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Skincare app company leverages on treasure trove of data

Kok Xinghui
Kok Xinghui • 5 min read
Skincare app company leverages on treasure trove of data
SINGAPORE (Sept 9): Everyone wants to look good, but it is hard to find the right product for each individual’s skin type. Oftentimes, people end up with tubes and containers of products they have bought and tried but found unsuitable. This is especiall
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SINGAPORE (Sept 9): Everyone wants to look good, but it is hard to find the right product for each individual’s skin type. Oftentimes, people end up with tubes and containers of products they have bought and tried but found unsuitable. This is especially so in less mature markets that have a more limited access to skincare. Into the picture comes TroveSkin, arming consumers with artificial intelligence through their smartphones that can detect skin issues, recommend products to deal with them and monitor the progress through daily selfies.

Launched in late 2017 in Indonesia, TroveSkin now has 1.2 million registered users. About 60% are from Indonesia, with the rest from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

TroveSkin partners e-commerce sites in the local markets and recommends products available on these sites — for example, Lazada in Indonesia. The app also creates content to educate users on skincare products and routines, and recently launched the TrovePoints system — where users participate in surveys for points that can be used to redeem products.

TroveSkin founder Reuben Lee tells The Edge Singapore that it is more than a beauty app. “Look at all the beauty apps — most of them try to portray unreal versions of yourself, but we’re not that kind of company. We’re more of a personal or private skin diary. We view ourselves as a skincare coach.”

The start-up, he says, was born out of his own foray into the overwhelming world of skincare, where there are so many products he did not know where to start. “I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could take a picture and the app would tell me which routine to follow and products to use, and give me content on how to further improve my skin.”

That happened as Lee left his previous company in 2017. He spoke to a childhood friend about the idea and quickly started work on TroveSkin in mid-2017. The company joined an incubation programme in Seoul, South Korea that was run by Korean tech incubator FuturePlay and Korean skincare giant AmorePacific.

By late 2017, TroveSkin had launched in Indonesia from South Korea. “It was a market-driven decision. We were studying demographics and how mature user bases were in terms of skincare knowledge, the size of the market and how fast it was growing.”

Almost two years in, Lee says his skin has indeed improved.

Beautiful skin aside, the company’s real treasure trove is the data it holds. It has the daily selfies of consumers; it knows what the person is using, where he or she bought it from, when he or she started using the product and if there was a positive or negative outcome. It also knows the user’s skin concerns and age, and prompts the user to tell TroveSkin his or her mood that day and even what was for lunch.

“We are collecting a lot of different kinds of data and a holistic view of the end user,” says Lee.

The recently launched TrovePoints and the surveys also means TroveSkin can send its users a list of questions and have them answered for points. They get an average of 30,000 responses per survey over just seven days.

All this data is what skincare brands want access to but do not have, despite pouring money into focus groups that take months to conclude and have very few respondents sometimes. And so this is how TroveSkin makes money.

“It’s very interesting to the brands because they lack this one-to-one relationship with their customers, the ones who pay for their products. But we have access and we can get views on products and packaging, concept testing,” says Lee, who has spent the last decade in the e-commerce industry.

But he assures us that the data is anonymised and the company does not share the actual daily selfies. Of the 10 full-timers employed, including Lee himself, four are developers who are in charge of data security. The company is headquartered in Singapore but most staff are stationed in Jakarta. To date, TroveSkin has raised about $1 million in funding and is in the pre-Series A stage.

The next step for the company is to launch a community so its users can rate and give feedback on products. It is also looking at adding independent brands to the products that it recommends to users.

Its longer-term vision, Lee says, is to “build a personal skin clinic in everyone’s pocket”.

“We have unique skin data sitting with us right now that could be put to very good use — data on skincare products or any other kind of beauty treatment. This never previously existed or was collected on such scale by any other company. And we have distribution as well as a one-to-one relationship with over one million users in Southeast Asia. We could do things by ourselves in the future.

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