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A Moment with Atolla

 The creators of Atolla have got your number.

Like many skincare creators, CEO, co-founder and designer, Meghan Maupin, was inspired to find solutions by a personal struggle with her skin. But unlike most others, her difficulties came to a head while she was studying at MIT. Instead of using trial and error with random products, there, she realized, she could find data-based solutions to solving her skincare issues.

She linked up with fellow student and data scientist, Sid Salvi, and renowned cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Ranella Hirsch, to develop a more sustainable, individualized solution to skin health. And, this August 2019, they launched Atolla, a monthly subscription skincare line that personalizes each customer’s products based on scientific measurements, evolving as time goes on.

Here, the three creators describe their three separate, but complementary, views on what it means to “Live The Process:”

Live The Process: What were you each doing before you came together to start Atolla?

Dr. Ranella Hirsch: As a cosmetic dermatologist and laser surgeon with a research bent, working with patients to improve their appearance through technology and techniques has always been a prime focus for me.

Meghan Maupin: My experience before MIT was working as a designer in mass customization/3D printing. I knew that personalization and AI could help deliver the right product to someone at the right time, as well as address issues of sustainability in the industry.

Sid Salvi: Before starting Atolla, I spent my academic and professional career focused on how data can be used to solve real-world problems. My experience—from studying the efficacy of crime prevention programs in my undergraduate days to being a data modeler for larger brands like Tylenol and Nicoderm to my personal struggle with eczema—uniquely positioned me to see the need for a new data-driven, predictive approach to skin health and skincare.

LTP: How did you three come together as a team?

MM: I’ve always had super sensitive skin and, for a really long time, it felt like I was always buying the wrong product. When I got to MIT, I found myself dealing with so many new skin issues—and with the stress of graduate school, at the same time. Challenged to figure out a solution, it hit me: “Wait! I’m at the best place in the world to solve this problem with machine learning." With that realization, I soon discovered my two co-founders: Sid Salvi, an amazing MIT classmate and data scientist, and dermatology guru, Dr. Ranella Hirsch. I knew they could help make this idea a reality and, just like that, Atolla was born. And here we are now—making smarter skincare.

LTP: What sets Atolla apart from other products?

SS: We launched nationally in August 2019 after two years of refining the Atolla system and algorithms through several pilots and a beta via Kickstarter. Atolla is different in three ways: 1) We help the customer understand their skin better by using several physical skin measurements of oil, hydration and pH instead of just relying on self-reported data; 2) the system is feedback-driven, using the monthly skin analysis to learn how a person’s skin changed, so we can adjust his/her skincare formulation; and 3) our aim is to be preventative. Each time someone uses Atolla, we get better at predicting how their skin will change based on product, environment and diet. Thus, we will be able to provide products to help actively manage their skin health, instead of being reactive.

LTP: How do you choose and source your ingredients?

SS: We only work with proven ingredients with a track record that must meet Dr. Hirsch’s high standard of approval for efficacy. Our formulations are focused on ingredients that make an impact and, because of our monthly model, we’re able to keep preservatives to a minimum and not dilute the actives. We are focused on delivering the best ingredients at the just right dosage for each person.

LTP:What does happiness look like to each of you? 

RJH: The faces of my children.

MM: Happiness is being at my house in upstate NY, in nature, with my partner and dogs. My partner is a farmer, so it feels great to balance a fast-paced lifestyle in NYC during the week with time on the weekends being directly connected to the landscape around me.

SS: Happiness is waking up early to go for a long workout, doing my meditation and then having a big lunch with close friends and my girlfriend. Or eating a home-cooked Indian meal with my parents and brothers. Or Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza. As you can tell, food is quite important!

LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?

RJH: The life I strive for is one of balance. We are all a sum of many things. I am a doctor, wife, mother, entrepreneur and philanthropist, and each identity requires some shared and many unique skills. So, the work is to give the most to each, while not sacrificing the others. A good day for me is one when all of the parts of my brain have been challenged.

MM: To me, “living the process” is about adaptability. In an early stage startup, you’re learning something new each day and part of the process is being open to changing your course. As technologists, we often think that data has all the answers. While data can help us make informed decisions, I think that we need to combine the objective with the subjective and not forget the important aspects of human emotion and experience that can’t be described with numbers. 

SS: “Living the process” is bringing attentiveness to the present moment and having perspective on what is most important in that moment. As a founder with a growing team, there are a million different things to do. I am constantly observing and prioritizing, so that we are spending our time on what is most important to achieve our vision. A useful exercise I do four or five times a week before going to bed is asking myself, “What did I notice today and what I am I grateful for?”

Photograph Andres Reisinger


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