“NakedPoppy launches curated beauty marketplace for wellness junkies - TechCrunch” plus 2 more

“NakedPoppy launches curated beauty marketplace for wellness junkies - TechCrunch” plus 2 more

NakedPoppy launches curated beauty marketplace for wellness junkies - TechCrunch

Posted: 30 Jul 2019 06:00 AM PDT

NakedPoppy co-founders Jaleh Bisharat and Kimberly Shenk are an impressive duo. Bisharat, the startup's chief executive officer, is a commanding presence and a bona fide marketing savant. The perfect compliment to Shenk, a reticent and data-focused chief product officer.

Together they're building a cosmetics startup, NakedPoppy, where people can purchase high-quality "clean" makeup, or sustainable, ethically-made and cruelty-free products produced without harmful chemicals. It launches today with $4 million in venture capital backing from top investors, including Cowboy Ventures (the seed-stage fund led by Aileen Lee), Felicis Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Maveron, Polaris Ventures and Slow Ventures.

"Conventional makeup is considered hazardous waste by the EPA," Bisharat tells TechCrunch. "You can look better and go clean."

But NakedPoppy isn't just another website for buying makeup. Like all companies today, it's a tech company. NakedPoppy's patent-pending personalization algorithm helps customers quickly find makeup that matches or complements their skin tone. To do this, customers are asked to complete a three-minute assessment and submit a photo of their wrist, which is used to pinpoint their base skin color.

NakedPoppy assessment

"I'm not the person that is up to trends or is keeping up with the YouTube stars,"  NakedPoppy's product chief Shenk tells TechCrunch. "When I walk into Sephora my stomach drops … I am the kind of woman that wants to set it and forget it. Just give me the right thing and let's move on."

Bisharat adds that NakedPoppy targets the busy woman: "The one for whom it's not entertainment to go shopping for makeup."

The NakedPoppy team hopes its algorithm expedites the makeup shopping process for those who view the task as a chore not a hobby. Accounting for skin type, skin color, skin undertone, age, eye color, hair color, allergies, sensitivities and more, the startup presents each customer a filtered and tailored list of the 400 items its carries, ranging from lipsticks to foundation to blush and more. Cosmetic chemists screen all NakedPoppy products to ensure they were made with only clean ingredients.

Alongside its official launch, NakedPoppy is announcing its debut original product: Liquid eyeliner. The product was screened and tested by a number of clean beauty experts and even a VC: "This is a hero product, no doubt about it," BBG Ventures' managing partner Susan Lyne said in a statement. Lyne, of course, is a NakedPoppy angel investor. "Most eyeliners start drying out after a few weeks and get harder to apply. This one is still as supple as the day I got it. It looks natural, lasts all day and washes off easily with soap. It's pretty perfect."

For the record, I tried out the NakedPoppy eyeliner too and can attest to its greatness.

NakedPoppy founders

NakedPoppy co-founders Jaleh Bisharat (CEO, left) and Kimberly Shenk (CPO, right).

The women behind NakedPoppy, as I alluded to earlier, know what they're doing. In fact, I'd go as far as to say they could've paired their marketing and data science expertise to build just about anything. Makeup, however, was their shared passion.

"For us, it's a personal passion and an area of information asymmetry, like most people know that with the food you eat, you should try to eat organic or as healthy as you can, but you'd be surprised how few women — they just assume the FDA protects them," Bisharat said. "The idea is to educate the world and help women move toward new solutions."

Bisharat got her start in marketing two decades ago. Shortly after the e-commerce giant went public, she served as the vice president of marketing at Amazon. A career peak for many, Bisharat went on to lead marketing efforts at OpenTable, Jawbone, UpWork and, most recently, Eventbrite, where she met Shenk.

Before moving into the private sector, Shenk got her start as a data scientist in the U.S. Air Force, ultimately ending up as the director of data science at the now-public ticketing and events business, Eventbrite.

10 NakedPoppy Pouch

Bisharat and Shenk remained mum on what marketing tactics they'll deploy to capture the attention of potential customers. Will they partner with social media influencers to spread the word? Double down on Instagram ads? Open brick-and-mortar shops? They wouldn't say. Additional original products are definitely in the works, though, as is a foray into skincare and ultimately, a full-fledged dive into all self-care products.

The hope is to making buying clean makeup easy. Historically, the big makeup brands have been owned and operated by one of a dozen or so large companies dominating the space. Increasingly, however, direct-to-consumer brands and startups, most notably Glossier, have attracted customers that prioritize ease-of-access.

As the beauty industry adjusts, an influx of digital-first upstarts, NakedPoppy included, will be poised to steal market share from the long-reigning giants. Perhaps NakedPoppy's push toward transparency in ingredients and production will encourage the big brands to do the same.

Electric toothbrush startup Quip launches dental insurance alternative - MedCity News

Posted: 09 Jul 2019 12:00 AM PDT

New York startup Quip – known for its line of consumer oral care products including toothpaste and electric toothbrushes – has launched a new pay-as-you-go alternative to dental insurance called Quipcare.

The service aims to be a more transparent system to purchase dental care that allows users to see pre-negotiated rates for procedures from dentists in the Quipcare network and book appointments through a mobile app.

Quipcare is free to join, but there is a upgraded option called Quipcare+, which offers additional preventive services like annual checkups and professional teeth cleaning for a $25 monthly fee.

Without Quipcare+ users are required to purchase these services a la carte for a flat booking fee. A comprehensive check-up, which includes a dental exam, teeth cleaning and x-rays costs $295 in the company's launch market of New York City. A list of example prices for common procedures can be seen here.

"We want you to be able to browse providers, see what the transparent rates are and really book and pay through our platform," said Jeffrey Rappaport, Quip's director of care.

The company claims to be able to provide services at prices 30 to 40 percent less than average area rates.

Still, the monthly cost of Quipcare+ is comparable to existing dental insurance premiums. But the company pitches its product as a way to provide access to dental care to the more than 70 million people who currently don't have dental insurance through a less confusing and tech-enabled system.

Another potential market are patients who have access to basic dental insurance, but have reached annual maximum rates or who are looking to pay for procedures that don't fall under their covered benefits.

"Traditional dental insurance can be confusing with deductibles and co-payments and premiums that don't tell the full story. Transparency isn't exactly what you're getting," Rappaport said.

"We want to be able to give the members the confidence that we're curating a network of best-in-class providers, not just someone who fills out an application."

A nationwide rollout of the Quipcare will start in 2020 and the startup hopes to expand the types of services, plans and payment options available to meet the needs of both individuals and employers.

One opportunity could be in offering clear teeth aligners, helping Quip enter the lucrative market populated by upstart companies like SmileDirectClub, Candid Co. and SmileLove. Rappaport said the company also plans to eventually provide dental care offerings to small and medium-sized companies.

Quip was started in 2014 with its main business focused on monthly subscription sales of vibrating electric toothbrushes and associated oral health products. Founded by product designers Simon Enever and Bill May, the company has raised more than $60 million in venture and debt financing, including a a $40 million VC round last year led by Sherpa Capital to help build out Quipcare.

The company works with dentists as a distribution channel for its products through its "Dental Connect," which helps work as a marketing strategy for providers while reminding Quip customers to visit the dentist at regular intervals.

Quip entered the dental services business through its 2018 acquisition of Afora, a New York-based dental care membership plan co-founded by Rappaport that was the precursor to Quipcare. Afora was the first company to join Quip Labs, the startup's internal incubator for innovative oral health products and services.

The company isn't alone at looking to modernize the staid dental benefits system. New York startup Level launched earlier this year aiming to help small and medium sized businesses transition to a self-funded dental benefits model supported by a more consumer-friendly technology platform.

Picture: Nastasic, Getty Images

Mobile-First Trading Platform Robinhood Raises $323 Million In Series E Financing - Crunchbase News

Posted: 22 Jul 2019 12:00 AM PDT

Unless you were some hotshot finance person in the 1980s, you probably only recently started using your mobile phone to place trades. Unlike in the 1987 film, Wall Street, you don't need to hold a cinder block-sized cell phone up to your head to talk to a down-and-out stockbroker willing to claw their way to the top. (Spoiler alert.)

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Today your broker is probably an API which wears a user interface to work in a mobile app to do your bidding. Finance is still all handshakes and signatures, but now they're between server and client and sealed cryptographically.

Robinhood makes one of these apps. Based in San Francisco, the company is among the leading contenders looking to unseat established online brokerages by offering commission fee-free trading, asset classes including options and cryptocurrencies, and other features largely aimed at new investors.

In a brief press release posted to the company's blog, Robinhood announced it has raised $323 million in Series E financing, valuing the company at $7.6 billion, post-money. That valuation is upward of 36 percent higher than the company secured following its Series D round announced in May 2018.

Including this round, Robinhood has raised $862 million in venture backing since it was founded in 2013, according to Crunchbase data.


DST Global led the Series E financing as a returning investor; the firm, founded by Russian tech billionaire Yuri Milner, led both Robinhood's Series C and Series D rounds. The company said that New Enterprise Associates, Sequoia Capital, Ribbit Capital, and Thrive Capital participated in the funding round.

Since its last round a little over a year ago, Robinhood says it's made significant business progress. The upstart exchange platform rolled out its own clearing platform, launched a premium subscription offering with enriched market data provided by Nasdaq, and introduced multi-leg options strategies to its users. In March, Robinhood acquired MarketSnacks (now "Robinhood Snacks") to start its own in-house financial news publication.

"We'll use the funding to keep pursuing our mission of democratizing finance for all," the company said.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

PowerPlant Ventures announced today that it has closed an oversubscribed fund to invest in plant-based food technology companies

The new fund, dubbed Axon Ventures, will focus on backing "technology projects with the potential to transform the healthcare sector."

Clearbanc has raised a $50 million Series B, and created a third fund to invest equity-free in companies.

So, what's going on with WeWork and its software buys? Let's examine the situation.


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