Shaping the future of beauty tech: Interview with Goodiebox CEO and co-founder Rasmus Schmiegelow

goodiebox-founders

Founded in 2012, Copenhagen-based Goodiebox provides a monthly subscription for a box of beauty products for women. The startup has also developed its own range of cosmetics and skin care products under the name Comme Deux, based on hundreds of thousands of insights from Goodiebox members.

At the moment, Goodiebox has approximately 100,000 subscribers (or as they call them, ‘members’) in Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Finland and soon in Germany.

Interestingly, this beauty tech startup was founded by two men, Rasmus Schmiegelow (CEO) and Nikolaj Leonhard-Hjorth (CMO).

Below, Rasmus shares his experiences founding the startup (and as a man working in a woman’s world), and what beauty tech holds in store for us in the future.

Please tell us about yourself, your story, and where you got the idea for Goodiebox.

I’m 45, married to an amazing woman (Therese) with three energetic boys (Sebastian, Nor and Kristoffer) and living in the center of Copenhagen. I’m also a qualified lawyer, having worked with venture capital and especially M&A with big law firms in Copenhagen and London (DLA Piper and Moalem Weitemeyer Bendtsen) as well as big corporates (Maersk).

My co-founder Nikolaj (who also happens to be my best friend going 25 years back) and I got the idea for Goodiebox in December 2011 and launched the first box in February 2012 to our initial 500 members in Denmark.

The main goal of Goodiebox is to create as much happiness as possible; for our members, employees and partners. This has been the core of Goodiebox since day one, and with over 125 employees and over 100k members this is still the guiding principle in all we do. Nikolaj and I wanted to create a company that we ourselves would have done everything to get to work for.

Further, we saw that a gigantic sector – beauty and cosmetics (worth $560 billion globally) – was still controlled by a few legacy players and only approximately 7% of global sales were digital. The way to reach consumers was changing with social media and we could have European (and global) access to consumers (for us ‘members’) much faster than before, when you also needed brick and mortar retail.  

Tell us about Goodiebox – what problems do you solve, and what are your offerings?

At Goodiebox one of our fundamental ambitions is to help our members discover new products and brands they will love. Normally in e-commerce, you can try before you buy (if you buy a new pair of jeans from Zalando, Asos or Net-a-porter, you can return them if they don’t fit), but that is not possible with beauty and cosmetics (if you buy a new lipstick online you cannot try it and return if the color is not right).

But with Goodiebox, the members get to try new beauty products and brands (based on their beauty profile and feedback in general) so they know their new favourites before they order online.

We can offer this because our internal team of beauty experts is at the forefront of beauty trends, and works closely together with our internal team of data and consumer experts to track and analyse behaviours of our members. We can then use this information to predict what our members will like – thereby creating more happiness for them.

Of course happiness is difficult to define, but there are various proxies that we at Goodiebox use to quantify it. Some are explicit, for example, we track how much customers like certain products via star ratings where the members earn Goodiepoints. We also track and analyse implicit signals, including which members end up buying the products they receive in their boxes; changes in subscription status (suspensions, pauses); and member referrals to name a few.

To best source and assign beauty products to our members, we are developing a predictive model that can predict how each member will like each beauty product and their Goodiebox as a whole.  

We now help Goodiebox members in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and Germany (from November) find their new favourite beauty products and brands.

Your startup was founded in 2012. What was it like starting out, and what were some of the challenges you faced?

When we started, Nikolaj and I took on all roles in Goodiebox. From sourcing beauty products over customer service to marketing and tech. Luckily Nikolaj came from a marketing and branding background, as my learning curve as a lawyer was pretty steep!

Furthermore, we were bootstrapped our initial five years in Denmark, with lots of ups and downs. And it was only when we had perfected the model and had control of the key metrics that we got investors in. Since our first investment in May 2017 we have been able to increase our growth significantly – still with sustainable key metrics even when growing membership three-fold year on year.

Our insane focus on putting members first in all we did helped us a lot when we needed to prioritise and make difficult decisions. And the members would forgive us more easily when we made mistakes (and we made a lot…) because they never doubted our intentions. They knew we wanted to build a new beauty company that would put the members first. Always.

Also, having a real product (the Goodiebox) we needed to source products for, pick and pack, and then ship to our members was a real operational challenge, and we spent many late evenings and nights packing boxes and doing personal deliveries.  

What’s it like to be a male founder of a beauty tech company?

Being a male founder in beauty tech has given me and Goodiebox an edge, as it has forced me to be humble from the start and not take anything for granted. And I have used data and business intelligence more; as I have not been raised knowing which beauty products are better than others. Also, as a male founder, I’ve had to earn the trust from our female members.

But I have learned a lot in the last seven years (and still learning) from great members and our amazing team. And I would call myself a beauty-expert now. I have definitely tested, used and read more about beauty products and trends than any of my friends 😉

How is beauty tech changing?

Personalisation enabled by tech will change the beauty industry using AI and gene technology. We are already seeing the first smart serums and 3D printed makeup. Innovators from the worlds of tech and beauty are visualising and developing hyperpersonalised beauty products right now, and they’ll be in our hands as early as next year. For example, Atolla is making smart serums that treat your skin’s unique needs – and predicts how your complexion will change over time to help prevent breakouts, redness and sensitivities – based on an app using a similar algorithm as Netflix, so it learns more about your skin the more you use it (their founder previously worked in 3D printing).

Tech will also enable us to create skin care products based on genetics. Making it possible to predict how our skin will age – and how to reverse course — based on an evaluation of our genetic makeup. For example, as we get older certain genes flip on triggering enzymes that break down collagen and causing wrinkles. But if we realise that’s happening on a molecular level, we can use prescription ingredients to quiet the overactive genes and normalise the skin. So the key to truly smooth skin could be written in your DNA.

You’ve been growing rapidly – entering seven new markets in just 16 months, and you now reach 100k customers. What has this experience been like, and what have been some of the challenges you’ve faced expanding into new markets?

The last 18 months have been insane in every aspect.

This year alone, 76 new people have joined Goodiebox and we now have a team of 126 super talented people from 17 different nationalities creating happiness for our members and partners every day working with marketing, tech, operations, design, content, member experience, people development partnerships, business intelligence, talent acquisition, finance and business development. We have gone from one office in Copenhagen to opening new offices in Amsterdam, Berlin and London as well.

Growing the organisation this fast has been a challenge as Nikolaj and I have the ambition that Goodiebox should be the best place to work at. Making sure that we have the structures and processes in place have been very demanding and we are not 100% yet. Also, making sure that we have the same Goodiebox culture in the different offices and within the different teams have been challenging. One of my main responsibilities is now to make sure we have Goodiebox culture across the teams and offices.

It has also been a very real challenge to learn the cultural differences among members in Scandinavia, Benelux and DACH. The Goodiebox version of ‘happiness’ working in Denmark is not working 1:1 in Austria. Making sure that we on group level oversee what is working in the different markets so we can support local growth and content teams in the best possible way has been difficult and we have experimented a lot before we found the right scalable formula.

What do your customers enjoy the most about your service? What’s your most popular product / product line?

We are member-centric in everything we do. The members are really the starting point for all our activities and we have a very bold ambition of having the happiest members in the world. We really want to be best friends with our members. This is the reason why we don’t have customer service but Team Happiness, not agents but Happiness Heroes, not tickets, but conversations and KPIs for keeping the conversations as long as possible (the record for a phone call is 4 hours and 48 minutes).

So our members really like our products but they love our insanely great service. Which is also reflected in our TrustScore on Trustpilot and NPS of over 70. We know that we got to earn this trust and dedication from our members and just because we did great with our Danish members yesterday we still need to prove ourselves for all our new members across Europe tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.  

Where do you see Goodiebox in another five years?

In five years Goodiebox will have over two million members across Europe, US and Asia with personalised boxes based on AI and member preferences.

But Goodiebox is more than a great box with awesome beauty products. We really want to create an emotional connection with our members and give them happy moments not just when they receive their Goodiebox, but everyday. So in five years Goodiebox are creating great content (podcasts, videos, long-reads etc.) with members and other external partners. Not just on beauty but on all aspects of life making you happy.

Finally, over the last five years Goodiebox have created several beauty brands based on all the insights and learnings from members in Europe, US and Asia. Our own Comme Deux is the first brand co-created with the members and the initial feedback is amazing. Utilizing tech and feedback from millions of members, we can create relevant products brands to every beauty consumer – taking DtC beauty to the next level. We call it DwC (direct-with-consumer) brands.

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