An Israeli cosmetics startup, which touts the world’s first “visual fragrance” technology, won first place at JournEY Israel’s “ThePITCH” contest in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, besting seven other early-stage companies for the $250,000 top prize. Amkiri was the first beauty startup to have won the prestigious competition.
Amkiri, founded in 2014 by designer and entrepreneur Shoval Shavit Shapiro, her mother Aliza Shavit, a chemistry expert, and serial entrepreneur David Chissick, Amkiri creates patented beauty products that encompass cosmetics, fragrance, body art, and tattooing.
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Earlier this year, the startup launched its newest product, a scented ‘ink’ applied to the skin via specifically developed applicators, allowing for the creation of fragrance-infused body art.
A limited product line has been available since May, with a wider launch expected later this year.
“We want to transform scent into a physical form,” Shavit Shapiro said during her pitch at the competition, telling the panel of judges that the product’s scent lasts for 12 hours and the design can stay on for as long as three days, and can be removed easily with soap and water.
The product range comes with a liquid ink applied to the skin using Amkiri’s beauty applicators, including a brush wand, freehand wand, stencils, and stamps. The result looks similar to temporary tattoos and body art, with a distinct fragrance.
The company says the “ink” adapts naturally to the elasticity and movement of the skin, allowing visual designs created by the user to dry smoothly and last for a long time. Shapiro told judges that the team is hoping to collaborate with different artists for new designs.
“I have always loved fragrances, fashion, and cosmetics, and kept trying to blend the three while experimenting…I asked myself how I could create a fragrance that is visual?” Shavit Shapiro told Beauty Packaging magazine in March.
Prior to winning “ThePITCH,” Amkiri was awarded the Scent Innovator of 2018 prize at the CEW Achiever Awards in September, hosted by New York’s CEW (Cosmetic Executive Women), a global community of more than 10,000 members in the beauty business.
In May, US multinational firm International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF,) the leading sensory experiences innovator that acquired Israeli flavors company Frutarom for over $7 billion deal five months ago, announced a partnership with Amkiri to harness what Nicolas Mirzayantz, IFF Group President, Fragrances, called the “extremely emotionally engaging technology.”
“This is a significant innovation in the fragrance category, merging strong and deeply personal visuals with the resonance and emotion of fragrance,” said IFF Chairman and CEO Andreas Fibig at the time.
The beauty market is a $464 billion industry worldwide, Shavit Shapiro said, and Amkiri is hoping to tap into its millennial market, which uses social media and self-expression to redefine cultural norms.
The company counts Yuval Shachar, a founder, general partner and managing member of early and expansion-stage VC firm Innovation Endeavors co-founded by Eric Schmidt, and Howard Socol, former chairman and CEO of US luxury department store chain Barneys New York as partners.
Stellar competition from other finalists
This is the seventh year that ThePITCH competition has ben held at the JournEY conference, organized and sponsored by the Israeli branch of Ernst & Young Global Limited. The conference, in its 22nd year as an annual confab, brought together 1,500 investors, entrepreneurs, and members of the foreign and Israeli venture capital community at the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel on Wednesday. The conference held panels on insurance technology, blockchain, and artificial intelligence with a focus around robotics vs. humanity.
For the final contest, eight early-stage companies were carefully selected in a five-month screening process by investors and consultants in Israel’s venture capital community. Over 200 companies had applied.
Some of the finalists included Skyline Robotics, a company that uses artificial intelligence technologies to run robots that clean external windows instead of humans, DoMed, a company that developed a cybersecurity solution to protect medical devices, Flytrex, the popular drone delivery logistics service currently delivering food to golfers in North Dakota, and Anzu, an immersive 3D advertising platform for 3D, VR, and AR apps.
The winner was chosen, in part, by four judges who participated as mentors during the screening process. They were Gigi Levy, a serial private investor and partner in the NFX fund, Dr. Aya Sofer, vice president of artificial intelligence at IBM, Eyal Niv, a partner at Pitango, and Boaz Peer, Qualcomm’s investment manager.
Audience members were also asked to vote online for their startup of choice ranking the competing companies from one to five stars in categories like overall performance, product, and team.