We talked to Jay Hack of MIRA BEAUTY about building tools for the beauty industry.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jay Hack: Thanks for asking! COVID-19 has undoubtedly been tough on all of us, but personally, I feel fortunate to be working in an industry that’s at least partially sheltered from the front lines. We’re healthy, able-bodied, and incredibly thankful for all the folks working in healthcare and government who have had to deal with the fallout from the virus, allowing us to feel more secure.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded MIRA Beauty.
Jay Hack: My career started in artificial intelligence and big data, actually – this is somewhat differentiated from the typical executive in the beauty industry and provides me with a really unique perspective. I studied computer science and AI with my cofounder, Brandon Garcia, at Stanford, before working in applied machine learning at Palantir, (which is actually going public on September 29th!). During my time at Palantir, I gained insight into how several large industries have failed to leverage data science, machine learning, and related technologies to their advantage – and found beauty to be one of the worst offenders. This, in addition to a more intuitive understanding of the pains that consumers face while searching for beauty products that will work for them, lead me to conclude that there was a massive opportunity in building tools for the beauty industry. Thus MIRA BEAUTY was founded!
How does MIRA BEAUTY innovate?
Jay Hack: MIRA BEAUTY is the world’s most advanced beauty retail platform – with the industry’s largest data asset, AI-driven personalization algorithms, and a universal shopping cart, we’re able to provide the beauty shopping experience that consumers have been dying for.
While most beauty retailers focus on merchandising and pushing their product portfolio, we’ve invested our time and energy into bringing the collective perspective into focus: that is, giving voice to the community of beauty consumers to hold brands accountable, surface the best products for any given consumer and ultimately democratize the world of beauty. The technology required to intelligently recommend products that have been validated by like-minded consumers is complex and difficult to implement for the traditional beauty conglomerates, which gives us a major edge as a platform. Lastly, I have to give the nod to our culture of transparency and authenticity: nobody likes to dwell on the negatives, but we think it’s of paramount importance to give our users the real story on whether beauty products work or not, whether or not it’s to our short-term advantage as a beauty retailer. This cultivates a community founded on trust and, as we’ve heard from our users, drives confidence in their buying decisions like no other platform ever has.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jay Hack: I love the saying that “consumer behaviors shift gradually, then suddenly” – COVID-19 has really been the catalyst for several rapid changes in consumer browsing and spending that, in retrospect, were inevitable. For one, we see a sharp increase in engagement with skincare products, which makes sense as people have been confined to their homes and have more time to spend on self-care as a result. In response, MIRA BEAUTY has doubled down on expanding our catalog of skincare products and content. Secondly, commerce’s primary channel has rapidly shifted to eCommerce, which is fantastic for our business, as we aim to disrupt traditional beauty’s digital retail operations and provide a far more sophisticated alternative to the traditional alternatives. This is great for our business and means that we have an increased responsibility to deliver on our value proposition of helping users find the right products, given their inability to explore and experiment in-store.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jay Hack: Yes – a startup is merely a sequence of difficult decisions, some of which you might even get right! We’ve learned a million lessons along the way, but among them are don’t compromise in building a strong internal culture, “data is queen” and iterate, iterate, iterate. Many early-stage companies get caught in a dogmatic mindset concerning what they are building and how to get there – in reality, it’s incredibly difficult to forecast what your customers will appreciate most. As an entrepreneur, your task is to navigate the often tumultuous waters of product development until you find something that really sticks. And the most important ingredient in building a valuable product is a team of smart, passionate, and motivated individuals who have internal rapport and are energized to work together, so if recruiting isn’t your biggest challenge, you aren’t shooting high enough!
How do you deal with the stress and anxiety of building MIRA BEAUTY?
Jay Hack: Fortunately, I have a loving girlfriend and a community of peers going through or have been through similar circumstances. “It takes a village” – I feel so fortunate to have connections with people I can lean on in my time of need, to ask for advice, and to turn to for emotional support. One of my biggest pieces of advice for other founders would be to build a “personal board of directors” that can provide emotional support, advice, and a sounding board as you navigate the difficulties of building a startup.
Your final thoughts?
Jay Hack: Building a company with my best friend and a group of the smartest people I’ll ever have the pleasure of working with has been the biggest adventure of my life. As a company, we have several trials and tribulations ahead, but I’m incredibly proud of the unique opportunities we’ve identified and the value we’ve produced for our users thus far. I can’t wait for 2021 and our expansion into haircare, intelligent product sampling, and more – stay tuned!
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