Julep bets that crowd-sourced products will change the beauty industry, raises $30M

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Andreessen Horowitz-backed Julep believes the beauty industry lacks innovation. The company just raised $30 million to change that — although it’s claimed “tech startup DNA” may just be a marketing vehicle.

Like a beating drum, Julep pitches its vision of being a technology-first beauty brand — it has for quite a while now. Center to this innovation is Julep’s crowd-sourcing of product ideas.

So far, the only result we’ve seen of such crowd-sourcing is an ergonomically-designed nail polish handle [below], made in partnership with IDEO.

Otherwise, Julep — a seven-year-old company — fits in better with wide a range of near-tech lifestyle brands, including Warby Paker and Bauble Bar. Currently, the company is first and foremost an online cosmetics retailer, with a catalog of sleekly designed, in-house products.

Julep tells us its new funds will help it “continue its rapid pace of ecommerce innovation.” The company also reports strong growth: its ecommerce sales supposedly tripled in 2013. All the while, Julep competes with cosmetic subscription services like Birchbox and Ipsy.

While Julep is certainly building a strong image, it’s unclear if the company’s crowdsourced future has legs. To that point, Andreessen Horowitz appears most interested in seeing Julep rival traditional beauty brands: “The global brands of tomorrow will be built online,” says partner Jeff Jordan, “and we’re thrilled to back a trailblazing company that’s bringing innovation to the enormous beauty market.”

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