Techturized has its sights set on the $3 billion African American hair product market

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on June 10, 2014

From The News Desk

Every year, $10 billion is spent on hair products in America, 33 percent of which is driven by African American women.

That's why Techturized built Myavana, a social network app targeted to black women to help them get advice on hair products and styling.

“We have the widest range of hair textures, greater than any other ethnicity,” co-founder Candace Mitchell tells Pando prior to pitching.

It’s an intriguing concept: Using the power of social to inform consumers about beauty products, to escape the corporate gobble-dee-gook that claims every product is perfect for every type of hair. From a female perspective, this makes perfect sense. Combing the annals of the Internet to find the best stylists or products for my fine, lank hair didn’t work. The best suggestions have always come from friends with hair similar to mine.

“We wanted to mimic the real world as closely as possible,” Mitchell says. “A lot of statistics will show recommendations are driven by people you’re close to.”

Here’s how Myavana works: Users sign up for the app and connect it to their “Girlfriends.” That way they can follow the profiles of women whose hair texture is similar to them, looking for tips on what brand of shampoo is most effective, what haircuts look the best, and which stylists can navigate coarse or curly or chemically-processed hair the best. They can explore an Instagram-like stream of photographs for different hair textures and styles, products, or stylists nearby seeing corresponding reviews written by fellow users beneath each post.

The time for Myavana may certainly be right, given trends towards “organic” and “green.” Such spillover has headed into the hair community, where women who might have used damaging chemical straighteners are now opting for more natural choices. “I think consumers are becoming more educated,” Techturized’s Mitchell says.

Although the app is designed in a beautiful way, it’s buggy and froze constantly the first few times I used it, making it almost impossible to navigate.

That may be the sort of growing pain that comes with the fact that Techturized has raised very little money, aside from a small friends and family round and an Indiegogo campaign. The founders have been working on it for a few years, but pivoted a few times and tried out different models. The current inception was released six months ago, and it has only garnered 3,000 monthly active users.

Part of the hurdle Techturized will be facing is the daunting chasm of network effects. If the whole point of the app is to get recommendations and suggestions from friends whose hair style is similar to you, you’ll need a whole lot of contacts using the app before it becomes much use for you.

Mitchell says that doesn’t bother her. “We’ve used word of mouth and organic growth up until this point but now we think we have enough product market fit to reach wider channels,” Mitchell says.

During the pitch competition, Techturized killed it. Mitchell’s booming voice and laugh reached every corner of the venue and she didn’t waver once. The judges reacted favorably to the product, with Shervin Pishever saying “I think there’s a massive potential here and you’re onto something,” and Eric Moore saying “I love this market because it’s huge.”

There was a little giggling over how the largely white and male panel of judges didn’t exactly fit the target demographic. “I know nothing about hair which you can tell by looking at my hair,” Zach Ware said. But some of the judges had invested in similar companies before, like Tristan Walker’s, so the questions were spot on.

Mitchell and fellow co-founder Chanel Martin had thought-out answers to all of them. When Moore questioned them about how Myavana differs from a few of the other companies he has invested in — neither of which I’ve ever heard of — Mitchell immediately rattled off a few stats about her competitors and concluded “We’re focused on the consumer because at the end of the day the consumer drives the dollar.”

When Kevin Colleran asked whether Techturized had established relationships with product vendors like L’Oreal yet, Mitchell executed the art of the bullshit, saying, “We spent a lot of time forming those relationships and we think now is the right time to start leveraging that.” Of course “forming relationships” can mean a whole range of things, from sending cold emails that never got responded to to pitching brands at conferences. But the answer showed that no matter where Techturized is in the process, they’re at least cognizant of the need for that step.

Perhaps the only question Mitchell stumbled over responding was the final one from Kristen Green. She criticized the range of Myavana’s scope, which included everything from building a community, leveraging data, and having a commerce element. Mitchell replied that the company’s focus was on consumer recommendations and all else would follow from there. It’s a tidy answer, but doesn’t actually address the fact that Techturized has a lot of goals happening right now in one very tiny, underfunded app.