Launched in 2010 to debate the latest and evolving landscapes in technology, TechCrunch’s Disrupt is back again in New York with their spectacular event highlight — an annual competition showcasing some of the brightest, most promising minds in tech fighting to pitch their business ideas. Applicants are judged for their products, business models, teams, designs, usability and more.
This year, from countless hopefuls emerged 6 finalists — Boomerang Commerce, ISI Technology, Mimi, Mink, Showkit and Vurb — who brought the world diverse and revolutionary improvements to hearing aids, water-heating technology, pricing for online retailers, web-search, customer service support, and make-up.
Amongst them perhaps came the most fascinating invention demonstrated by Harvard Business School graduate, Grace Choi, who discovered an ingenious way to somehow print, yes, print make-up via a 3D hardware printer she branded Mink.
The beauty of Mink perhaps lies in its simplicity. It essentially works like one of those inkjet printers we are all too familiar with, allowing users to colour pick any shade off the Internet and print it exactly like how we would do to our Word documents, PDFs, et cetera.
Frustrated by the commoditization of beauty products, Choi realised that the cosmetic industry, worth $50 billion today, reaps absurd profits simply by charging premiums on one thing that our current technology provides for free — colour. She feistily remarked that the raw materials used in manufacturing are so cheap that it is as if they make “a whole lot of money on a whole lot of bull****”.
Combining the convenience of our very own home with the unparalleled selection of colours off the Internet, Choi aspires to change the way make-up is purchased at mass retail outlets such as Walmart, where consumers are usually deprived of colour choices than what is really ‘out there’. The definition of beauty, she says, ought to be something consumers “should be able to control themselves”.
While Mink primarily targets 13 to 21 year-old girls, its initial retail price at $300 may prove to be a little too steep for a group of dependents with far less spending power than working adults. In this brutal and unpredictable world of business and technology, it is a wonder if Choi would float her dreams through her amazing 3D make-up printer, or sink like so many excellent, but unfeasible hardware products did before Mink.
“What we’re doing is taking out the [expletive],” Choi said. “Big makeup companies take the pigment and the substrates and mix them together and then jack the price. We do the same thing and let you get the makeup right in your own house.”
Here’s to cheering her on.