LVMH's Sephora buys cosmetics startup Luxola

Eight-figure sum believed to be one of Singapore's biggest Internet startup exits in 2015


COSMETICS e-commerce site Luxola has been snagged by French luxury group LVMH via the latter's cosmetic subsidiary Sephora for an "eight-figure" sum, BT has learnt, in what is believed to be one of Singapore's biggest Internet startup exits this year.

Luxola founder Alexis Horowitz-Burdick told BT on Thursday: "Luxola and Sephora are a good fit. Luxola is a leading beauty e-tailer, with a great passion for beauty and an unparalleled knowledge of the online market. Sephora is a leading beauty retailer that has gained huge market share with a wide brand assortment and great beauty knowledge." 

Following the buyout, Luxola will continue to expand across South-east Asia, Australia and India, and see its 139 existing employees join Sephora. Ms Horowitz-Burdick, who founded Singapore-based Luxola in 2011, will become managing director of e-commerce and digital at Sephora Asia.

Asked if a trade sale had been one of Luxola's exit strategies, Ms Horowitz-Burdick said: "Luxola has always strived to be the No 1 beauty destination in South-east Asia, while Sephora is a leading beauty retailer. When this opportunity came to us, we saw it as a natural progression. We will continue to grow Luxola with a greater market reach, brand assortment and unparalleled customer experience."

Before the buyout, Luxola had raised some US$15.6 million in funding, including a US$13 million Series C last year from F&H Fund Management, QueensBridge Venture Partners, TransCosmos, Global Brain Corporation and GREE Ventures, and a US$2 million Series A by GREE Ventures in 2013.

In 2012, Wavemaker Partners invested S$639,000 in the startup through the National Research Foundation (NRF)'s Technology Incubation Scheme, which was launched in 2011 to jumpstart Singapore's tech ecosystem. According to a Wavemaker spokeswoman, the venture capital firm has since bought out NRF's stake; NRF did not own equity in Luxola at the startup's time of exit.

Paul Santos, Wavemaker managing partner, said: "Sephora's acquisition of Luxola is testament to the value Luxola is able to create for its customers and investors. Alexis and her team have reinforced through what they have achieved that Singapore is capable of producing world-class tech businesses."

He added that South-east Asia - with its attractive demographics and macroeconomics - is not lacking in opportunities to create value, and global players are starting to take notice. "It's a great time to be a value-driven - as opposed to a hype-driven - tech entrepreneur in South-east Asia."

Since the start of the year, there has been a slew of Singapore Internet startup exits, such as that of travel booking platform Voyagin by Rakuten; commodity management software startup JustCommodity by Texas-based rival Allegro Development Corporation; integrated marketing startup 3ree by China's Always Marketing Services; and content and influencer marketing startup Gushcloud by South Korea's Yello Digital Marketing group.