product and the space at large, we can reveal only that our next product was fueled heavily by social desires—expect to see it mid-2019.
What do you see as the greatest triumphs of and tribulations facing the skincare industry? Daniel Kaplan: The biggest triumph of all is surely transforming an industry traditionally considered frivolous and superficial into one that empowers women. It also goes without saying that brands like Fenty have led the way in bringing inclusivity to beauty (side-note! We’ve manufactured our patch to be worn discreetly on a range of skin tones). In terms of tribulations, marketing as a whole can be hugely confusing, though people can immediately feel aligned with beautiful, clean packaging—something brands take advantage of. Jargon is abundant, and the consumer isn’t always clear on her or his needs with respect to a product’s USPs.