Ever come across an image of a beauty product you love, but are unable to find the right shade? Founder, Christopher Merkle launched Flawless app to shade match users uploaded images with beauty products. From luxury to budgeted brands, Flawless creates a customized, unique experience based on your needs and preferences.
As a college dropout, Christopher Merkle never experienced life in its traditional way. “I’ve always had a side hustle. Whether it was selling personalized stationery, cutting my neighbor's lawn, or customizing rocks.” It was his insatiable hunger for learning that led him to become a coder at the age of 13. “I remember my dad being obsessed with computers, however after interning in college (Georgia State University), for large corporations I felt that I knew digital better than traditional folks and would be better off working for myself.”
Chris dabbled with a couple of projects before launching Flawless. Some of them include creating a database of college internship opportunities as well as launching Razur Agency in 2008. “I was a photographer at the time, between the ages of 18 - 24 years old, capturing nightlife, editorial, music events and fashion shows. I came across a client who wanted help with website design and I ended up teaching myself on the spot.” Things took a quick turn as Chris paused his photography career to launch Razur as a strategy and consulting agency that also specializes in design and app in-house development.
The Aha Moment
“When I was a photographer, my girlfriend at the time, 9 years ago, was going through Vogue magazine and wanted to find the same lipstick shade as a model in an ad. I thought that what if I took a photo of this shade and used technology to color match it? Back then I had no experience with beauty.”
Through Razur, which is still up and running, Chris moved to New York City and got introduced to multiple beauty brands. Fast forward to 2016, invest $100,000 and boom, the app is live in the app store. Seems easy yeah?
The Do’s And Don’ts For App Marketing
Chris tells us how “your first app as a prototype can literally be a piece of shit as long as there is one unique value proposition that you are testing and providing benchmarks for.” He further goes on to share the following advice with us:
- Be prepared for everyone to say that your app sucks, but only listen to those who are avid users as this will help you create your product faster and identify the pain points.
- You don’t need to have a lot of money to start an app on your own. Tap into different resources such as General Assembly where students need real business case studies to apply their learnings and get a job.
- Invite all of your friends to use the app, see who downloads and post on your social media to get feedback.
- Have a unique name to stand out in SEO and search inside the app store.
- When pitching to investors you need to prove that your idea has attraction and you made it work with a limited budget. People don’t want to give you money to prove a concept.
“Traditional beauty retailers don’t have technology in their DNA and if they don’t know how to talk tech, they won’t be able to get things done.”
We like to refer to this shift as digital Darwinism, where the CEO’s of tomorrow will have a technology or supply chain background (yes, this is even true for fashion brands). When it comes to utilizing the Flawless app, Chris has customized each experience based on a questionnaire users have to answer stating their skin type and price preferences. You can explore products based on celebrities and makeup artists picks (under the discover section) as well as by categories such as girls night in, sick day, date night, etc. Flawless also recently launched their ‘Discover Weekly’ section based on the millions of data points collected over the last year to provide 1:1 recommendations for products and looks based on your makeup style and skincare.
Currently, Flawless is building out a neural network for skin analysis to correctly match foundation to your skin tone based on your phone's camera. If you’re wondering how they make money, it’s done via sponsorship, white label licensing of their technology and affiliate marketing.
“As an entrepreneur your biggest skillset needs to be the ability to influence people to donate their time, be on your team and believe in your vision.”
Browsing the web, reading a magazine or hanging out with a friend and spot a look you love? Snap it, share it, shop it, be Flawless. Interested in meeting Chris to chat about the future of beauty, hit us up and we can put you in touch.
Photo courtesy of Flawless.