3D-printed lipstick in 60 seconds
Meet Ellure, the KTH startup that can print a lipstick in your perfect color in just a minute. Here’s the story of how they managed to land a New York office as part of the KTH Innovation Brighter Program.
Ellure’s journey started when KTH students Tiger Hu Shanya and Andres Amezcua Hidalgo, inspired by H&M Foundation’s Global Change Award (where KTH is a partner), wanted to find a way to reduce waste in the cosmetics industry. They came up with the idea of producing make-up on-demand, and after teaming up with Selah Li, who is now CEO, they brought their idea to KTH Innovation in October 2017. We sat down with Selah to hear about how it all started.
- We are all engineers from KTH, says Selah Li. We saw that there was an opportunity for technology to reduce the problem of over-production and waste in the cosmetics industry, and to offer personalization to accommodate the needs of people of all different colors and styles.
A test with a secret twist
With support from their business development coach Gustav Notander, they started working on the first step: to test if there was a market for printing lipsticks.
- We knew we could build the lipstick printer, but first we wanted to test if on-demand makeup was something people would really want to pay for, says Selah Li.
The team came up with a plan. They invited people to come for an interview and answer some questions about their makeup usage. As a thank you, the interviewee would get a free lipstick, printed from Ellure´s machine. They set up in a meeting room at KTH Innovation, and began by letting the interviewees pick the exact color lipstick they wanted. On the table was the printer, ready to churn out lipsticks. Or was it?
- Back then, the “machine” was just a shell. When we started the “printing”, the machine lit up and started whirring, but after a while it stopped, says Selah Li. We then said there was a problem and that we had to call the technician to bring us a spare part. What had really happened was that I had texted Tiger the color the person wanted, and he had mixed it in another room. He came into the room to “fix” the machine, and sneakily slipped the lipstick into the printer. With the machine “fixed”, the interviewee could get their lipstick.
The test worked, and the team got tons of valuable feedback. One of the people who came for an interview was Jasmin Sabir, who is now Ellure’s Chief Product Officer. Together with Chief Technical Officer Marc van Almkerk and Selah Li, the three now form the Ellure team.
Get a lipstick in your perfect color
Today, almost two years later, the team has put in countless hours of work. The technology is now functional and includes AR testing, where the customer can see and change the lipstick color on their lips, the lipstick printer that can produce any color within one minute, an algorithm that can realize the color you choose from a selection of over 10 000 colors, and a recipe that’s cruelty-free, vegan and suitable for automation.
Winning a New York Office
They have had a popup store in Gallerian, Halloween lipstick tests in Nymble, and are identifying patentability. They have finished the KTH Innovation pre-incubator program and have just come home from New York, where they took part in the KTH Innovation Brighter Program , and won a New York office.
- We’re really happy we got selected for the program. Going to New York gave us a clear goal to work towards, and that really speeded up our development. The time we spent in New York was super valuable.
Together with three other startup projects, Ellure took part in a one-week program in New York. They met with communications experts, investors, lawyers, accelerator programs, KTH alumni, and Swedish entrepreneurs who are launching their own startups in New York.
The culmination of the week was the pitch night at the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce. After four great pitches from the teams, the jury finally selected a winner: Ellure! Their prize? A desk for one year at the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce’s co-working space Gateway, waiting for them when they decide the time is right to go to New York.
- We might not be ready to move yet, but having a New York office really means a lot, says Selah Li. When we are ready to go we’ll have support from SACCNY and after the Brighter program, we know how to begin.
Follow Ellure's footsteps
Application to the KTH Innovation Brighter Program will open again in spring 2020. Right now, you can apply to the KTH Innovation pre-incubator program, and like Ellure, get one eyar of office space on campus, weekly workshops to develop as an entrepreneur, and a place in our supportive community. Apply to the program by February 12th, 2020!