Ulta Beauty Launches $20M Digital Innovation Venture Fund to Invest in Emerging Tech Startups

Quick take:

  • The fund will invest in tech startups that seek to shape future online and in-store experiences.
  • Fund participants will have access to Ulta Beauty’s innovation team, consumer insights, and in-market testing opportunities.
  • The fund was launched to disrupt the beauty and retail industries.

The United States’ largest beauty retailer, Ulta Beauty, today announced the official launch of its new fund, Prisma Ventures. The fund will invest $20 million in emerging startups that seek to shape future online and in-store experiences utilizing new technology that fuels greater discovery, personalization, and convenience.

Prisma Ventures partners with early-stage startups that are primarily Series Seed and Series A technology companies within the four innovation pillars of personalized & data-driven technology, AR, VR & the metaverse, technology-powered custom beauty products & in-store services, and social commerce.

These pillars mirror Ulta Beauty’s digital innovation priorities, accounting for the majority of Prisma Ventures’ investments. The remaining investments will go to opportunistic technologies beyond the company’s core digital strategy to disrupt other facets of retail, beauty, or commerce.

The fund was created to nurture long-term, strategic partnerships and pairs Ulta Beauty’s size and scale with the agility and singular focus of tech startups.

“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.”

Beyond capital investment, Prisma Ventures will provide fund participants access to Ulta Beauty’s innovation team, consumer insights, and in-market testing opportunities.

Applicants will be evaluated based on five key metrics: alignment with a focus area, leadership & cultural compatibility, diligence & risk assessment, business plan & scalability, and IP & differentiation.

Prisma Ventures is headed by Managing Directors Agustina Sartori and Yvanna Perez-Morel. Sartori also leads Ulta Beauty’s Innovation Experiences team, which focuses on new guest-facing experiences leveraging emerging tech such as AR, VR, and AI.

In recent months, beauty brands have been exploring opportunities in the metaverse via AR, VR and NFTs. For instance, Estee Lauder, Benefit, and elf have integrated Perfect Corp’s metaverse-ready virtual beauty try-on services into their online businesses.

Estée Lauder debuted its first virtual serum NFT for Metaverse Fashion Week that can be applied to avatars, while Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent Beauté have also launched their Web3 journeys.

In June, Clinique announced its entrance into the metaverse with its first makeup NFT campaign in partnership with 3D content and software company, Daz 3D, applying makeup to the avatars from Daz 3D’s Non-Fungible People (NFP) NFT collection.

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