L’Oréal and AstroLabs launch tech challenge for homegrown startups


L’Oréal Middle East and AstroLabs have launched L’Oréal TechQuest, a challenge for homegrown startups in the UAE and Saudi Arabia to develop beauty technology for L’Oréal Middle East. 

TechQuest, the first of its kind initiative in the region, and is the Middle East’s regional semi-finals of the wider L’Oréal Big Bang Beauty Tech Innovation Programme.

It is aimed at driving open innovation and co-creation of innovative beauty solutions by nurturing promising startups from South Asia Pacific, Middle East and North Africa region.  

It highlights the key role of SMEs in driving the region’s economies through innovation, and the commitment of L’Oréal Middle East to foster collaboration, drive technological advancements, and support the growth of innovative solutions in the region.

In the UAE, SMEs constitute over 94 per cent of all companies, while in Saudi Arabia, 99.5 per cent of businesses fall into this category. As part of the TechQuest challenge, initiated earlier this year, L’Oréal Middle East aims to accelerate government efforts to enhance the competitiveness of the SME sector.

This year, 535 startup companies were identified, with 14 startups shortlisted to design operational solutions in areas such as warehouse optimisation, data fragmentation, AI for social listening and AI in regulatory affairs. 

From the pool of startups, four innovators emerged as the TechQuest winners after going through a rigorous evaluation process.

Exponential Solutions (10xDS) was recognised for their achievements in AI in Regulatory Affairs; Ahad Security Transforming for their contributions to Data Fragmentation; Yango Robotics for their advancements in Warehouse Optimization and Aim Technologies for their innovative work in AI for Social Listening.

The innovators also had the unique opportunity to pilot their solutions with key decision makers and technical experts in L’Oréal, receiving valuable feedback, exclusive data and mentorship as well as support to accelerate the commercialisation of their solution in the region. 

The four chosen startups from TechQuest are in the running to potentially be advanced to the ‘L’Oréal Big Bang Beauty Tech Innovation Program’ Grand Finale that will be held in Singapore in October 2024, where they will get the chance to compete against other shortlisted startups from India and Southeast Asia.

The startups will have the opportunity to develop their Beauty Tech innovation pilots in one of five challenge themes: Consumer Experience, Content, Media, New Commerce and Tech for Good. Those who prove successful pilots in SAPMENA could have the opportunity to work with L’Oréal globally.

Olfa Messaoudi, Chief Digital and Marketing Officer at L’Oréal Middle East, said: “L’Oréal’s overarching purpose is to create beauty that moves the world, and embrace technology as a catalyst for transformation. The Group has a legacy of pushing the boundaries of beauty innovation and continues to do so with avenues and initiatives that hone entrepreneurial and pioneering talent.

“SMEs are the backbone of a country’s economy and are often at the forefront of innovation. With L’Oréal TechQuest, we want to explore their agility, creativity and competitiveness to find beauty solutions that make a positive difference. Startups in UAE and KSA have an opportunity to shape the future of beauty technology in a supportive and dynamic environment.”

Roland Daher, Chief Executive Officer at AstroLabs, said: “We’ve always been about merging startups’ agility with the infrastructure and depth of established corporates to unlock transformation in key industries on the rise. The L’Oreal TechQuest exemplifies this commitment, offering regional startups fast-track access and the opportunity to validate and accelerate entry into the wider L’Oréal ecosystem. Bridging this gap ensures a seamless flow of market innovations into real-world applications for industry giants like L’Oréal Middle East.”