Venture capital investing and Bird’s Nest rarely mix. One belongs to the world of cutting-edge technology, the other is a traditional 400-year-old Chinese delicacy.
This company has a unique founder mix: Teck Hiong Chua, a tech geek involved in tech startups Progeniq and AutoMoneyBack, is a director, alongside Patrick Tan, a lawyer and investor in swiftlet farms, and Dr Henry Leung, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner.
The company also stands out because while Bird’s Nest has traditionally been thought of as food, they are applying it as an active ingredient in its skincare line.
While cosmetics brands like Bio-Essence already have similar products, Teck Hiong believes their advantage lies in vertical integration due to access to farms in the region, which not only lowers cost but also increases the concentration of Bird’s Nest in its products.
It also has a proprietary process in place to quickly and completely liquify Bird’s Nest, which usually takes hours.
The company appears to be off to a running start. Besides selling its products online, they’re already retailing at ten Watsons drug store outlets in Singapore. They’ve also begun a marketing push with beauty bloggers and entertainers, and have amassed 19k likes on Facebook.
Purer Skin will use the investment for R&D on integrating Bird’s Nest into its products. The company will also expand into foods like Bird’s Nest beauty drinks and beauty jellies, in tandem with increased marketing activities.
According to Red Dot Venture’s managing director Leslie Loh, its decision to invest lies also in Purer Skin’s use of natural, organic ingredients.
“Organic skin care products are gaining momentum — consumers are becoming increasingly educated and are more aware of the harmful ingredients in traditional skin care product lines,” he said.
While Red Dot Ventures is part of the NRF TIS scheme, a government co-funding initiative for early stage investment firms, it has a history of betting on companies well outside the mobile-web space, a departure from many fellow incubators in the program.
For example, it has backed GCoreLab, a company making thermal management systems for electric vehicles, Intuitive Creations, a startup dedicated to reducing medical wastage, and Ascenz, a firm that wants to bring energy efficiency to the shipping industry.
TCM is rising with the ascendance of Asia. According to some estimates, the industry has grown to USD 65B by 2012, with a CAGR slightly outpacing Western medicine.
Given its prevalence, the industry is inevitably modernizing itself to cater to a younger audience. Before Purer Skin was spun-out as a company, the founders worked on improving productivity in Bird’s Nest farms by introducing mechanical cleaning.
The duo later met Dr Leung, who is the CEO of nanotech startup Clearbridge NanoMedics, to explore integrating the ingredient with nano-membrane masks. They ended up developing a whole range of products, leadng to the founding of Purer Skin the cosmetics brand.
Another example is Eu Yan Sang, a TCM mainstay, which has also ventured into e-commerce with branding that better suits Western tastes. It has even gone beyond TCM into general health and wellness products in an effort to capture the younger set.
Photo: Purer Skin