How often does this happen? You walk into a department store and, in passing the makeup counters, you’re drawn to stop and let yourself be prettified by the sales assistants who want to demonstrate their products.
After their expert ministrations, you walk away feeling and looking glamorous, with a bagful of new goodies and a distinctly lighter wallet — but when you get home you find that you can’t quite replicate the new look.
That happened to Mira Awwad-Khreish, a 32-year old entrepreneur who always loved wearing makeup but “never really managed to get along” with what she’d been tempted to buy.
“It is crucial to know how to use the products, because otherwise you just don’t use them,” Awwad-Khreish said in an interview.
The management consultant-turned-entrepreneur is the co-founder and CEO of Mirrori, a startup developing an artificial intelligence-based beauty assistant that provides personalized advice and tutorials for users via smartphones, based on their facial features and using their own beauty products.
The idea for the technology arose from Awwad-Khreish’s frustration with lipsticks, eyeliners and everything in between. To overcome her lack of expertise, Awwad-Khreish took a makeup training workshop a year and a half ago.
“I spent an hour and a half to learn to get just one look and in the process I bought 15 new products that cost me NIS 2,000 ($555),” she said with a laugh. “I realized that that was a waste, and I felt there was an unmet need in the market.”
Studying the matter, she found pretty stunning results: over a lifetime, a woman spends some $50,000 on makeup products and four months applying them, she said, based on her research and her market estimates.
Seventy percent of women say they are overwhelmed by the number of beauty products available — and they tend to use just five out of the 40 products they have at home, she said. Most of these redundant products just go to waste.
So Awwad-Khreish, who now lives in Haifa but is originally from Nazareth, set out to develop the AI assistant. Incidentally, she wears only a very light layer of makeup herself.
“We want to help women consume beauty in a smarter way,” she said, “by creating a personal assistant to help her look her best, every day, with the makeup she already has at home.”
Not having a background in makeup or in tech, Awwad-Khreish — who graduated with an MBA from Tel Aviv University and most recently worked as a principal and leader of the consumer goods vertical at Tel Aviv-based strategic consultancy TASC — set out to find partners.
She mapped out the best makeup schools in Israel and approached Yarin Shahaf, who owns a school in Tel Aviv that teaches thousands of professionals how to apply makeup on customers. “He connected with the idea of women who buy and toss” and happily agreed to join the venture as a strategic partner, Awwad-Khreish said.
She then hunted for a tech-savvy partner and teamed up with Matan Sela, who has a PhD in computer science from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and specializes in artificial intelligence and computer vision, facial recognition, face 3D reconstruction and gaze tracking. He joined the team as a co-founder and chief technology officer.
Together, they are developing technology that mimics the brain of a makeup artist, and uses facial recognition algorithms and computer vision to define the facial attributes of users and find the best looks for them.
To use Mirrori, users take a selfie, share their existing beauty collection and choose their desired look out of sample looks provided to them by the assistant, from dramatic to light. Mirrori extracts the user’s facial features from the selfie and identifies the user’s beauty inventory. It then generates personalized advice and step-by-step how-to tutorials for achieving the look.
Mirrori plans to offer its advice and tutorials for free, with revenues coming from commissions from makeup retailers or brands from the sale of beauty products to users of the app who want to upgrade their looks with new cosmetics.
Mirrori recently got a grant from the Israel Innovation Authority to further develop the product, and hopes to launch the makeup assistant toward the end of this year. The team tested out responses to the assistant via a Facebook campaign and “interest was high,” said Awwad-Khreish.
Competing companies may be doing similar things, Awwad-Khreish said, but not targeting the same need.
Revieve, for example, offers a business-to-business solution that helps brands and retailers provide personalized beauty product recommendations and advice. Amazon is also marketing its Echo Look, a hands-free camera and style assistant with Alexa, which takes a head to toe picture and six-second videos of users, to provide feedback on outfits, though not makeup.
Mirrori’s competitive advantage is based on its “brand-neutrality,” meaning that it is not intent on pushing just one brand to users, and its focus on the post-purchase stage, meaning utilizing the products already owned by its users, Awwad-Khreish said.