A Q&A with Preen.Me co-founder and CEO Tamar Yaniv. The Tel Aviv–based company was founded last fall and just raised $800K in Seed funding in early October. Investors include Genesis Partners and Horizons Ventures.
SUB: Please describe Preen.Me and your value proposition.
Yaniv: Preen.Me aims to help women buy beauty better. The beauty market is $60 billion annually in the U.S. alone, but it is inefficient and wasteful. Women actually discard around 75 percent of the products they buy because buying beauty is a guessing game, and we often get it wrong. Preen.Me aims to change that equation by giving women personal and objective product recommendations, based on the experience of other women like them. This will significantly increase the chance of success when buying a beauty product.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Yaniv: Our users are all women that buy beauty products, from those that buy one a year to those that buy weekly, regardless of age. One of the core elements of our proposition is that the recommendations are based on the experience of your peer group, so it’s customized and therefore relevant to every woman. Initially we are targeting the U.S., but will naturally be looking at additional markets further down the line.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Yaniv: It’s really a question of definition. At this point no one is doing what we will be doing, namely crowdsourced and social recommendations. However, in the current stage of the product lifecycle we are very much focused on user engagement, and the site is based entirely on user-generated content. In that respect, Beautylish does something similar.
SUB: What differentiates Preen.Me from the competition?
Yaniv: One of our big advantages is that we have a large and very highly engaged community called ‘Beauty Addicts’ on Facebook. The community is now over 215,000 members, with interaction rates 5-10 times that of well-known international brands, making it one of the most active beauty communities in the world. As a team, we’re very product focused, and have quite a lot of experience in low cost, effective user acquisition. We’re also tackling the problem in a new way, and looking at it from a big data point of view. We’re creating both customer opportunities and data opportunities that will yield very profitable results for brands.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Yaniv: The company was founded just over a year ago, and the website was launched in June. Pretty much the first thing we did was start the Beauty Addicts community. The idea was to create a framework in which we could learn from our users, understand how they engage around beauty, what they respond to, and ultimately what they want. Everything really stemmed from there. We continue to use this community as a testing ground for product development—it’s a great way to communicate directly with your users.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Preen.Me? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Yaniv: It’s quite simple actually—I couldn’t find a moisturizer. After years of throwing good money after bad on products that either didn’t work at all or did more harm than good, I decided to once and for all spend some time on the web, do the research and figure out what would work for me. Three days later, I was astounded to not be any closer to being able to make a confident buy. That’s when I figured, there has to be a better way. So we’re creating it.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Yaniv: Names are such a challenge, not least because trying a get a good URL these days is close to impossible. Preen means to smooth or clean—feathers—with the beak or bill; or to trim or clean—fur—with the tongue, as cats do; or to dress or groom oneself with elaborate care, primp. We like the name, the fact that we were able to get a good URL was helpful, and there’s a bit of humor in it as well, which is always good.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Yaniv: We’re lucky in that between the three co-founders we have a large range of skills and abilities, so we were able to get quite far pretty quickly. The fact that we have awesome investors also means that a lot of doors are now opened for us.
Like pretty much every other startup, finding the right people—especially developers—is always challenging, and we are great believers in hire right, not fast.
SUB: You recently raised $800K in Seed funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Yaniv: We plan to hire more developers and continue to build out the product quickly, as well as making more inroads into the market.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise more outside funding?
Yaniv: I think this market is ripe for disruption, and investors recognize that. We were already able to demonstrate the ability to build a passionate user base on a shoestring, an engaging minimum viable product, and a passionate team with hugely relevant experience and an ability to learn and implement very quickly. We were lucky to get fantastic investors on board who get what we do and are hugely supportive.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Yaniv: There are quite a lot of revenue models that are built into our product. Advertising and affiliate are some of them, and they will vary over time depending on where we are in the lifecycle of the product. Currently we are very focused on engagement, so advertising is a natural fit at this stage.
SUB: What are your goals for Preen.Me over the next year or so?
Yaniv: We aim to continue to develop our product and deliver on our vision of personalized beauty recommendations, while continuing to scale our community and user base and keeping them as engaged as they are today.
Preen.me – www.preen.me