Ulta Beauty is Using Myavana’s AI-Powered Analysis To Direct Shoppers To The Best Products For Their Hair

Beauty technology company Myavana has raised $1.5 million from BrainTrust Fund and Prisma Ventures, the digital innovation fund from Ulta Beauty.

In addition to providing capital to the company, the beauty specialty chain is launching its artificial intelligence tool HairAI, which powers an instant analysis of hair type and texture based on photos and generates personalized product recommendations to better haircare results, on its website as part of virtual try-on capabilities and expects to roll it out later to its locations in connection with its salons. The funding and Ulta partnership are big moves for Myavana’s ambitions to bring technology-facilitated hair knowledge and product personalization to the masses.

“I believe Myavana is the next billion-dollar beauty tech business. Very much in the sense of how Uber and Lyft transformed transportation and Airbnb transformed lodging and accommodations, Myavana will transform haircare,” says founder Candace Mitchell Harris. “The goal is to be able to use Myavana everywhere you shop for hair products. Ulta is the first demonstration of us being able to do that.”

Myavana has raised $1.5 million from BrainTrust Fund and Prisma Ventures, the digital innovation fund from Ulta Beauty. Its technology is launching on Ulta’s website to analyze customers’ hair and provide them with product recommendations for it.

In a statement, Agustina Sartori, senior director of digital innovation at Ulta and managing director of Prisma Ventures, says, “We’re always looking to support and invest in technologies that will pave the path forward for the world of beauty—especially those with like-minded values aiming to innovate the space through an inclusive lens. Candace’s visionary approach to digitizing beauty experiences for all hair types, including textured hair, is incredibly unique, and we’re thrilled to collaborate with Myavana on their mission to open new doors for more guests through hair analysis technology.”

Prisma Ventures has been backing an array of startups trying to change the way people buy and experience beauty. Along with Myavana, loyalty player Hang, automated manicure machine 10Beauty, art generation platform Iliad, customized skincare brand Revea and Luum, a robotic eyelash service provider that’s arrived at Ulta stores, are in Prisma Ventures’ portfolio. BrainTrust Fund’s portfolio contains Curlmix, Thirteen Lune, BeautyStat and Uoma Beauty.

“I believe Myavana is the next billion-dollar beauty tech business.”

In a statement, BrainTrust Fund general partners Kendra Bracken-Ferguson and Lisa Stone say, “Myavana is emerging as a leader in beauty AI because its hair strand analysis super serves every customer in this valuable marketplace, from the shopper seeking a personalized diagnosis to retailers and stylists wanting to sell the right products to shoppers the first time. We’re looking forward to working with Candace and her team as the brand continues to accelerate.”

Mitchell Harris came up with the idea for Myavana as a computer science undergraduate student at Georgia Institute of Technology in the early 2010s. Back then, the natural hair movement was in full swing, and she decided to go natural with her hair. She recalls, “When I was going natural and trying to find the right products for my hair, I realized there needed to be a personalized solution because it’s such a trial-and-error process.” She interviewed about 1,000 women and determined a personalized solution would help them, too.

Myavana founder Candace Mitchell Harris

Mitchell Harris received $35,000 from accelerator Flashpoint to actualize her idea. In 2013, Myavana released a mobile hair journey app. In 2015, it released a hair analysis kit. Priced at $99, the kit gives people a personalized plan for how to care for their hair and access to a haircare specialist for consultations. Myavana generates revenues—it anticipates reaching between $12 million and $20 million this year—through sales of its kits and licensing its technology to businesses. Myavana can provide consumer insights to its business clients in tandem with the technology.

Prior to its recent funding, the company raised roughly $4.9 million from pitch competitions, angel investors, Indie.vc, Dreamit Ventures, Resilient Ventures, New Age Capital and Amazon Alexa Fund. Amazon was drawn to Myavana due to the opportunity to incorporate its Alexa voice functionality in Myavana’s software. Its investment through the Alexa Fund occurred in 2022, and it pegged Myavana’s valuation at $50 million, according to Mitchell Harris. She recounts Myavana garnered a frosty reception from venture capital investors at the inception of the company, many of whom didn’t understand the financial, cultural and emotional significance of hair.

“The goal is to be able to use Myavana everywhere you shop for hair products.”

“The good thing about not being able to raise venture capital was I was able to retain equity. So, at the point where venture funds were interested in the company, I had more leverage because of my ownership, and I was way more strategic about it,” says Mitchell Harris. “The thing about our business is it’s a new innovative technology, so we have to give it time for the technology to mature as well as give it time for us to go to market.”

Myavana has over 50,000 active users between its mobile app and hair kits, and customers report a 90% satisfaction rate from its product recommendations. Some three-quarters of them served recommendations purchase from among the recommended products. Mitchell Harris says, “What our customers appreciate is that we are neutral. We’re not trying to sell you a product, we’re literally giving you your best match out of what’s available.”

Myavana makes money through sales of its $99 hair analysis kits and licensing its hair analysis and product recommendation technology to businesses like Ulta Beauty. This year, it expects to generate between $12 million and $20 million in revenues.

Myavana is attempting to increase recurring revenue from customers. Mitchell Harris says that boils down to the company being its customers’ constant companion as seasons and their hair and hairstyles shift. In the future, Myavana could extend outside of haircare to other beauty and wellness categories. “We’re thinking about, what are the triggers of hair loss and thinning from either stress, health conditions or different medications?” says Mitchell Harris. “We want to really impact health and wellness, and we have a particular way we’re going to do that.”

Further into the future, she imagines her company being acquired or executing an initial public offering. “It would have to be in alignment with establishing Myavana in a unique way and being able to create generational wealth that our culture can benefit from,” says Mitchell Harris. “There are so many things that need to be improved in our society, so there’s a philanthropic side that I want Myavana to be able to achieve by building a valuable business.”