GlamSt: Your Virtual Make Up Bar to Try On Make Up from Anywhere
Drawers full of unused makeup…whether you are a woman or have lived with one, you’re likely familiar with that land of the lost where all the wrong shades go to congeal. GlamST is a 500 Startups tech startup that wants to change that by helping beauty brands guide women into making confident choices about makeup purchases. The startup process gave co-founder and CEO Agustina Sartori insights any entrepreneur can leverage for success.
Sartori launched GlamST nearly four years ago in her native Uruguay with Carolina Bañales. The two friends developed an app allowing Millennial consumers to try out makeup on selfies before buying. The company’s product isn’t the first virtual makeup app on the market; however the company differentiates itself by tailoring the technology to help brands make consumer sales.
“[Brands] want women to use the app to make the right choice on the right makeup. It’s a tool that helps the consumer buy and it helps the brand sell more — and sell the right product,” says Sartori.
The tech startup, which counts Dior, Maybelline, Clarins, Dufry and Kohl’s among its clients, customizes the app experience for the retailer or brand, integrating each company’s products with precise shade matching and realistic images. Retail shoppers access the GlamST app using in-store tablets or by working with app-assisted associates, while e-commerce consumers access it through a retailer’s website.
Here are the lessons Satori learned along the journey of building GlamST that she shared with us.
1. Learn the right question to ask investors.
While it’s critical for entrepreneurs to have a pitch nailed down, the foundation for funding success is to ask the one question many founders don’t ask. Sartori recounts meeting with one investor several times. She says, “In every meeting, I asked: ‘What do we need to do for you to invest in our company?’”
The investor told her precisely what she needed to garner his trust: two U.S. clients and seven in the pipeline. That response, Sartori says, was “something tangible I could work for.” He invested in GlamST after she returned to him with two U.S. clients — and 10 in the pipeline.
She says entrepreneurs can be very focused on their solutions and what their startup offers; yet success is often a matter of asking the question that allows you to see your company from the investor’s perspective so you can make the right adjustments.
2. Play to your advantages.
Like any tech startup, the GlamST team has hit snags on its journey. For example, when Sartori first launched funding efforts in the U.S., she says her non-American status raised questions among some potential investors. Yet the entrepreneur, who now works in the U.S., says she’s been able to parlay her international business experience into a global perspective.
“Identify your advantage and how you can convey it to others so the disadvantages you have just fade away,” Sartori says. For example, she identified additional advantages by asking herself questions like: How fast can we work? How quickly can we launch a new feature? How seamlessly can we integrate our app into a brand’s existing tech infrastructure? Pinpointing and executing advantages can mold a startup into a nimbler company attractive to investors and clients alike.
3. Make community a priority.
The entrepreneur showed investors her beauty-based business was more than skin deep by actively participating in the startup community. Sartori invested increasing amounts of face time in Silicon Valley, and GlamST was accepted into 500 Startups, an early-stage seed fund and startup accelerator program.
She believes this type of community involvement, whether it’s joining an established accelerator or attending startup workshops, helps validate an emerging business. It demonstrates to investors that “you’re part of the circle, part of the community, and that you understand what’s going on.”
4. Know what you don’t know.
“Mentorship is key for building a company, for you as a person, and also as a learning experience for the areas that you really don’t know much about,” says Sartori, who has worked with mentors throughout GlamST’s development.
So what’s the first step to finding the right mentor? She recommends identifying the areas in which you’re weakest, and then pinpointing business and startup community members who can help you navigate each stage of your company’s growth. “These are people who know more than you, and you need people who can guide you,” says the entrepreneur.
5. Give back to the startup community.
Sartori does more than leverage what she’s learned to grow a successful tech startup; she shares that knowledge with others. She says, “A lot of people changed my life and my company because of one piece of advice they gave me. And things are different today because of that advice.”
So she gives back by speaking to startup groups and talking with entrepreneurs on a one-to-one level. Sartori also has a vision to help her own community. “Now, my next step is to see how to help the Latino community in the U.S. [Latino men and women] who came 30 years ago looking for opportunities gave their children the possibility to make change and become innovators — they just need the right advice.”
The GlamST CEO believes it’s important for all founders to find ways to share their own insights and know-how with other entrepreneurs. Sartori says, “When you give, things come back. Identify who you can help. There’s always someone you can help.”