Novi was given the multi-million dollar capital injection by Greylock, with participation from Defy Partners; Thomas Layton, Executive Chairman of Upwork; and Yannis Skoufalos, former Global Product Supply Officer at P&G.
Kimberly Shenk, CEO and founder of Novi served as a data scientist and Captain in the United States Air Force, studied data science at MIT, and has built software products in the technology industry for over a decade.
“I am totally motivated by the impossible, especially when it comes to using data and technology to drive progress,” Shenk told CosmeticsDesign.
Equipped with the idea to co-found a company that adopts a data approach to creating personal care products that are better for health and the environment, the data scientist began researching the personal care and beauty industries.
“During this experience, I quickly learned about the difficulties of bringing a transparent product to market,” says Shenk. “I was shocked to uncover the major constraints and the lack of tools available—it was nearly impossible to find source data for the ingredients and packaging we wanted to use for our products,” she said.
Overcoming beauty’s “data problem”
Interpreting the issues in the personal care and beauty industries as problems with data, Novi emerged onto the marketplace. “Data is power because it provides transparency to enable better decision-making,” said Shenk, and detailed what optimum transparency and sustainability in beauty and personal care mean and look like to the brand.
“In this industry, technology is what will allow the flow of information to happen between material suppliers and consumer brands,” she said. “It will give brands the transparency they need to make better sourcing decisions.”
“Technology will be used to rapidly assess ingredients, fragrances, flavors, formulas, and packaging, down to their source.”
Explaining the aim of using data in personal care and beauty product manufacturing, Shenk added: “It will facilitate online marketplaces where brands will discover, sample and purchase these materials, in a completely transparent and easier way.”
Balancing transparency with maintaining intellectual property rights
Believing transparency should be given “without disclosure”, Novi helps manage information disclosure with its partners.
“We want to help protect intellectual property (IP) because that is the foundation of how this industry operates and thrives,” said Shenk.
How to manage transparency and protect intellectual property (IP)
When balancing transparency and IP, Novi aims to serve as the secure third-party to verify information. CEO and founder Kimberly Shenk explained how the brand is seeing this play out in all aspects of the industry:
- Consumers are demanding more transparency, but brands don't want to share their proprietary formulas with the world.
- Brands are demanding transparency from their manufacturers, but third-party manufacturers don’t want to share their IP.
- Both brands and manufacturers are demanding transparency from ingredient and packaging suppliers who don’t want to share their IP.
“It is a cascading effect and really hard, if not impossible, for any single player in this ecosystem to achieve full transparency on their own,” said Shenk. Novi was created to help facilitate information sharing between all of these parties, at scale. The brand’s plan is to serve this entire ecosystem holistically so it can build a valuable solution for the industry.
Building transparency with $10.3 million investment
“Our mission is transparency to the source,” said Shenk. In the future, the brand expects all consumer brands will transparently discover, sample and purchase materials for their products online, just like they do in their day-to-day consumer lives.
Novi’s vision is to bring the broader chemical industry online and enable its transformation by building a marketplace that automates information gathering and provides a data-rich experience for material procurement.
The brand intends to use the funds to now grow into additional categories and build out its presence and position in the personal care and beauty industry.
Transparent and sustainable hopes
In the near future, there are challenges in the industry to achieve transparency and sustainability, Shenk said: “It can seem daunting to build a new product with ambitious sustainability and transparency goals.”
“‘Clean’ was version 1.0 of the industry, realizing we didn't have a lot of data about the things in our products. Because we didn't have that data, we started making broad sweeping statements about what shouldn't be used (it was only about the ‘nos’),” added Shenk.
Detailing how transparency in the industry can change this perception, Shenk continued: “But transparency allows diversity of decision making and ultimately leads to more efficacious products—you have the power of information in your hands to make decisions about what should be used (the ‘yes’s’).”
Novi hopes that brands seek information about the source of all the materials they intend to use to make informed decisions. “This can seem daunting if you are going to do this for every ingredient, especially if you have ambitious goals for your product, but it is the best route to true product innovation,” she said.