Updated: Apr 1, 2021
Each month, we choose one of our past speakers and look into their journey and the small steps they took in their life which led to their big goals. This month, we are delighted to have one of our past speakers (Beauty in a touch free world), Meghan Maupin, she’s an engineer and entrepreneur, CEO and Co-founder of Atolla, a skin care company that is disrupting the beauty industry with the latest technology advances such as machine learning.
1. Can you describe yourself and what you do?
My name is Meghan Maupin (I go by "Meg") and I'm the co-founder and CEO of custom skincare company Atolla.
2. Tell us a little more about Atolla, how did it come about?
The idea for Atolla came from my own experiences with skincare in grad school. Like many people, I was struggling with figuring out what to use for my sensitive skin and went through an expensive and wasteful trial-and-error process. Since I was in grad school at MIT, I knew there could be a more scientific approach to this problem of finding the right skincare for me. I connected with my co-founders (a data scientist and dermatologist) and we began building Atolla as a solution to put together a simple, but effective skincare routine for each individual.
3. How does your company use new technologies like machine learning and 3D printing?
My background is in design and 3d printing, so I was familiar with new custom manufacturing techniques as I began building Atolla. We don't use 3d printing for manufacturing, but have actually patented our machine learning algorithms and process for custom manufacturing. We combine various types of data through our skin assessment and at-home skin test and use that to create custom formulations. Every month, users redo the skin assessment and we continue to tweak and iterate their formulas based on the results. Our ML models have gotten great at predicting what someone's skin will need and we are beginning to see some really cool trends in skin, for example how skin issues map to different pH levels.
4. How do you see the beauty industry in the future, is everything going to be personalized?
I don't think everything needs to be personalized as much as skincare, because skin is our largest organ and always changing so it makes sense to have a custom, evolving solution. I do think that data-driven product development is the future of the beauty industry, which is not just custom but would include having more research-backed and data-backed product development instead of the marketing-driven product development that occurs today.
5. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur.
The number one thing was working at a startup (Formlabs) before I went back to grad school! It was inspiring to be one of the employees and see it scale from 40 employees to 300+.
6. What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur?
Always have a question you are trying to answer and test one thing at a time. In the early days for us, we wanted to test 1. if people were interested in learning about their skin through physical skin testing and 2. if they were interested in getting a custom product based on the results. It's a good practice to run just 1 experiment at a time so you really know what is causing each result and have a clear learning.
7. Can you share a small win that happened in your life that in the future led to something bigger?
Right after graduating from UVA, I moved up to Boston with the hope that that I would eventually go to grad school there. I didn't know a single person! My thought was if I worked in the Boston/Cambridge ecosystem, it would help make connections for grad school later on. At the time, I was thinking I wanted to go to grad school for architecture and design (which was what my undergrad degree was in), but turns out that was a great strategy. Even though I ended up going to grad school for something else, it was working at an MIT-affiliated startup that helped me find a new program that had just launched at MIT called Integrated Design and Management. I started Atolla in that program, and the rest is history!
8. Can you share one lesson you learned from your father or your mother that changed your life?
I come from a military family; mom was former Air Force Intelligence and my dad an Air Force Colonel and fighter pilot. Put those two things together and you get me, a calculated risk-taker. My mom said something to me growing up that I always think about: "If you don't ask the question and put yourself out there, the answer is automatically no." It's changed my life to always ask the question, write the email, take the risk because nothing happens if you don't try. Some of the best things in my life like working at Formlabs, getting into MIT, and starting Atolla have all started with not being afraid to ask questions.
To learn more visit: atolla.com