Abigail Klein Leichman
October 23, 2012

Tamar Yaniv describes herself as “an uber-user of beauty products.”

“According to my parents, cosmetics are something I’ve been fascinated with more or less since I came out of my mother’s womb,” jokes the Israeli Internet management professional.

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Yaniv’s social beauty site Preen.Me, launched last June through Israeli startup accelerator UpWest Labs. Eventually, it will generate individualized, objective product recommendations. For now, Yaniv is concentrating on building a community of users by engaging them in sharing and ranking experiences with makeup products and styles.

“Being my own target audience gave me a head start,” Yaniv tells ISRAEL21c. “The first thing was to create a community on Facebook, which now numbers over 200,000 people, and they are our experts. If we listen, they’ll tell us what they want.”

Given that the US beauty products market is worth a whopping $60 billion annually, perhaps it is not surprising that Preen.Me recently attracted $800,000 in seed financing from Genesis Partners, Hong Kong’s Horizons Ventures and private investor Oren Zeev.

“The site is mostly US-focused, but we have a lot of viral traffic from the Far East, where beauty is huge,” explains Yaniv.

Generating recommendations within a year

The main point of Preen.Me is to help women avoid wasting money on cosmetic and skin-care products that don’t work well for them, which is fairly common. “Women dispose of up to 75 percent of products they buy in the never-ending hunt for efficacy and satisfaction,” says Yaniv.

The specific idea, however, is rather unusual – especially among Israeli startups that are typically founded by men and tend toward high-tech.

“I think it’s not a very charted area globally,” says Yaniv. “We know a few people who are going vaguely in the same direction but not exactly what we’re doing.”

She projects that within a year, Preen.Me’s database will be large enough so that users will be able to receive accurate recommendations after inputting their age group, skin type, price range and the names of three favorite products.

The process is based on the “collaborative filtering recommendations” system popular online, which generates predictions of items a user will like by connecting that person’s recorded interests with those of a larger community of users. This is the data now being collected.

“Say you’re looking for an eye cream and you’re between 40 and 50,” says Yaniv. “We will generate a recommendation based on the experience of thousands of other women like you. It’s specific and objective, as opposed to advice from a beauty blogger who doesn’t know you, or from the girl at Sephora.”

Tamar Yaniv went from online poker to online beauty.
Tamar Yaniv went from online poker to online beauty.

Though she intends to keep it this way, she has initiated talks with some of the larger beauty brands concerning partnerships.

“We can bring their products into the hands of web consumers, but product recommendations will always be objective,” she says. “If you’re looking at a L’Oreal product, for example, you can see it within the L’Oreal world and also in the context of objective recommendations for you.”

Online poker to online beauty

Born in Israel, Yaniv lived in the United States during childhood and returned to Israel at age 14. She worked as a senior manager in various Internet companies, mostly in Europe and mostly in online gaming, for the past decade.

“This is a radical shift, from online poker to beauty,” she acknowledges. “When I started thinking of doing something on my own, I needed to feel passionate about it. I had no professional expertise in this area.”

Yaniv co-founded the business-to-consumer startup with her husband, business development veteran Haggai Klorman Eraqi, who is chief operation officer; and Nitzan Volman as the chief technology officer responsible for the algorithmic platform beneath the site’s surface.

Part of the new investment will go toward hiring additional developers for Preen.Me, based in Jaffa not far from Yaniv and Eraqi’s home in Tel Aviv.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had at work, and it takes up every waking moment,” Yaniv says. “I was making a lot of money but I just wasn’t happy, and I had to figure out my priorities.”

If Preen.Me is successful, she stands to make a pretty penny doing what she loves.

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