Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Janvi Shah, the co-founder & CEO of Hue. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Janvi! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing?
Janvi: Happy to be with you, Spiffy! Hue is on a mission to empower every beauty shopper to find the perfect products for their unique complexion (i.e. skin tone, skin type, and more).
Spiffy: Interesting! What motivated you to do this?
Janvi: Well, our founding team (i.e. co-founders Nicole, Sylvan, and myself) came together as three women of color who struggled with representation in the beauty industry and with finding makeup products that worked well for our skin tone - despite each of us being at different points on the shade spectrum. And we’re not the only ones: 80% of beauty consumers say this is the number one issue they have with shopping for beauty products online. The beauty industry has historically struggled with inclusivity, only offering a limited array of shades (often excluding darker skin tones) and having biases in its in-store shopping experience. Through our technology and solutions, we want to offer (1) inclusivity, and (2) accessibility to all beauty consumers.
Spiffy: Awesome! It sounds like that’s how you’d say you and your team at Hue are working towards a more equitable world?
Janvi: Exactly, Spiffy. Hue is the first universal recommendation engine for beauty, and our technology integrates directly onto the websites of brands and retailers. Through our skin-matching algorithm, shoppers get matched to their Hue Twins, who are real people who share the same skin tone, skin type, and preferences. In this way, they’re able to get accurate recommendations as well as see photo and video reviews from real people who look like them. We’ve tested this experience with hundreds of customers and 96% of shoppers felt more confident that they had found their shade with Hue because they were able to see themselves represented in the beauty shopping experience.
Spiffy: Amazing! Tell me about a recent milestone of Hue’s. What impact does that make?
Janvi: We are launching our first partnerships with two beauty brands/retailers this summer on their e-commerce websites. We’re very excited about the companies we are partnering with and their commitment to diversity & inclusion. This is our first step in making our technology accessible to millions of beauty shoppers worldwide! We’re excited to partner with even more brands and retailers after this initial launch.
Spiffy: Congratulations on that big first step! Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from that experience?
Janvi: Sure thing! We started Hue during our MBA program at Harvard Business School. In 2021, we entered our school’s New Venture Competition, and we placed in the final four but did not win. In 2022, we decided to try again for the same competition and once again made it to the final four but did not win. We’re not the kind of people to give up easily, so we entered the Harvard-wide President’s Innovation Challenge and, to our surprise, won the $75K Grand Prize. This experience taught us to always have the courage to try again because you can never win unless you try!
Spiffy: Wonderful! Thanks again for speaking with me today, Janvi—it’s been an honor!
Janvi Shah is the co-founder & CEO of Hue. She previously worked at Google as a product manager on Google Photos and Google Search. She earned her MBA from Harvard Business School, and her BS in Neuroscience from Duke University. She is originally from the Bay Area, CA. (Nominated by Alex Parks at Harvard Innovation Labs. First published on the Ladderworks website on July 26, 2022.)