Startup Perfect Corp outshines Kao to clinch first prize at the Inaugural Japan BeautyTech Awards
istyle Inc. hosted the inaugural Japan BeautyTech Awards on December 11th in 2019 which was followed by panel discussions comprising the winners and other finalists. Here`s our report.
The Japan BeautyTech Awards were established with the aim of recognizing the best of services, technologies, and products of the beauty tech industry for that year. At the opening speech of the ceremony, CEO and President of istyle Inc. Tetsuro Yoshimatsu, highlighted the potential waiting to be ignited in the beauty tech field and explained how the aim of the awards was to further spread recognition of beauty tech.
The judging committee consisted of five industry figures active in various fields who judged the candidates based on the four areas of innovation, business feasibility, technology, and popularity. The ten finalists that passed the paper round went through a further screening process that involved presentations. Head of the judging committee Takaaki Umezawa revealed that with the high level of quality the judges had to hold a follow-up meeting to agree on the winners and also decided to increase the number of special awards.
Here is a list of the winning companies and those that clinched special awards.
[First Prize] Perfect Corp. for their consumer-targeted AR makeup app YouCam Makeup and business-targeted AR makeup beauty solutions
Perfect has been creating new customer experiences while also bringing changes to and increasing the efficiency of the beauty industry’s marketing processes. They were praised for the sheer number of companies already using their services — over 200 brands worldwide including major corporations. The judging committee also commented that Perfect’s stance on continuing to operate as the industry’s top runner, such as by challenging the next generation of personalization, has made them particularly suitable as the first prize winner.
At the award ceremony, Perfect Corp’s President and GM Yorinobu Isozaki explained how his company’s AR app had been carefully designed with UX (user experience) taking priority. This has involved closely following and responding to users’ honest feedback to fine-tune functions — for example, they found that simply adding an extra tap to the app’s menus could make the usage rate decline.
Perfect is currently also working on their next step, Beauty 360°, that will realize an even richer user experience through integrating AR, AI and omnichannel. This service fundamentally aims to offer customers a variety of experiences that show off the features and unique points of Perfect’s client brands, and the company emphasized that in order to do this the project will be expanded further from here on.
With the first prize trophy in hand, Isozaki said he felt honored that his company’s AR/AI solutions services and its goal of contributing to expanding the beauty industry were being recognized with the award. As an expression of his joy at winning, he concluded his speech by saying that along with continuing to develop and bring about services that will delight consumers he hoped that “a startup like us receiving such an award will lead to further attention towards the great number of startups in this industry and also the revitalization of the industry as a whole.”
[Second Prize] Kao Corporation for their fine fiber technology
Kao’s fine fiber technology, which has been realized through the skillful combination of cosmetics manufacturing technology and fiber manufacturing and raw material technology, has laid the significant groundwork that has the potential to rewrite the rulebook of the skincare market. A member of the judging committee mentioned that the decision to give Kao the award was due to the superiority of the technology compared to similar techniques, as well as the limitless possibilities it holds to be able to expand to a wide variety of products not just in the cosmetics field.
From December 4th, products that make use of Kao’s fine fibers were released, starting from Kao’s “est” and Kanebo Cosmetics’ “SENSAI” brand. These will involve a new type of nighttime skincare that includes ultrathin film discharged from a diffuser and a specialized beauty essence.
In the panel discussion that took place after the awards ceremony, the audience was given the chance to try out the diffuser and experience the ultra-fine fibers being spurt directly onto their skin to form an ultrathin film. The appearance of the film is instantly formed into something that looked just like skin aroused awe from the audience, and many expressed wonder at the natural feeling of the film on their skin (as if not wearing anything) and the way it could easily be peeled off.
In relation to the win, Kao’s operating officer and head of skincare research Hitoshi Hosokawa reflected on the long and bumpy journey it had taken to finally reach commercialization of the technology, and said that the award will provide great encouragement to the researchers at Kao. After also mentioning that “innovations” are labeled as such because they change the way people live and that this fine fiber technology finally stood on such a pedestal, Hosokawa pledged to devote himself to his work even more from here on.
[Special Award] Fermenstation Co., Ltd. for their sustainable cosmetics ingredients made with unused resources and fermentation
The company Fermenstation was praised unanimously by the judges for its cutting edge ability to produce the critical cosmetics ingredient ethanol through organic materials and the future potential of their unique projects that incorporate sustainability and consideration for the environment.
The company, which manufactures and sells premium ethanol extracted from organic rice grown in paddy fields used to be fallow, traces ingredients for cosmetics with moisturizing effects (such as moisture retention from hyaluronic acid) in the unrefined rice dregs that result from after squeezing out the ethanol. Along with selling these raw ingredients and making plans for OEM, they’ve also launched their own cosmetics brand. Also, by providing the rice dregs as feed to poultry farms and livestock raisers, they’ve helped to create a circular ecosystem for regional industries.
CEO of Fermenstation Lina Sakai said that her company had intended to make biofuel out of the large volumes of raw garbage they were throwing out, but as it wasn’t financially advantageous and they found it hard to gain partners, they instead focused on diverting to the world of cosmetics and opened a way towards commercialization. As of recent, in other companies in Japan to there has been an awakening towards dealing with SGDs (sustainable development goals) and the times are finally starting to catch up with the ideas of Fermenstation.
[Special Award] Lily MedTech Inc. for their diagnostic ultrasound imaging system for breast scanning without pain or radiation exposure
Lily MedTech’s diagnostic ultrasound imaging system for scanning breasts, “Ring Eco”, received a great amount of attention and praise from the judges due to the fact that with the extremely high technological standards, they have the potential to produce a product which will breath new life into the global standards of breast cancer diagnoses, with higher quality at lower prices. The technology was also praised as being outstandingly original and a pacesetter.
Lily MedTech’s system is femtech that greatly improves users’ (patients’) QOL. It surpasses painful mammography techniques and overcomes the issues of traditional ultrasonic testing which have been plagued with uneven precision levels in diagnoses. By simply having users lie facedown on a bed for around 10 minutes, the breast can be fully scanned in 3D and no pain needs are involved. Many are hoping earnestly for its quick manifestation as a Japanese-created technology that can help women around the globe.
According to CEO Shiho Azuma, Lily MedTech is currently at the stage of preparing for the product’s application for approval as a medical instrument with the goal of bringing it to market within the next two years. Azuma plans to work on spreading access to the product — including setting up systems in developing countries to offer the service at low cost — with the objective being a society where anyone is able to easily take a breast cancer test.
What fashion AI can achieve
In the talk session that was held after the awards ceremony, three finalists spoke about their initiatives.
Newrope Co. Ltd. is developing AI that can perform image recognition and fashion coordination based on data accumulated through their individually-run media platform “#CBK”. This AI is then utilized mainly in its online apparel store as a recommendation engine. CEO Satoshi Sakai revealed that in the field of fashion, where new trends come and go at an alarming rate, “there’s a need to continually take in new data” and the work involved in tagging images — in order to create data to teach AI — continues to be done by humans.
Also, a project that Newrope is currently putting their energies into and that was entered into the Japan BeautyTech Awards competition is in the field of merchandising support which involves trend analysis and demand prediction.
Apparel waste — that occurs due to an abundance of SKUs (Stock Keeping Units), keeping clothes specialized to particular seasons, and long lead times between ordering and stocking goods in-store — continues to be a large problem in the industry. It becomes a burden for both the environment and companies, and the problem also weighs heavily on consumers as well. In working towards solutions, Newrope is currently pursuing initiatives such as quantifying clothes using image analysis on photos on social media and implementing adequate order volumes and pricing based on a statistical analysis of companies’ previous profit information.
Personalizing with the help of customers
Talking about Unilever Japan https://www.unilever.co.jp’s in-house venture, the personalized shampoo Laborica , was Keita Uchino, a researcher at the Laborica research institute and head of marketing and selling. Having realized that specific samples made as test shampoos daily in the lab had the potential to match the needs of someone in the world, they came up with a personalized product that is sent directly from the lab to consumers.
With Laborica shampoo formulas are calculated that are optimized to each customer based on a hair diagnosis consisting of around 30 questions, however, there are still a number of customers who on the first time using the product say that it’s not suited to them as much as they thought. Uchino believes that this is down to a gap between the hair quality that users think they have and the state of their actual hair in terms of dryness and the level of damage.
With this rationale, they’ve been able to have users continue using the product for a second and third time while making adjustments based on their feedback, and through this way, they’ve been able to gradually offer an experience that’s closer to what the users prefer and improve the impression of the brand. As Uchino said, “by having users experience the fun of cultivating something special for themselves, we’re able to raise the LTV”. Laborica is a case study that suggests what true personalization in products can potentially become.
The forming of user-led communities
What two different people think of as “cute” tend to be two different things. Therefore, to find what a person really desires and recommended something new to them, you need to accumulate sufficient data regarding their preferences. A company that is aiming to do this is uni’que Inc. which runs YourNail , a service for made-to-order original nail stickers that allows users to easily make their own designs via an app.
Uni’que is also building up a strong user-led community which already has over 120,000 postings. According to PR representative Tomomi Yabata who spoke at the event, “users themselves answer the community’s questions and comments in place of regular operators”, and a setup where the service is created together with the community, led mainly by popular users who upload about 10 designs per day, is what has led YourNail to its current success.
As well as this, uni’que are also actively getting involved in collaborations with other companies to spread their business even further, such as a service in partnership with Bandai Spirits that allows users to order anime character-decorated nail designs.
Tetsuro Yoshimatsu, CEO of istyle which hosted the Japan BeautyTech Awards, told of the significance of establishing these awards that honor beauty tech right at the turning point of 20 years since @cosme began services, and expressed his desire to cultivate these awards so that there will be many more applications from candidates in the future.
Text: Ching Li Tor
Original text (Japanese): Ayako Sogo