Prose, a personalized haircare brand that launched in January 2018, just landed an enormous $18 million in Series B investment led by Insight Venture Partners, bringing its total funding to $25 million. That’s an enormous amount for a beauty company–but it’s warranted, says Kirsten Green, founding partner of Forerunner Ventures, which has invested in startups like Away, Glossier, Outdoor Voices, and Bonobos.
“I’m not sure we need customization in every beauty product,” she tells me. “But we all have such specific hair needs. And Prose’s early success suggests that customers are ready for personalization in haircare.”
Customers go to Prose’s website, answer a five-minute questionnaire about their hair, including questions about its texture, how it responds to humidity, and scent preferences. Then an algorithm comes up with a specific formula that is then made in a New York lab, and shipped to the customer. Shampoos start at $25 for an 8-ounce bottle, which places it squarely in the luxury beauty category. Prose claims to use expensive ingredients–for example, Siberian pine nut oil and açaí oil, which are said to deliver better results.
The brand was inspired by a rather old concept: the apothecary. “All beauty products used to be personalized,” says Prose co-founder and CEO Arnaud Plas. “We wanted to find a way to modernize this process.”
But personalization at scale is a rather complex endeavor, hence all the funding. Plas says a large chunk of the funding will go towards hiring an in-house data science team and doubling its R&D team. Right now, Prose has collected half a million consumer profiles, gathering 135 data points per person. Data engineers are now training machine-learning algorithms to create more effective formulas. Prose is also releasing new products, including the first-ever custom hair oil.
There are other custom haircare products on the market, including Function of Beauty. Prose says it wants to stand out by offering a more premium product and customer experience. “This is not just about science, but about luxury,” says Green. “The ultimate luxury is a product that is made just for you.”