Steven Lindseth is Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of YouBeauty.com, a website to explore the link between beauty and health with tips from Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen. The Makegood recently spoke with Steven about big data, startups, and the science of beauty.
The Makegood: What inspired you to found YouBeauty.com and why is it so helpful for brands, publishers and marketers?
In 2010 as I was selling my last venture, I was looking around for what was next, and I was hopeful to find a way to do something around wellness, but I wanted to find a way to package it that would appeal more to a mass consumer audience. Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen had done a lot of work, and written a best selling book, on the connection between beauty and health. It turns out beauty and health is the same thing (when you are psychologically and biologically healthy, your beauty burns the brightest). I sit on the board at the Cleveland Clinic overseeing innovation, where Dr Roizen is Chief Wellness Officer, and he reached out to me to talk about how we might turn their science into a digital experience that could reach millions of people. It was obvious to us there was a white space in between beauty and health and that content, commerce, the social web and data were all converging (less obvious three years ago but no doubt to anyone now). This convergence against the largest consumer category on the planet, women’s health and beauty, holds the potential to allow brands to engage with consumers in a superior way at scale. That’s why every publisher and commerce player is focused on the content/commerce/social part of it. They are trying to leverage what data is available, but the cohorts they have access to aren’t that deep or proprietary. The data piece, that’s where we will shine, so stay tuned.
Big Data will be a highly disruptive force in digital media (just ask Facebook or LinkedIn) and its only beginning. It holds the promise to shift the paradigm in the tradeoff between scale and high quality, targeted engagement with the consumer while protecting privacy. We have had over 1.6 million science-based quizzes taken by over a half a million women in just our first year and half live. We have over 40 million data points on every aspect of women’s beauty derived from science-based quizzes and this data set is growing fast. The potential to better serve these consumers by making this beauty-equals-health science more accessible and actionable in a totally personal way is the greatest market opportunity I have seen in my career.
First, persistence is the common denominator in successful entrepreneurship. One has to be ready to last a long time, and to morph your business until it works. We are professional mistake makers, so question your assumptions everyday (especially in the middle of the night when you wake up in a panic), you just burn cash until you get it right and few get it right out of the gate. I don’t know any cocky entrepreneurs because no matter what you hear every startup faces death constantly and can be knocked over with a feather, little problems get big fast. But I wouldn’t trade it for a real job because with the stress comes excitement you can’t get anywhere else, period.
Second, hiring a team and making them hum is really hard. Things like stage appropriate experience versus contextual knowledge in your key hires is only one example of the tradeoffs you face. If you have not done this before, get help; find others to advise you that understand the nuances of early stage team building.
Third, dysfunctional boards kill companies. I find a lot of boards that don’t really understand the mission of the business from the team’s perspective. Why? Because a team is dealing with a million data points every day that inform how they look at the market, the business model, the customer and the capital markets. Boards aren’t there everyday, so having a board that stays close is a good thing, don’t resist this.
We are now the biggest independent beauty website by daily comScore unique visitors. We have an exciting commerce business building its own database around the science of beauty product ingredients. We have an educated, influential audience and we know a lot about them because of our science-based engagement. This offers a number of opportunities to disrupt the market and we will. Bottom line, women seek out beauty and health content and products to solve problems or to avoid problems. Science and data hold the potential to do this better. Having content, commerce, a robust social platform and highly differentiated data in one place will prove to be a valuable and protectable market position that can be scaled cheaply.
The Makegood: Thanks, Steven.