Feb 20, 2020 | Atlanta, GA
An app for makeup lovers that began as a class project at Georgia Tech has now transformed into a tech startup that’s helping to make the beauty industry more inclusive.
Anisha Matharu, ID 2019 and Sabrina Moin met in class in 2019. Their original class project idea was to create an app to find makeup dupes – less expensive products that are comparable to more expensive, high-end brands. During the customer discovery process, though, the app began to evolve and take shape.
“We realized that the customers’ main problem wasn’t the ability to find dupes but being able to know what looks good on them and suits their skin tone,” Matharu said.
People with deep complexions especially have trouble visualizing how an online product will look on their skin because models are often white or have lighter complexions. Social media sites aren’t much help either because of photo retouching and filters. Both the beauty industry and makeup wearers of color applaud brands like Fenty Beauty and The Lip Bar for offering a wider range of makeup color samples, known as swatches, modeled by people on both the lightest and darkest ends of the color spectrum.
Matharu and Moin’s app, swatchcandy, adds data science and a proprietary color matching algorithm to the mix by personalizing the makeup buying process and making it more inclusive. App users upload a picture and input their foundation shade – or take a quiz to find their shade – to see unretouched photos of makeup on people who closely match their own complexion.
The CIC and CREATE-X Experience
Before officially launching the swatchcandy app for iOS in January, the former classmates turned business partners got an early taste of entrepreneurship during the Convergence Innovation Competition (CIC) in spring 2019. The competition, now in its 12th year, is for Georgia Tech undergraduate and graduate students to create products and services in categories selected by campus, industry, and community partners.
An early version of the app won first place in the CIC’s Climate Solutions category, which initially didn’t seem like a good fit. The team submitted their project anyway and proposed the app as a solution for packaging waste – the easier it is to find your perfect makeup shade, the less likely you are to throw away a partially used product.
Matharu’s advice to students considering submitting their projects to the CIC: “Don’t let the categories restrict your creativity.”
During the competition’s final judging event, the team gained valuable experience with pitching swatchcandy to industry professionals and Georgia Tech faculty. Moin remembers, “It was great to talk to them, network with them.”
Moin added, “The competition held us accountable because we had to present what we’d done so far. It helped us to explain our idea and start to realize it as a project that could be successful outside of school.”
The team also met an associate director from CREATE-X who encouraged them to apply for Startup Launch, which partners with students to turn their ideas into viable startups. Through the program, Moin and Matharu officially registered as a company and learned effective business strategies with the help of ongoing mentorships.
The business partners are currently continuing to build out the app’s database, make improvements based on user feedback, and build relationships with cosmetic companies.
CREATE-X is currently accepting applications for Startup Launch 2020. Apply at create-x.gatech.edu. One winning team from the Spring 2020 CIC will receive a "golden ticket" to participate in this summer’s Startup Launch and further develop their project.
Submissions for the Spring 2020 Convergence Innovation Competition are due by March 29 at 11:59 p.m. Sign up for the competition at cic.gatech.edu.