FRANZISKA LEONHARDT, CEO OF AVE+EDAM - INTERVIEW WITH WBM TOP 100 INNOVATION CEO
DR. FRANZISKA LEONHARDT, CEO OF GERMANY'S AVE+EDAM HAS BEEN SELECTED BY THE JUDGES OF WORLD BIZ MAGAZINE'S ANNUAL AWARDS TO BE A RECIPIENT OF THE TOP 100 CEOS IN INNOVATION AWARD 2021. THIS SELECTION FOLLOWS A STRINGENT PROCESS THAT EVALUATED OVER 40,000 NOMINEES TO SELECT THE EXCLUSIVE LIST OF 100 WINNERS.
Dr. Leonhardt is the CEO of Ave+Edam, a company that leverages advanced technology in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) to provide superior skin care products. Dr. Leonhardt is a high profile entrepreneur, angel investor, lawyer and blockchain enthusiast, who is based in Berlin. Currently the founder of two businesses, she formerly worked in Private Equity and Venture Capital. Dr. Leonhardt was also previously General Counsel, CCO and interim member of the Supervisory Board of Rocket Internet SE with responsibility for executing board decisions within Rocket Internet‘s network in 110+ countries with 50+ founder teams. She is an active player in the Berlin startup ecosystem as senior advisor and advisory board member for several companies.
In what ways is Ave+Edam elevating skincare?
We believe in our customer-centric personalized approach of better products in clean quality. It is the combination of expert knowledge, intelligent algorithms and data as well as R&D of the product. The algorithms learn from our customers' feedback and continuously optimize the products. Our algorithms have been developed and trained by our co-founders and our world-renowned expert team of data scientists, engineers, dermatologists, chemists and cosmetic experts, as well as over 4 million data points. The algorithms identify the respective needs of the customers' skin, using technology by looking at their skin requirements, environmental conditions such as air pollution, water hardness but also lifestyle and skin goals.
"We believe in our customer-centric personalized approach of better products in clean quality. It is the combination of expert knowledge, intelligent algorithms and data as well as R&D of the product."
Why is Ave+Edam's unique approach crucial at this time?
Using the means of technology can really make a difference when it comes to taking the guesswork out of skin care. In addition, we set the standard in the Clean beauty category for which there is no clearly defined standard yet. This ties hand in hand with sustainability aspects as consumption increases waste. With our approach of producing the right product for each customer we are able to significantly reduce the waste which is caused by mass production and conventional methods. All our formulations are made in Germany and vegan, They are created with dermatologists and you. We use effective, clean and vegan ingredients. We only test on friends and family and not on animals.
Please tell us how important innovation is to your company and kindly provide some examples.
Innovation is at the center of our company.
Technology-wise, we use data from the environment like pollution charts, air quality in general, UV light, wind, seasonal changes, water hardness... to name a few, as well as lifestyle and skin data in order to formulate better and more sustainable products. We worked with two dermatologists, chemists, cosmetologists and of course data scientists in order to fuel our data base. We vertically integrate R&D in the value chain of fast moving consumer goods starting with skincare. A feedback loop from the customer back to R&D ensures that our technology stack is always up to date and we are able to retrain the neural net in our backend. We also are the first company that uses this technology backbone to formulate products algorithmically. We have sold over ten-thousand products, analyzed over 70k consumer profiles and correlated 4m data points.
Ingredients and Formulation wise, we have been recognized for this with being nominated TOP 3 AI Startups for the German AI Award 2020. We are the first beauty company that has been Green Label certified in December 2020 by CodeCheck (a consumer scanning app that shows ingredients in a product).
How has your industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 has shown us that natural and minimalist skin care is a trend that is here to stay. Fortunately we already had our supply chain within Europe (mostly in Germany) and noticed during the pandemic that we may not have the best prices for packaging and raw materials, but that sustainable sourcing within Europe was rewarded as we have not suffered as much from shortages and unstable supply chains.
Please tell us about any Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability initiatives at Ave+Edam.
The beauty industry has a huge impact on the environment. According to Zero Waste Week, "More than 120 billion units of packaging are produced globally every year by the cosmetics industry, contributing to loss of 18 million acres of forest annually. It's been calculated that something in the order of four to 12 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the oceans every year, mostly through rivers. Media headlines have focussed on the great aggregations of debris that float in gyres or wash up with the tides on coastlines. But this visible trash is thought to represent just 1% of the marine plastic budget. The exact whereabouts of the other 99% is unknown. Some of it has almost certainly been consumed by sea creatures, but perhaps the much larger proportion has fragmented and simply sunk.”
This little article shows that two of the major problems being overproduction, waste and ingredients like microbeads /microplastic and nanoparticles. At Ave+ Edam, we avoid waste by algorithmically predicting our demands and thus regulating our production with a just-in-time approach. We produce in Germany in order to avoid long transports and fairly produce. We also source our packaging in Europe. Secondly, we formulate without using critically regarded ingredients like Microbeans/Microplastics or nanoparticles. We believe this will make a huge difference going forward with a growing impact.
"Using the means of technology can really make a difference when it comes to taking the guesswork out of skin care. In addition, we set the standard in the Clean beauty category for which there is no clearly defined standard yet. This ties hand in hand with sustainability aspects as consumption increases waste. With our approach of producing the right product for each customer we are able to significantly reduce the waste which is caused by mass production and conventional methods."
What improvements do you want to see in your industry and how can you get others to follow your lead?
Producing data-driven not only in skincare but across the beauty industry will be a game changer for avoiding overproduction and waste. We are building the data-based technology for this and hope to one day be able to license to others to allow for them to use the benefits of our tools.
What drives you as an entrepreneur?
I truly believe that development and production processes are going to greatly adjust within the next 5-10 years and the vertical integration of R&D in the value chain will be a key factor to success. The second point is the democratization of knowledge through technology which is something that thrills me and is just getting started in the beauty space.
What makes a good leader?
Good question. I think a good leader depends on the situation in which her/his leadership is required. During the pandemic a new type of leadership was necessary. In these “moments of truth” a good leader will not hide struggling or having imperfections but openly show them and talk about it, opening up about them and showing the vulnerability that makes us human. We do not need perfect role models, we need relatable authentic role models with morals and values that inspire us to believe that we can get through tough times.
What's next for Ave+Edam?
In 2018 we were one of the first players in the world using data and technology to produce better products and we can't wait to shape the industry. Skincare cosmetics has many other verticals that can also be optimized from the end customer's point of view...
AVE+EDAM creates personal skincare as unique as you. Clean and ecologically made-to-order. Backed by science, made in Germany. Ave+Edam was founded by Dr. Franziska Leonhardt (high profile entrepreneur, investor, lawyer and blockchain enthusiast) and Professor Dominik L. Michels (scientist and tech expert focused on algorithms), (both are pictured above). AVE + EDAM is on a bold journey to create a new generation of skincare: personalized by advanced technology and powered by the cleanest, high-performance ingredients.
Find out more about Ave+Edam: www.aveandedam.com