Singapore startup Vanitee is proving that beauty booking apps aren’t just a phase. After just six months in operation, they have raised S$5 million in capital from their first round of funding, surprisingly with the contribution of serial entrepreneur Ivan Lee.
Lee is not just the founder and chairman of private investment company Raging Bull, through which he made the investment into Vanitee, but is also well known for being the founder of the ThaiExpress group, which now employs 2,000 staff in 100 restaurants across Asia and Oceania. ThaiExpress was acquired in 2009 for $100 million by Minor Food Group.
According to a press release shared by Vanitee, Lee sees Vanitee doing for the beauty industry “what Airbnb and Uber did for the hospitality and transport industry.”
“Vanitee will radicalise and create new business opportunities for beauty professionals and at the same time, expand the range of choices and bring top quality, on-demand services to customers,” said Lee.
Vanitee is no first-mover in the beauty app industry. With competing apps like GetKlarity and BookQuickly, the app differentiates itself by providing a platform for independent beauty experts and artists. Since launching in May 2015, Vanitee already has a network of over 550 verified independent artists, with an additional 1,200 beauty artists in the pipeline undergoing Vanitee’s stringent 27-step verification process. They have since served over 4,700 customers.
The average Singaporean makes six visits to spas and beauty salons, and spends more than US$600 on spa treatments each year. Singapore also has the highest active spa-going population across the globe (67%), making this a ripe industry to be in.
Other investors who have faith in Vanitee’s vision include Japan’s No.1 beauty portal @cosme, South East Asia’s largest beauty distributor Luxasia, and angel investor Robert Yap, who runs Asia’s leading logistics company YCH. According to Sabrina Chong, Head of Corporate Development at Luxasia Group, the beauty distributor has plans to set up an Asian Beauty College in Singapore by the end of the year, and will collaborate with Vanitee to provide training opportunities for their network of independent beauty artists.
“Through Vanitee’s expertise in mobile technology, we aim to disrupt the beauty and wellness industry norms to attract the next generation of customers, and become known as Asia’s leading beauty market maker,” says Chong.
Part of the funds raised, according to Vanitee founder Douglas Gan, will be used to expand into Malaysia. According to the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (via The Malaysian Insider), the spa industry generated RM20.7 million revenue in 2011 and is estimated to spawn more than 6,000 jobs by 2020. Malaysians also spend an estimated RM1.6 billion annually on cosmetics.
So if you thought that you’re already spending a lot on beauty services, just you wait.