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08/10/2022

Ulta Beauty’s New Prisma Ventures to Tap Into Power of Emerging Tech

Liz Dominguez
Managing Editor
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Investment arm funding startups

Leading retail brands are quickly realizing the power of emerging tech startups, and Ulta Beauty is the latest company to tap into these wells of opportunity. 

The company has launched its own digital innovation fund, Prima Ventures, which will invest $20 million in emerging tech startups that are looking to reshape the future of online and in-store experiences. 

“Launching Prisma Ventures is yet another way Ulta Beauty innovatively leads and delivers forward-thinking retail experiences. We believe this fund presents opportunities for creative disruptors to further propel the industry forward,” said Prama Bhatt, chief digital officer, Ulta Beauty.

“We set out to build lasting relationships with startups, welcoming them into our ecosystem, co-creating and experimenting in ways that tap each other’s expertise and ultimately leverage our resources to imagine — and reimagine — what’s next for retail and beauty,” Bhatt added.  

How It Works

Prisma Ventures will partner with early-stage startups that are primarily Series Seed and Series A tech companies focused on the following:

  • Personalized & Data Driven Technology 
  • AR, VR & the Metaverse  
  • Technology-Powered Custom Beauty Products & In-Store Services  
  • Social Commerce  

The company will also be investing in technologies that go beyond its core digital strategy in order to innovate in other ways across the retail, beauty, and commerce spaces. Investments will consider whether the startups align with Ulta Beauty’s four primary innovation pillars; their leadership and cultural compatibility; risk across legal, technical, and business; the strength of their value proposition, visions, and plans for achieving financial goals and being able to scale; as well as IP and differentiation across patents and technologies. 

Fund participants will have access to Ulta Beauty’s innovation team, consumer insights, and in-market testing opportunities.  

Innovation in the Works

Prisma Ventures has already invested in a variety of start-ups including Haut.ai, Adeptmind, Revea, LUUM, and ReStyle. Teh company stated these investments have “enabled greater personalization and diagnosis within Ulta Beauty’s digital skin and hair experiences.”  

“Ulta Beauty’s investment was a gamechanger, providing us both with an incredible opportunity to test, learn, deploy, and scale our low-code AI innovation platform. Ulta Beauty leveraged our platform to create engaging, differentiated experiences for beauty lovers nationwide, plus it added to Iterate’s credibility,” said Jon Nordmark, co-founder and CEO at Iterate.ai. 

“The collaborative spirit has been a constant throughout our six-year relationship which grew from a small agreement in 2016 into an eventual investment. Together, we’re pushing the industry forward with incredible AI-, AR-, and IoT-related innovation,” Nordmark added.  

Brands Are Looking to Unlock New Opportunities 

Similar strategies are being utilized across the industry to tap into new innovations and technologies, particularly through accelerator and pitch programs. Macy’s retail development program — The Workshop at Macy’s — recently picked back up, providing up-and-coming businesses with tools, education, and support to help them get started and sustain growth. The program kicked off with 25 new entrepreneurs who committed to participating in a five-week program — in both in-person and virtual events. It ran from April 25 to May 28 and featured new classes like Strategic Sourcing and Pitching for Funding. 

Additionally, Walmart first launched Circular Connector in April 2022, and the public initiative hoped to connect Walmart and anyone looking for solutions with sustainable packaging innovations. Now the company is accelerating this search by collaborating with the U.S. Plastic Pact to launch the Innovation Awards, which inspires new solutions and provide innovators with a platform to test their ideas. 

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