Beiersdorf, WeWork Team on Beauty Accelerator in South Korea

PARIS — Beiersdorf AG is the latest company to jump on the beauty accelerator bandwagon, with the upcoming launch of its program focused on start-ups based in South Korea.
For the project, Beiersdorf and WeWork have formed a partnership in the country, for which the shared workspace giant will facilitate Beiersdorf’s access to the start-up ecosystem there. The accelerator is to be located in Seoul’s Hongdae District, where Hongik University’s cool kids hang out. The German company’s Nivea brand sponsors the hub.
Big beauty companies, which rarely start new brands from scratch, these days can find their mature brands facing stiff competition from upstarts, often spawned in the digital realm. So they have been quick on the uptake to create accelerator programs, fostering nascent brands that offer them key learnings and tools to enrich know-how, sometimes paving the way for acquisitions.
L’Occitane in September said it had opened a start-up incubator in Marseille, France, with the studio focusing on cosmetics and well-being. Puig’s recently launched collaborative platform, called Puig Futures, is three-pronged — involved in developing new “disruptive” business models, partnerships with companies and taking minority stakes in third-party enterprises related to the fragrance category, for instance.
Generally, companies create accelerators in their home markets, but Beiersdorf is taking a different tack. “We want to be where the future of skin care begins,” said Ralph Gusko, Beiersdorf board member for brands, research and development, and the Asia-Pacific region. “We are embracing the Korean ecosystem because it is a frontrunner in beauty and digital technologies.”
The selection process for the first crop of companies will start in the first quarter of next year. Chosen start-ups are to receive exclusive access to Beiersdorf’s worldwide market reach and the company’s expertise in skin care.
There is to be a dedicated Beiersdorf team for the start-up collaboration and acceleration, which will also interface with Beiersdorf’s senior executives from the marketing, sales, digital, supply chain and R&D branches.
“At Beiersdorf, we believe in partnership,” said Endrik Hasemann, general manager Beiersdorf Korea. “Our foundation and global success is based on close collaboration with partners in the skin-care market. Today, we want to help Korean entrepreneurs build their ideas and open the doors to the global market.”
“This partnership will add to our continuous effort in building a creative and innovative community that fosters diverse creators in Korea,” said Matthew Shampine, general manager of WeWork Korea.
Aside from cash-cow Nivea, Hamburg-based Beiersdorf’s other skin-care brands include La Prairie, Eucerin and Labello. In 2017, the company’s beauty sales were estimated at 5.54 billion euros, up 3.4 percent versus the prior year.
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