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08/03/2022

Ulta Beauty invests in emerging tech via Prisma Ventures

Prisma Ventures will work with companies focused on changing and shaping the future of online and in-store experiences.
Gisselle Gaitan
Online Editor
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Ulta Beauty has officially launched Prisma Ventures, a digital innovation fund that will invest $20 million in emerging technology start-ups.

Prisma Ventures will work with companies that work to change and shape the future of online and in-store experiences by unlocking new technology that fuels greater discovery, personalization and convenience, according to Ulta Beauty.

Designed to accelerate innovation by nurturing long-term and strategic partnerships, the fund also will pair Ulta Beauty’s size and scale with the agility and focus of tech start-ups, the beauty retailer said.

[Read More: Ulta Beauty to connect brand partners, audience via UB Media]

“Launching Prisma Ventures is yet another way Ulta Beauty innovatively leads and delivers forward-thinking retail experiences. We believe this fund presents opportunities for creative disruptors to further propel the industry forward,” said Prama Bhatt, chief digital officer at Ulta Beauty.

“We set out to build lasting relationships with start-ups, welcoming them into our ecosystem, co-creating and experimenting in ways that tap each other’s expertise and ultimately leverage our resources to imagine — and reimagine — what’s next for retail and beauty,” Bhatt said.

Beyond capital investment, Prisma Ventures also will provide access to the retailer’s expertise and resources to optimize and deliver disruptive technologies. Fund participants will have access to Ulta Beauty’s innovation team that will provide insight on consumers and in-market testing opportunities, the retailer said.

[Read More: Standing out: Beauty leaders discuss how to survive — and stand out — in the beauty business]

Since its initial announcement at Ulta Beauty’s investor day in 2021, Prisma Ventures has worked with a variety of start-ups including Haut.ai, Adeptmind, Revea, Luum and ReStyle.

“Ulta Beauty’s investment was a game changer, providing us both with an incredible opportunity to test, learn, deploy and scale our low-code AI innovation platform. Ulta Beauty leveraged our platform to create engaging, differentiated experiences for beauty lovers nationwide, plus it added to Iterate’s credibility,” said Jon Nordmark, co-founder and CEO of Iterate.ai.

“The collaborative spirit has been a constant throughout our six-year relationship, which grew from a small agreement in 2016 into an eventual investment,” Nordmark said. “Together, we’re pushing the industry forward with incredible AI-, AR- and IoT-related innovation.”

[Read More: Target plans to open more than 250 additional Ulta Beauty shops]

Prisma Ventures works by partnering with early-stage start-ups that are primary Series Seed and Series A technology companies that work with personalized and data-driven technology; AR, VR and the metaverse; technology-powered custom beauty products and in-store services; and social commerce.

Applicants will be evaluated on five key metrics:

  • Alignment with a Focus Area: Companies that align with Ulta Beauty’s four primary innovation pillars;
  • Leadership and Cultural Compatibility: The start-ups’ management experience, ability to execute, and cultural fit to enable successful collaboration;
  • Diligence and Risk Assessment: Successful completion of diligence across functions, such as legal, technical and business;
  • Business Plan and Scalability: Strength of value proposition, vision, plans to reach financial goals and scale; and 
  • IP and Differentiation: Novel capabilities, patents and technologies. 

[Read More: Ulta Beauty shares diversity, equity and inclusion commitments]

To date, the investments made in the program have enabled greater personalization and diagnosis within Ulta Beauty’s digital skin and hair experiences. The company does not intend for all investments to directly impact its offerings, but where synergies exist, the partners will co-create to bring innovation to the market, the beauty retailer said.

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