Episode 16

Ming Zhao  ·  Co-Founder & CEO of Proven

“Even Netflix, people didn't believe them in the beginning either, right? Everybody who succeeds was at some point an underdog, and you just have to believe in that. And to know that, do not think that you're an exception because people don't believe in you that's the norm. People won't believe in you until they can't not believe in you.”

Ming has a natural gift for business and discovery. Prior to founding Proven, she was the head of business development at NerdWallet, a private equity investor at Bain Capital, and a strategy consultant with the Boston Consulting Group. She holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School and is certified in cosmetic formulation.


Ming has lived and worked in numerous regions around the world, including China, India, Austria, Rwanda, Hong Kong, and the United States, and has absorbed the beauty and wellness wisdom from her wanderings. She is also a 3rd generation entrepreneur – her grandfather became a baker/ entrepreneur after trekking 1200 miles on foot to escape a famine. Her father, similarly, made the journey to America from China to expand his computer literacy school, in the process immigrating the family and the then 12-year-old Ming to the US.


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Podcast Transcript

Ming Zhao

Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast my name is Bryan and my name is Maggie. We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:23) Today we have a very special guest with us today. Her name is Ming Zhao and she is the co-founder and CEO of Proven skincare. Ming, welcome to the show. Can you introduce yourself and talk a little bit about yourself to our general audience? 

Ming: (00:00:46) Yeah. Happy to, thank you, Maggie. Thank you, Bryan. I’m Ming, I am currently the co-founder and CEO of Proven where we create personalized skincare products that are based on more than 47 factors about you, including your gene expression, your environment, your lifestyle, and your skin concern. 

I, myself, am an immigrant. I moved to the States from China at the age of 12, not speaking a word of English. I am also a third-generation entrepreneur; both my father and my grandfather were entrepreneurs in China. Prior to my founding Proven in the States and I’m also a mother to a two-and-a-half-year-old. So my company, Proven, and my daughter is actually the same age.

Bryan: (00:01:41) That’s amazing. It’s pretty, pretty amazing to hear that you come from a family of entrepreneurs and how was that experience? Like how did that shape and influence you and make, help you become the person that you are today?

Ming: (00:01:57) I think the most obvious thing is that it made me and most people in my family pretty fearless. My grandfather was an entrepreneur and when he was 19 years old, he escaped from a famine. So there was a famine where he was from in the middle of the country. His families were farmers. He was the oldest child in the family. He had six younger siblings and they were in danger of starving to death, like actually starving to death. So he walked like 1900 kilometers from where he was, to a big city in the Northern part of China. He bake and sell a bunch of bread, carry the bread, worked a long, long way. In the new city, he opened up a bakery but more of a bakery cart making the type of bread that they eat in his own hometown. That’s how he actually supported his entire family and kept his entire family from starving while sending all his money back home. 

And eventually, he helped his own family move to the new city as well. So I think with that experience,  my father was actually among the first generation of entrepreneurs when China first allowed entrepreneurship in 1980, but when like opened up the economy, so weird prior to that during the time of Mao Zedong. It’s the weirdest thing that entrepreneurship wasn’t allowed, but it actually wasn’t allowed to true communism was that none of the elements of ingenuity was allowed. So as soon as Xi Jinping helped open up the economy, my father became the, among the first wave of entrepreneurs to open his own company, which at that time people really love their iron rice bowl, which was basically guaranteed work and pension for life. But people once they have a great job. 

They didn’t want to leave because it was guaranteed by the government. But my father wasn’t afraid to leave that kind of situation for something that he really believed in. Even though there were a lot of voices around him that said why would you do this? Why would you do that? Things don’t change that much the type of pressure that people feel now, they might’ve felt then maybe even more scared but he was not afraid. He was very determined and when I was 12 years old, he actually extended the operation to the state. And that’s what allowed us all to move to the US at the age of 12, actually to Florida, which is also a pretty random place for a Chinese family to move to South Florida.

Bryan: (00:05:10) Well, that’s an amazing story too. And to hear that you came from such an awesome line of entrepreneurship and that’s exactly what we’re trying to capture in the Asian Hustle Network. It’s all, a lot of us are, we wanted to be entrepreneurs, we are entrepreneurs we’re trying to be successful. And to hear that you come from a family that has not walked the traditional path of becoming like a doctor or a lawyer or engineer it’s really inspiring for us to hear that, like, your dad wouldn’t link for somebody that he really believed that like taught you these values too and that entrepreneurship is the way to go and we love it. 

Maggie: (00:05:54)  I love that because I feel like it’s still relevant today. You talking about your grandfather going through the entrepreneurial route and a lot of people in his generation wouldn’t do the same because they were promised security, right? And that’s very relevant today, too. I think a lot of people are scared to go through entrepreneurship because they want that security and they want a secure job, but it’s really believing and your business and believing that you can do it and breaking out of that mold and breaking out of that shell. It’s really going to drive you forward, which obviously your grandfather was able to do.

Ming: (00:06:31) Yeah, I think the most secure thing is to believe in yourself and the capability there’s nothing in the world that promises security, the government in China did promise lifetime employment and then things happen. And then all of a sudden it wasn’t a lifetime. So now there are companies that people might work for a very stable, big company, but then things change in such unexpected ways like we’re seeing with COVID-19, nothing is promised. 

The only thing that you could trust is your own abilities, your own efforts, and the belief that you can do what is necessary. We now live in a society where thankfully nobody is going very few people are actually in fear of not being able to feed themselves. Right. That was a real concern that my grandfather went through. So with this great situation that we’re in, I think it’s even more so that we shouldn’t be afraid to do something a little more daring because you might really surprise yourself.

Bryan: (00:07:43) Yeah, I 100% agree with that statement too. And what type of values and lessons did your grandpa and your dad teach you growing up? You’re such a confident and strong person. We want to learn a lot more about like how you became the person you are today.

Ming: (00:07:58) My grandfather actually died when I was pretty young but what I do remember about him was that he was always very smiley. He was always happy and he was always very gentle. He always believes in the good of people. In fact, he made some money with a little bakery cart that the entire family participated in. Some of my aunt and uncle milled wheat and the entire process.  He made a little bit of money and he actually lost it because he tried to invest in other entrepreneurs to make their own dream.

And then not all of that defeated, but nevertheless, he never really complained about that. He was always just very grateful for the life that he had or the family that he had around him, even though he’s experienced poverty. He has experienced some affluence for that time and then he experienced somewhere in between. In general, all of those situations didn’t affect him that much. It was just the fact that he had his children and eventually his grandchildren, they were all around him. They spend time with him and I just remember him being very happy, even though from a material perspective, later on, he didn’t have that much. 

Maggie: (00:09:23) Yeah, that’s amazing and that’s a really important characteristic. I think that’s why, your grandfather and your father, and yourself are so successful because those values were handed down to you now. It really takes someone to push through and fight through that adversity and the struggles and challenges in order to succeed. A lot of people will feel like the slightest challenge that they go through. They often feel like they’ve already failed and don’t push through 

Bryan: (00:09:51) it’s all about mindset and being optimistic!.

Ming: (00:09:54) It’s still difficult because of the mindset, unfortunately, you can’t try to train for it like you would in a gym. You really have to be in a real situation where you need to have the strength and mental strength and resilience to build it. So it’s probably some of the most painful lessons one has to learn. I definitely try to keep that in mind, for me starting the company has gone through so many ups and downs, it’s really, it’s at times very easy to feel like, When is this going to have any results, when is this going to feel like it’s worthwhile which is why I always reflect on about what made my grandfather happy. It makes so much sense because for me as I mentioned my daughter’s the same age as my company, so when I was starting my company, people are like that’s a really bad idea when you’re pregnant starting a startup at the same time. 

So many people from with good intentions, really good intentions, my friends and mentors that are startup were something you should really maybe just put on hold. My co-founder Amy is a computational physicist from Stanford and then she was also pregnant. At the same time, we started our company is just bad timing and everybody thought that we were just crazy to be pregnant and starting a venture back company and having a lot of ambition. We weren’t just trying to start as a little sort like a mom-and-pop thing. 

So we pushed through it and I would have to say that having my daughter is like a secret spot for me, It’s like a secret weapon because even when it feels bleak and it often does., I think there are more bleak days, especially in the early days, than there are days and even when it feels very tedious and there are many tedious days as well. Most days you’re just crunching through things, checking boxes, and just doing things, which could be very tedious even during those days. Having my daughter next to me who was just happy and joyous and smiling and even when I’m having a bad day or somebody, or if somebody doesn’t believe in me or people question me my capabilities. In my company, there’s somebody there who always loves me and trusts me and thinks that I’m the best in the world having that kind of support it’s so absolutely necessary. So I actually have the credit of being able to continue and to get to where we’re at because we have these little supporters behind us that we did not expect going into it.

Bryan: (00:12:57) Yeah. That makes one heck of a difference. It’s knowing that you have someone depending on you through the darker days and often entrepreneurship is hard. There are so many down days, some of the days you question yourself and you look yourself in the mirror and be like, I could have had an easier life, you know?

Ming: (00:13:16) Absolutely, there are many doubters like people like whether it’s investors or mentors or people tack you about competitors. There are just so many more haters along the way than people who support you. I think that’s just the normal course of action for any of those successful companies, right? for example, Netflix, people didn’t believe them in the beginning either. I think for everyone out there you just have to believe in what you’re doing and to know that you’re not thinking that you’re an exception because people don’t believe in you that’s the norm. People won’t believe in you until they can’t believe in you.

Bryan: (00:14:03) I mean, that’s, that’s entrepreneurship 101, and the fact that you do have hater, it means you’re doing something right. No one hates you. You’re like, am I doing this right.

Ming: (00:14:09) That’s right.

Bryan: (00:14:11) If you don’t have haters you’re like, wait am I doing this right?

Maggie: (00:14:15) I love that you look to your daughter for inspiration and for a fact that your daughter will never be a hater. So a lot of people find that their children are their purpose and their why. And I love that it’s, it’s really like our shining light in our life.

Bryan: (00:14:32) We do want to trace it back a bit too, like right before you started Proven, what were you doing? What’s the inspiration for Proven as you’re working on your professional career and have been in the back of your mind for a while. Is this your first company? Second company or third?

Ming: (00:14:48) I had this entrepreneurial lineage, I guess I didn’t think that I was necessarily going to be an entrepreneur because we had immigrated to the States. The state is full of great secure and well-paid jobs. My initial plan was to take one of those and have a great relaxing lifestyle. 

So the first job I took out of college was I was a management consultant at BCG because I knew I wanted to be in business, but I didn’t know exactly the general sort of concept of business I wanted to do and someone was told me that management consulting, you can get a great foundation. So that’s what I did. It really gave me a good strategic and operational understanding of the general concept of business. But I knew that that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do and at the time I couldn’t put my finger on it. It’s possibly because as a consultant, you’re kind of an agency you’re not a person who is actually operating, you’re not a person making decisions, you’re like an advisor? So for me, there was always just a little bit of urge to try to do more, but of course, there’s, there’s a limit to how much you could do.  And then after that, a friend who was at BCG before went on to work at bank capital and private equity and I thought that sounded really interesting. 

He told me more about it and then joined bank capital in private equity investing. So I started in a Boston office. This is the headquarters, and then since I’m fluent in Mandarin, still moved to the Hong Kong office, which was just starting at the time. This means that it’s really crazy to think that private equity as an industry didn’t really quite know to exist much in Asia. When you look at the word now 10, 12 years later, you can’t even think of a time when it didn’t exist. That just shows you how fast the world changes and adapts to things. Those two years were also intense training for understanding business intuition for understanding what makes a business, a great business because bank capital and other I guess top private equity companies like that, what they do is they try to find the top one, two or three, depending on the size of the market players in a particular market. They know they add more money to it. They help with some operational expertise, and best practices and try to make those players even more valuable. 

So the first step is to find these top players and then understand what made them top players. So that kind of training and learning from these experts in business was really valuable at the same time, these kinds of roles in finance really are very intense. They really took a toll on you. So for me, I was working, 12 to 14-hour days in Sicily and Hong Kong was my home as far away from my friends and my family. So I remember waking up one day and feeling like I was really aging much faster than I would have liked. I was in my twenties looking much older kind of like reminds me of when Obama first became president or what he looked like and then you see photos of before and after, and it’s really that’s what, that’s what I felt like. At that time, I started buying all kinds of expensive skincare products, the products to regain my youth. 

And I felt like they all promised miracles. They really didn’t do anything. It felt like a conspiracy. It felt like I was a chump that along with my other good girlfriends, we all felt like we were betrayed repeatedly by these big brands who are making beautifully packaged expensive products that didn’t end up doing anything. That sort of planted the seed in my head, this sort of frustration with this industry. After leaving a bank capital and private equity, I went on a little bit of a sort of self-recovery, like eat, pray, love kind of journey for a couple of months. After searching for a while actually came upon a specialist who created personalized skincare products based on first understanding their skin, understanding your life, and then putting exactly what’s needed into a few bottles. 

And I feel like using those personalized products was the first time that I saw a difference in my skin. I was like this makes so much sense because every for all the care in our body in our organ it’s all tailored to exactly what you need and what that organ needs. Our skin is our body’s largest organ. Why do we do such a one size fits all generic marketing-focused approach to it. It really makes no sense it’s quite antiquated. And in fact, the beauty industry hadn’t had any innovation for about 60 years, which is just crazy for how big and fast-growing and important of an industry it is to its customers.

Do people consider it essential? The epiphany really was taking a personalized approach to skincare and then later on I was introduced to my co-founder, Amy, who pushed the boundaries of the computational physicists at Stanford. She was introduced to me by my then-boyfriend now, husband, who was like this is a tremendous technologist. She also has entrepreneurial aspirations and you guys will hit it off. Lo and behold we became friends. We really liked each other. Our sort of backgrounds had a good, a melding for me with a business background for her, with a technology background. Amy has also no sort of regular scientist,  data scientist. Actually, when she was getting her Ph.D., she broke the world record for the largest compensational simulation on a supercomputer in the world. She was kind of like a super, like a quantum computer before computers. On the whole, she also had her own skincare issues that she found her own way of addressing. So she had a condition called Atopic dermatitis which she’s had for a long time, which is very irksome and the products on the market really weren’t helping her that much. She used her data science background to build a large database that found all the scientific studies from research articles as well as all the consumer testimonials from people using different products and trying to solve this issue. 

She ran a machine learning algorithm through to database to then understand how the individual ingredients affect different people and that’s how she found a solution for her skin. When we started Proven with basic combined, our mutual epiphany, the personalization and using data to know how to personalize, to create Proven. So that’s, that’s how Proven first got started. 

Maggie: (00:23:25) That is amazing. And I, 100% agree, like being a female and trying to find skincare, that’s perfect for me. Like, I totally agree with you that like big beauty products tend to not work on anyone. And it’s super, super hard to find the product that works just for you because everyone’s skincare or skin type is different and I feel like I often find myself,  looking for skincare products that work for me and they always say, oh, this is good for dry skin, or this is good for oily skin, but it never works out quite that way and I love a personalization phase to it. I think that’s, that’s really important. 

I think you said, you mentioned there are like 47 different types of factors I go into. Right. And I know you mentioned like whether has a lot to do with it or the pollution in your city and so I love that you’re taking, those types of factors and really being a game-changer in that industry because there are so many players in that industry and for you to kind of differentiate yourself from that market and really, hone into what the customer needs is. It’s super important.

Bryan: (00:14:32) Yeah and I admit it too.  I know you guys talked to them about all the skincare stuff, and most guys won’t talk about it. I mean, it’s pretty hard to find stuff for my skin too. Because I feel like I’m allergic to like 90% of things out there. So thank you for creating this product. We do wanna emphasize some points in your story as well. I mean the power connection, you never know who you’re in a meet. 

I feel like you’re going to spot opportunities with the right mindset and knowing that you want to do something it’s crazy out of the world, how does that happen in the world, right?  When you want to do something, when you are telling people about it, people start making a connection for you because it’s just like a subconscious human thing is like, Oh wow, Ming, you want to do this? Wait, I know. So, and so wants to do something similar. Maybe you guys work together. So part of that story is like, be open your ideas. Like there’s so much fear that someone’s going to steal your idea and do it so much better than you. That whole part is to me, it’s not something that you should be concerned about because when you create a company, your personality, your mindset, your heart, and your soul are imprinted in this company. And that part not be duplicated. There’s so much stigma that we see an Asian Hustle Network before. When we first started the group, people were posting business ideas and people will comment underneath there and be like, why are you sharing your business idea? People are gonna steal it, to me that’s the most ridiculous thing ever. You should be sharing your ideas. So it gets refined because no one can copy who you are.

Ming: (00:26:13) Really like 99.9% hustle. The idea is just a tiny little thing.

Maggie: (00:26:25) Right, right. And I think it goes back to the kind of like the Asian culture, right? A lot of Asian people don’t like to share their business ideas because they’re scared that people might steal them. Right. But the truth of the matter is that no one can really do it. Like how you do it, you have your own style. Right. And I feel like a lot of people in the Asian culture, at least like they, like to keep to themselves. And they feel that if they succeed, they can’t have their peers succeed and vice versa. But we always talk about age and weight. That’s not true at all. We can all succeed.

Bryan: (00:26:51) And we liked the fact that you’re so public about your company, who you are you are essential to the brand of the company and this mentality that we talked to, it’s so necessary for the Asian community. We need, we look around for heroes that we need to look up to in different industries. Like we don’t find many Asian entrepreneurs in the public about what they do. Right. And we found this a lot as we’re doing the Asian hustle network podcast, most of the founders who found their companies early on tend to be in the back. Right. They’re just like, Hey, look, I don’t want people to know I have this company. Because there’s something negative about being looked up to be like, like jealous and all these problems that come with that. 

And we talk to them and it’s the biggest thing that they always tell us is they wish they had been more public with their company in the past. So like, they were so into the Asian belief that they never built a personal brand. So companies that we see all around us are actually, some of them are founded by Asian founders. So we never knew and we love you talking here cause you essentially do represent the newer generation of Asian entrepreneurs. It’s essentially asking why not us? Why not me? Why can’t I be public? Especially as a female founder and as a female minority founder as well. Like you’re super inspirational since you’re here. Like you are pushing for this and we do want to hear more about your experience starting out too. Cause we know like there are a lot of microaggressions out there in the business world. You feel sometimes like you are being pushed back a lot just because of the color of your skin, your raise, and the way you look, it’s all irrelevant. We do want to hear more about the experience too, so we can help pivot your story to motivate a new generation, just push through and kind of know what to expect too.

Maggie: (00:28:58) Yeah. I’d like to add on top of that I really appreciate you being on the forefront of the brand and on top of Bryan’s questions about the microaggressions or anything that you faced while being an entrepreneur, even on top of that, on top of being a member of a minority, what about being a woman as well? Being a member of a minority and a woman, are two very, very important topics. We’ll love to hear your insight on that. 

Ming: (00:29:24) Yeah, absolutely. I think to your earlier point about the modesty that is so ingrained in our culture or that fear that once I give mine in one great idea out that somebody would steal it and do their own thing with it. I think that all comes down to a little bit of self-consciousness of not believing in oneself because if you really did believe in your capabilities and how great your idea is yeah. There, you will know that only you can make this thing that you, so believe so much into reality, it’s not knowing the knowledge is really feeling it and feeling passionate about it. 

I think we all could do more to just feel more confident in general that we can achieve what we believe regardless of what people say and I think that’s also another piece to this as I mentioned, my cofounder, Amy is a record-breaking data scientist she has led, they defined teams at fortune 10 companies and other leading data, startups that have raised a lot of money and yet when we were starting this company together, people would look at us, venture capitalists, other people look at us like we’re just two girls starting like a small cosmetic brand. 

We would tell them that there’s a lot of technology and data science and AI-infused to what we’re doing. It’s not just a small skincare idea and they would just not believe it, despite how revered. It’s hard to find somebody who’s more so logically data savvy than she is. So if somebody like her brushes the side when it comes to technology, then who is not brushed aside.  I think that just speaks to the industry in general, where I don’t know if we were dismissed because we were females or because people know that we’re like new mothers or that we’re Asian who knows whether it’s something, or maybe even if somebody else had this idea, maybe it’s just about the idea. Maybe anybody else with the idea would have still thought it was farfetched to bring data science and personalization, into skincare, who knows. 

But regardless not going to sit there and try to dissect why they don’t like me. I’m just going to move on to the next person and eventually, I’ll find somebody who understands what we’re doing, who can see the future, and once we share a vision with them who can see that this could become reality. That’s eventually what we did. There have been many situations where we felt like we were dismissed, even with other sorts of supposing that champions of female founders that not all female VCs like to invest in female founders either. So you think someday that you found, somebody who see eye to eye that this is a great industry that doesn’t have a need, I’m sure you’ve had this need, and even then that could be even more pressure, more crushing because you feel like these people should have been there for you, but it’s the same thing they don’t believe in you find somebody else that does. 

And if you have enough conversations, first of all, it also ended up commissioning what you’re doing and you just continue to build and build and build. So you have more to show for it. Eventually, people will believe in you. And that’s what allowed us to get to where we are today and to continue. I don’t think it stopped,  I think even once you get to even a more sort of illustrious state like for us we’ve been on Shark Tank, we’ve been on the Today show. We feel pretty good about our progress. There’s still so much more to go. We are still at the very beginning of our journey, but we still feel like we are getting initial recognition for what we’re doing and there are still a lot of people who still don’t believe or don’t but eventually you just learn to disregard that the people who don’t matter believe in yourself and keep going, keep doing the things that are necessary to make the vision into reality.

Bryan: (00:34:13) Yeah. 100%. I agree with that one. So, what you mentioned in that statement is the abundance mindset. Most people stop after the first now. And that’s, that’s big, no, no, you don’t do something like that. You have to keep, as you said before, you have to keep believing in yourself and your vision and like what you’re doing will change the world and no one can believe in that vision for you and you have to keep, your right. You have to keep on having conversations with people. If people don’t believe in you or don’t, and so don’t dwell on it, don’t sit there and feel sorry for yourself, this, the business world at all the, most of the time, all you need is one.

Ming: (00:34:57) It goes together, not being afraid to share your idea in the first place, and then once you hear a couple of no that are like, Oh, this is ridiculous. Still do not let that making shy from sharing your ideas with us. The idea evolved quite a bit from the very beginning and it’s only evolved because we talked to more and more people and they added in their input as to what would make sense and that evolved eventually evolve into a narrative of a business that made a lot of sense. 

And I think most ideas are like that in the beginning. You have some spark of genius in it, but not all of it is fully fake. And the only way to get it to a state where it’s a full-fledged business idea is one putting it in front of real people and have people try it or, and, or it’ll continue to talk to people, experts in the industry to get input to really listen to what is needed in the market. That’s why they haven’t started this idea because they don’t have the same vision you do. So don’t let that stop you either.

Bryan: (00:36:09) Yeah. I absolutely agree with that statement too. And just have, when we started Asian Hustle Network, some people did tell it, it was a bad idea.  What’s the point of it. Like we ready to interact with each other, you know what? We kind of believe that we wanted a safe space for us to listen to your story and part was for nurses, but even so, it was some people thought that was a bad idea. You start to believe in your vision.

Maggie: (00:36:35) Yeah. I mean, now that our group has grown to over 55,000 members, we’re bound to get people who are never pleased with the way we do things. Right. And that goes back to the same mentality. Right. I think we’re always going to have haters, as we mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, but I think that also drives us forward in doing the things that we love and it’s really about the mentality to break through that. So yeah, love that. 

Ming: (00:37:03) Absolutely. I look at what you guys have built. I mean, people are such fans it’s really hard to find a group where the engagement and the excitement are so high and people support each other so much. You really have to feel very proud of yourself and imagine had you listened to the haters and the note and the naysayers, this group would not exist. So, and that would have been in the world. 

Maggie: (00:37:30) So, yeah, definitely. 

Bryan: (00:37:32) Thank you for that. 

Maggie: (00:37:33) Thank you. I would love to know just to get into a little bit deeper, I would love to know how you guys are using AI and data to determine what type of products are like, how does that all works and how do the database work, and what kind of output is that putting out for you guys? 

Ming: (00:37:47) Yeah, absolutely as I mentioned earlier, Amy had built a database to help to find her own ingredients in skincare that would have worked for her atopic dermatitis where she gathered scientific studies, where she gathered clinical trial results, as well as consumer testimonials and reviews. We found that she ran machine learning algorithms to understand how different individual ingredients affect different people’s skin based on environmental factors, who they are, there, the city, and their specific concerns that they’re trying to resolve, whether it’s acne or aging central. As we started proven, we continue to build upon this database. So then now it is the largest database in beauty and compensating one of the thousands of scientific papers from all kinds of peer review journals and more than 20 million consumer reviews and testimonials, is there anything that we can find that is relevant that doesn’t read like a fake review we’ve incorporated and Amy has to analyze clean the data, analyze it ran the most sophisticated AI algorithms through it to extract this kind of information.

Bryan, you talked about when you have a great idea, you start attracting good people. In fact, after we got some initial press for our idea, I think we were on Tech Crunch. The head of dermatology at Stanford University reached out to us and said I believe that this is going to be the future of dermatology. I want to partner with you. When I first saw that note, I was like this was a spam message who is like pranking me as if they were the head of dermatology at Stanford, and then it turned out it was a real doctor who wanted to partner with us. 

So we then started working with him to actually formulate the skincare products based on the insights from the database. We asked the database and questions, we confirm with Dr. Lee to add other ingredients, etc and that process went on for many months. And that’s how we came up with Proven skincare. First of all, the logical foundation, as well as the skincare products and the technology that we have, the skin genome project had won the MIT AI technology of the year award. Which is not consumer companies, but actually AI companies that are also using AI to solve hard problems. So I think we felt vindicated that people in the beginning who didn’t believe that we can infuse real technology and AI into this because we not only can create a tremendous technology stack but also use that to create great skincare products as well. 

Maggie: (00:40:51) Wow. That is amazing. That’s super important. I feel like a lot of skincare products are just like a very tunnel vision none of them really think about incorporating data into it. 

Bryan: (00:41:06) We do want to dive into your charting experience to hear more about it. We just wanna hear more about it.

Ming: (00:41:20) Thank you so much. So early on in our journey one of the producers for Shark Tank reached out and was like we don’t usually feature skincare companies, but yours really special, really differentiated. I want to see if you want to be on the show at that time was very early on. We were still developing the product with a dermatologist. We were like, this is not the right timing. Cause I’ve seen the show. I know what they care about. They care about numbers. They care about sales. They care about products being in stores so I called the producer we’ll be in touch later. But then later on like a year later when we had a successful beta with real numbers that producer left the show and I was like, Oh crap, you know? Then I found out that the Shark Tank has open casting calls all around the country. So it was like if one producer was interested, maybe others will be too. 

So I just went through an open casting call to just earn our way in and each step of the way impress them with our story with our company is made it through each step of the way. In the first open casting call that person was interested and then the next person was interested and they try the product, they liked it and the next person was interested. And then you had to fill out a stack load of papers. It was so much paper to fill out because it’s also investing, it’s also TV. It was like a full-time job for a couple of weeks to get through all of these all this paperwork and then we finally had a film date and that was super exciting.  I was very nervous several months before that because with these things, it feels like it’ll be the life or death of your company if, if it goes well, which is really not a good mindset to have because they’re always more opportunities. They’re always other ways to make companies work, but nevertheless, that’s how I felt. 

So I was very nervous preparing for my pitch. The filming was very interesting. I didn’t get a deal with it. The deal itself was it, wasn’t the goal that.  I did feel a little bit like I wish somebody on there offered us something, but still, it’s okay. Just to be on the show is already great and then after you film, we filmed in like August of 2019 and they don’t tell you whether it’s gonna be on the show or not because they fill many more segments than they actually show. So if they don’t show it and I didn’t get a deal, then all of that work would have been for nothing, flying to Portland to do all open casting calls and then doing all the paperwork and all the pitching one after another. Then in April, a couple of weeks before they wanted to air, they email me and were like, we are going to air you like in two weeks and we’re like, oh my gosh, and my entire team was so excited because they all knew how much work we have put in as a company like in designing the billboards and the and all this stuff to the point where my team had stopped asking me, like when we’re going to air because they don’t want to have made me sad because we have put in all this work and there was nothing to show for it. 

But then when we got that, it was just such a huge relief. It was also right after the initial sort of the situation of COVID where we had some bad effects at the beginning for COVID. We really needed a little pick me up. So that was just a great pick-me-up situation and here’s my daughter. It’s air really brought us great traffic and notoriety. So we ended up having a tremendous May because of all this great traffic that was coming in and just additional credibility of know, having been, been on these national shows. So it turned out that that hard work was worth it,  believing ourselves was worth it. We’re we are really grateful for having had these opportunities. 

And as you mentioned, Bryan, I’m also grateful for not having been afraid to put myself out there to put our company out there. In fact, when Shark Tank first aired, I don’t watch it the first day because it was so it’s weird to watch yourself on national TV. You don’t know how silly they could edit, can make you look and they make a lot of people look very ridiculous. So there was definitely that fear, but it’s absolutely worth it to get over it and to just go for it. 

Bryan: (00:46:33) Yeah. It’s a really fun experience for me. I can kind of talk from my own personal experience too. Well, I applied for this reality investment show, the same thing, casting producing is really nervous, like nerve-wracking and we still to this day, like, don’t know, like if we’re going to get called yet, but we’ll find out like a year from now to see if they’re going to call us, but you’re right. It is pretty nerve-wracking. Because he has, you’re talking to producers who are asking you some questions. You’re doing like soundcheck and doing mic check, testing out your, your camera, your camera abilities per se. So you have to say some, some words, talk about your description, and set it into like a lot of footage so they can cut it to send to their producer. It’s an interesting thing so I do commend you a lot for doing it. It’s very nerve-wracking. It’s not as, as easy as you think it is. It’s a lot of preparation involved. So I do definitely understand a lot. 

Maggie: (00:47:33) Yeah. That’s very true that you say this is like a make-or-break kind of thing. I feel like a lot of people who go on shark tank have that same mentality, but it’s really important that, although you guys didn’t get a deal, I love that you guys have that mentality that this is a great opportunity and it brought a lot of awareness and credibility to Proven skincare. So that’s really great.

Bryan: (00:47:56) Yeah. I mean we knew we were super excited to like continue. Like we want to definitely see more of your success. So how could our listeners reach out to you and find out more about you, Ming? 

Ming: (00:48:11) and you can find out more about us at provenskincare.com that’s P R O V E N skincare.com. Thank you. 

Bryan: (00:48:18) Definitely. Thank you so much for being on the show. We really appreciate your time. 

Maggie: (00:48:22) Thank you so much, Ming. We really appreciate it. Everything with your insight and your experiences, I think is really refreshing to hear. So thank you for sharing your story. 

Ming: (00:48:32) Thank you guys so much. It was so fun to just get to chat with you. I would love to come back for an encore in a few months. 

Maggie: (00:48:38) Amazing.

Ming: (00:48:44) Awesome. Thanks. You guys have a great rest of your day.