Scrum Ventures
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Scrum Ventures

Sequential Skin: Why We Invested

By Ryan Mendoza

Around the world, people have re-prioritized their health and wellness over the last few years, and many have increasingly sought out health and beauty products to counteract the effects of stress, lifestyle, and other environmental factors on their physical wellbeing. The skincare market — existing right at the intersection of healthcare and beauty — has already seen significant growth as a result.

Now, however, personalization is poised to transform the industry for good. While personalized products aren’t completely new or unique to skincare, the combination of improved biotechnology and direct-to-consumer (DTC) offerings may have turned a temporary trend into a complete paradigm shift across the industry.

Scrum Ventures’ investment team had already been paying close attention to emerging skincare technology when we first came across Sequential Skin. Focusing on the skin microbiome, the startup’s approach to skincare personalization immediately caught our attention.

As we learned more, we realized that the Sequential Skin co-founders Dr. Oliver Worsley and Dr. Albert Dashi were developing technology that could revolutionize skincare:

During Oliver and I’s background in research, we saw a lot of good science being left in the lab. We’re passionate to do something about this — and help bring science to everyday people. –Dr. Albert Dashi, Sequential Skin CSO

Seeing the potential: True personalization and customer-centricity

When evaluating Sequential Skin, our decision to invest came down to two factors:

  1. The incredible potential of true personalization. (And that’s exactly what we believe their team has achieved with their skin test.)
  2. Their customer-centric approach to product development.

Given the rapid growth and competition in the skincare market, we knew that a startup centered on skincare personalization would need founders with both technical expertise and an entrepreneurial mindset.

In our experience, founders don’t always need startup or industry-specific experience to succeed. In fact, newcomers often bring a fresh perspective that enables the kind of innovation that disrupts industries.

In this case, the Sequential Skin founders already had technical expertise that has been essential for their success. But in addition to their extensive experience in molecular science, genetics, and microbiome research, they also kept in close communication with customers and were able to process and apply their feedback quickly before moving on to the next challenge.

As a result, they’ve not only developed an incredibly thorough skin analysis that delivers actionable results, but they’ve also been able to use customer input to develop a highly defensible product portfolio.

How the Sequential Skin patch measures up

Compared to others on the market, the Sequential Skin report provides an unmatched breakdown of an individual’s skin profile. Their test assesses the skin’s microbiome, the combination of microorganisms that affect the biochemical environment on the skin’s surface, as well as environmental impacts and current skin issues.

By addressing this combination of factors, the resulting report can tell consumers the current health and age profile of their skin, as well as the impact that their environment has on their skin.

As Dr. Oliver Worsley, Sequential Skin CEO, explains, “We’ve spent the last three years working with customers to understand their skin concerns, as well as with our skincare director Petronille, to make sure the information we give is actionable and functional.”

Other companies also offer skin test kits that can be sent to your home, but the results they provide often can only tell consumers their skin’s condition based on a few high-level metrics, such as whether their skin is dehydrated. Additionally, these results usually aren’t quantitative, which provides consumers with very limited guidance on what to do to improve their skin health.

There are also tools that use camera-based technology to assess the skin’s condition. Some companies use camera-based technology to assess the skin — either using apps that can access a smartphone camera or external cameras that attach to smartphones. This approach works best for diagnostic use cases.

This technology can be a useful tool for remote dermatology care, but unlike Sequential Skin’s analysis, these results are not telling consumers their propensity for damage, whether they have more damage than they should at their age, or other deep analytical answers.

What’s next for Sequential Skin

From the beginning of our relationship with Sequential Skin, we’ve seen that they have the capability to build and sustain new business models, products, and partnerships. At the start, Sequential Skin focused on selling skin test kits to consumers. While the quality of their skin patch made this a compelling offer, this business model wasn’t scalable.

Things have changed significantly since then, and Sequential Skin has already:

  • Expanded on its existing DTC business model and product offerings.
  • Developed a B2B business model for monetizing their skin test technology.
  • Commercialized a scalp microbiome testing product, as well as a female health microbiome testing product.

As the Sequential Skin team has continued to expand the business, we have been helping their team make connections with other skincare companies. Publicizing and generating interest in what this startup has to offer has been especially important to support the growth and longevity of both their B2C and B2B offerings.

Now, Sequential Skin has launched DTC face masks that are tailored to each customer’s needs based on the analysis of their skin microbiome. And that aspect of the business is evolving as well, as customers will soon be able to sign up for monthly face mask subscriptions. As customers resample their skin microbiome and their skin profiles change and improve over time, the masks they receive will change accordingly.

At the same time, the team has developed several B2B offerings to monetize their skin test:

  • Partnering with skincare companies to provide their consumers with Skin Profile reports with ingredient and product recommendations.
  • Working with other skincare brands that want to use Sequential Skin testing during their product development phase.
  • Creating a “Sequential Skin certified” seal for product labels to indicate when products are validated to maintain the skin microbiome.

The initiative and technical expertise that have made these results possible are exactly what motivated us to invest, and we’re confident that Sequential Skin is well on its way to transforming the standard for personalized and microbiome-safe skincare.

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We are an early stage venture firm. With experience and networks in both Silicon Valley and Japan, we help our portfolio companies achieve global opportunities.