Feeligreen, a fast-growing French business, is making waves across the beauty and medical sectors; so much so it will triple in size this year. The company's founder tells MH how they are doing it.
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Founded in January 2012, French business Feeligreen has spent nearly four years working to perfect its product range, win a series of patents, proving the market and securing investment. Founder Christophe Bianchi explains why the long game is paying dividends and how the business is using science to turn the beauty industry on its head.
1. Explain the business
Feeligreen is a French start-up that is revolutionising the skin care and medical industries.
It develops innovative connected devices based on patented technologies that disseminate active elements through the skin safely and securely, improving efficacy.
The technology has significant relevance in both medical and cosmetic sectors by allowing topical creams to diffuse deeper into the skin enhancing outcomes.
2. When was it founded and how has it grown?
Founded in January 2012, our focus has been in heavy R&D ever since.
In March 2012, we launched our first product, “le Patch”, based on 8 years of research in both Japan and the US.
Since then, we have brought two connected beauty devices to market. i-feel-Beauty and ifeel SPORT under our Feeligold brand.
Our technologies are in trial and under development with leading French pharmaceutical companies, and we have a number of advanced negotiations with global cosmetic brands about licensing our technology.
3. How does the product work – is there unique science behind it?
I can tell you but I’d have to kill you afterwards. We apply our electronics, software and chemistry expertise to develop safe and effective devices that use micro-current and LEDs to improve the transdermal diffusion of active ingredients.
For example, our i-feel BEAUTY product is an instrumental cosmetic solution that greatly improves the effectiveness of anti-wrinkle, anti-imperfection, anti-cellulitis and anti-stretchmark treatments.
On the medical side, we use a slightly different iteration of our core patented technology; one of our focus areas is the transdermal diffusion of anti-inflammatory, topical drugs in the treatment of chronic and acute pain.
4. How would you describe the market you operate in? Is it growing and are there a lot of opportunities for growing businesses?
More and more, we are seeing large pharmaceuticals and cosmetic brands look to small technology start-ups for innovation. As a technology company, we are used to agile product development and rapid prototyping, whereas the traditional medical and cosmetic industries have much longer development cycles.
The global beauty devices market is predicted to grow from $19bn in 2014 to $54bn by 2020 (PMR Research). And the pain management devices market for healthcare such as bedsore prevention, chronic pain relief, diabetes treatment and wound care is projected to reach $4bn by 2018 (C&M Research).
5. Why did you take on VC investment, how has that impacted the business?
The development of our innovative products requires a significant amount of R&D - we have applied for 7 international patents pending so far. All of which require in the region of €40k each to protect internationally. We have invested almost €2m in R&D until now with a plan to invest up to €10m within the next 4 years.
Although we are now starting to license our technologies and products and create new revenue streams, we rely on VC investment to support our need to innovate.
We see the advantages of looking at corporate venture funding as well as venture capital. Corporate funding offers us support and access to facilities, and allows us an element of control. Our experience is that some of that control can be lost down the VC route where the investment horizon is at 18 months for a return.
6. How was the process of securing investment – do you have any tips for others seeking funding?
It is a difficult process, and I realise today that the best way to convince investors is to show that the market is ready to pay for your invention. So you should put all your efforts in securing your first commercial contracts, preferably with known companies representative of your target market.
Christophe says proving demand for your product is the most important part of any pitch
7. What is ‘connected beauty’ and how will it impact on people’s lives?
Connected beauty is about customising skincare to every single user, and leveraging a growing user community to improve and enrich everyone's beauty treatment.
It also has great impact for brands that seek a direct relationship with their consumers – for repeat orders, for behaviour insights and for product development.
8. What is the biggest challenge you have fast growing the business and how did you overcome it?
Scalability is an issue for every technology startup: as soon as you’re launching a product you need to start working on the next 3 or 4 innovations in order to survive and stay ahead of the innovation curve. The “secret” for success is to build a strong team to rapidly increase the company’s bench-strength and innovation power.
9. What are your top tips for other entrepreneurs trying to start and grow a business?
My top 3 tips :
1. Build a team that shares your values and ethics, be proud of them and empower them. It is not all about you, and without a strong team there is no business and no growth.
2. Under-commit and over-deliver - if you plan to be a game-changer, you must continuously impress your partners, backers and target audience.
3. Spend 100% of your time looking for funding and revenue - you’ll need much more cash than what you initially planned for.
10. What are your plans for the business in the next three years?
Feeligreen is currently a group of 15 scientists and technologists and we plan to triple our headcount by the end of 2016. We will continue to launch new technologies and products in the beauty and medical sectors, and we expect to deliver at least 3 major product launches this year.
We are just about to sign our first significant licensing deal for our cosmetic technology, which is not only a great achievement by my team, but also shows the way that the market is evolving with small start-ups and global brands.
That said, our strong focus is on the development of innovative healthcare devices targeting several medical fields, in partnership with large pharmaceutical and medtech companies.