Having seen it in person, WAY is chic, compact and combines data from sensors to provide pollution, weather and overall skin health reports.
WAY is a newly-launched personal skincare device, compatible with iOS and Android smartphones, currently up for crowdfunding on Indiegogo with pre-orders offered at 40 per cent off the projected retail price of US$149.
In just three days, WayWearable, the South Korean company behind it helmed by CEO Jason Moon, managed to hit its goal of US$50,000, but now, it’s trying to fulfill an internal goal of US$100,000. At the time of writing, the startup is only 30 per cent away from hitting its mark. Can it succeed with just eight days to go?
Holding WAY in my hand, I was told that there are many ways to make full use of the device.
For example, it can remind users to apply moisturiser when humidity is low, warn them about dangerous environmental conditions, suggest skincare products with a how-to guide, and chart the effectiveness of users’ skincare regimens over time. Additionally, the device is incredibly easy to use; users can also place the device on their skin and almost immediately, they will be able to check how healthy their skin is.
As instructed, I placed the small, donut-shaped device on my cheek and saw the results flash on the accompanying prototype version of the mobile app. My skin’s health results: it’s slightly older than I am, rather moist, and quite oily. Regina Yoo, Marketing Manager, WayWearable, told me that because the sensors only analyse the moisture content of inner skin, as opposed to oil content, the official app will not show a number under ‘oil’. However, the app will still provide information about oil and moisture, expressed in a way that is inferred from cumulative moisture portion data, added Yoo.
When I tested the device against my wrist instead, I came to realise that I probably should slather body moisturiser on a daily basis to prevent my skin from premature aging.
“Even though you may apply moisturiser on your skin, if you are working for more than eight hours in very dry conditions, it’s not good for your skin health,” said Yoo, who added that in such a case, the app will remind the user to use a hydrating mist, for example.
According to a press release, the software and hardware engineering teams at the company have been consulting closely with dermatologist Dr Ga-na Oh, Co-founder, WayWearable, and collaborating with Yonsei University’s Bioelectic Impedance Analysis department (BIA). In an official statement, WayWearable noted that with the BIA department, it has further developed existing InBody technology, which uses electronic signals to determine water of the skin.
In a typical small meeting room just across the office and R&D centre located in a building not far from Panggyo Techno Valley Station, Jason Moon sat slightly hunched over his MacBook, waiting for our interview to start.
“I’m so stressed,” he told me.
One can understand why Moon would be stressed out. After all, crowdfunding, especially on a global stage like Indiegogo, is not exactly a walk in the park. But before I could ask about how the team is working towards bagging that additional US$30,000 in eight days, Moon interjected that it’s more to do with him presenting at SparkLabs’ Demo Day, which will see more than 1,400 attendees this year.
There, Moon will be presenting and pitching on what WayWearable has been up to since it entered the programme. The fact that it has gauged high demand from more than 500 backers — from 100 countries — will definitely help position it as an investable company to potential venture capitalists who often grace such events, or open itself to potential partnerships with corporations.
Out of the 100 countries its backers hail from, most of the contributors are Korea-based individuals, noted Yoo. That is not surprising, of course, given that the startup is based in South Korea, and that the country is a hot market for cosmetics and skincare products. In fact, having being based in Seoul, South Korea for three weeks now, it is impossible to go anywhere without seeing shops selling all sorts of face masks, lotions and skin-related sundries.
Indeed, the skincare industry is huge and thriving in South Korea. According to the Washington Post, the beauty-product industry makes approximately US$10 billion in sales every year targetting both men and women.
Yoo added, second to South Korea, quite a number of its users can be attributed to the US. Singapore is also a market WayWearable is keen to size up on. She noted that even though more people from the US visit the project, they tend to get better conversions from users in Singapore and many Asian countries.
“I think … K-beauty (Korea-beauty) is very famous, so many Asian countries [are interested] in K-beauty,” said Moon. He is right to say so, given that many Korean skincare and cosmetic brands like The Face Shop, Skin Food and Innisfree are now prevalent in other parts of Asia like Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. This can be attributed to the popularity of Korean actresses in television shows aired globally and pop idols who often endorse beauty and skincare products.
WayWearable is not Moon’s first company. For three years, he ran Design Your Body, a company he founded which produced health-related content through a mobile video app and Facebook group.
As part of the Startup Nomad programme, Moon and his team from Design Your Body visited Silicon Valley and realised that there is a boom in wearable devices and the Internet of Things. However, it was difficult to find devices that targetted health benefits for women, a group that made up 70 per cent of their users.
This resulted in the device, which is a way for them to combine their expertise in women’s health and beauty with the wave of connected devices.
Speaking to e27, Moon said that his biggest challenge faced while running WayWearable was to build a team. “Because we’re a very small company, item (product) is not important. Team is very important. Many investors consider team members and team culture and so on. … I do my best to collect our team, so our company now have eight members, very difficult.” (Sic)
“Many people look for big companies because of salaries,” said Moon. “Our company is very small and in the beginning, early stage, we have to share the vision of our company. It is very difficult to share the vision.”
Yoo, who was in the room when the interview was taking place, shed some light on her perspective of the company and why she joined it. “It’s because of him,” she said, “ it’s true that he’s doing his best in gathering good team members. He kept contacting me for one month. In January, he kept convincing me for one month, he kept sharing about his company vision and team members. … It’s true, it’s a hard decision. I came last year – I used to work in a company in America – so I came back last December, last November-ish, so it was very difficult decision as a young Korean… young Korean person deciding between a major company to make good money (and a startup).” (Sic)
Yoo’s and her colleagues’ decision to join WayWearable, instead of a mega corporation, is also an indication of a slight shift in attitudes towards working in a startup. After all, with local poster children like Kakao, Coupang and Yello Mobile, the youth now has another option when applying for a job.
It is not difficult to imagine a world where smart devices like WAY become prevalent.
Office ladies taking the inconspicuous device out of their makeup pouches, setting it next to them, to see when they should re-moisturise or apply a mist of sorts.
Dermatologists using a more updated version to see how skincare regimens are performing.
Frequent travellers making sure their skin stays properly hydrated throughout changing climates.
The possibilities are endless.