The Hong Kong-based entrepreneur behind the popular personal care brand, who recently spoke to Gen.T honourees about his professional challenges at our latest Catalyst Series roundtable with JP Morgan, shares his honest views on innovation in the beauty industry

Filip Sedic gets bored easily. That, says the Bosnian-born Swedish inventor, is why he does what does.

“A big problem for me is focusing. I’m interested in so many different things, it’s easy for me to start drifting away. I’m very keen to learn new things, especially things I have no clue about.”

Sedic is the founder and chief imagination officer of Foreo, short for “for everyone”, which launched in 2013 and offers a range of innovative personal care products. This includes the Luna facial cleansing device, Issa sonic toothbrush, UFO smart mask device, Bear microcurrent facelift device, Iris eye massager and Espada LED acne treatment device.

After running a Swedish digital marketing agency in the 1990s, he worked for Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson from 2000 to 2005, then ran women’s intimate health startups Lelo and Intimina.

Read more: In Pictures: Catalyst Series Roundtable Discussion with Foreo Founder Filip Sedic

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Filip with Gen.T honourees at a recent Catalyst Series roundtable by JP Morgan and Gen.T (Photo: Affa Chan)
Above Sedic with Gen.T honourees at a recent Catalyst Series roundtable by J.P. Morgan Private Bank and Gen.T (Photo: Affa Chan)

The personal care industry, he says, has nothing to do with the beauty industry—largely because its products actually work.

“The whole beauty industry is based around the perception of doing something good for yourself, without really doing that. If you buy this magical cream that will fix your wrinkles and it actually does that, are you going to buy another? It’d be a terrible business for them,” he says. 

“They have to prove to governments that their products don’t do anything to skin, otherwise they’ll be classed as medical, with much stricter regulation. It’s a kind of game: you prove to governments it doesn’t work, then you find a way to market it as if it’s going to perform miracles. The interests of the customer are not aligned with the interests of the industry.”

Sedic set out to do the opposite with Foreo, creating products that shrink spa treatments into devices that customers can use at home and that are designed to last for decades. 

This means the company needs to keep coming up with new products, which calls for a culture of constant innovation. It’s hard to foster one of those in a company though, and even harder to maintain it as a company grows, with a natural tendency to become unwieldy and bureaucratic often kicking in.

“It’s a natural, very human process: in the beginning, everything is exciting. And then once you succeed, you don’t want to change that strategy—it feels like you are settled. I’ve found a lot of tricks to not let this happen.

Read more: This Former Beauty Editor’s App Promotes Green and Clean Beauty

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Filip Sedic (Photo: Foreo)
Above Sedic with a range of Foreo products (Photo: Foreo)

“It’s important just to move things around and create a crisis again,” he says. “Reorganisation is one of the key elements. If you really can’t find another way, it can be enough even just to move people around to sit at different tables. It’s interesting to see how little is needed for people to get out of their comfort zones.”

A company can’t create innovative products, he adds, if it isn’t itself innovative in its culture and the way it is structured.

“An organisation is nothing more than a group of people forming a new creature. It can be either creative or not creative; it can’t be creative in some ways but not in others. I want to see how we can change things to make them more efficient and better. Everything that has not been changed in 10 or 20 years, or in some cases even 50 or 100 years, there’s potential to be able to do it in a way that’s more efficient. If something hasn’t changed in 100 years, it’s hard to argue that this is still the best possible way of working.

“I’m guided by how a computer system works; it’s probably the most logical way of doing the architecture. I’ve been very keen to create an organisation that works the same way: instead of having one centralised server that controls all the others, we have a mesh network—different nodes, interconnected with each other, which can all perform that same or a similar function.

“It’s not very different from how our body is built. Skin, eyes, heart, liver—they’re all made using cells that are precisely the same but are guided by DNA to grow into skin, eyes, heart and liver cells. This kind of network is much more flexible; it’s easier, if one node fails, to recreate it in another. If millions of years of evolution work that way, it’s probably the best way to do it.

“The Japanese have been thinking that way since the ’50s. They call it an amoeba structure, and they were pretty successful at that time, even though they couldn’t fully benefit from that structure because the internet, the cloud and mobile phones didn’t exist yet. They proved that you could run it with bits of paper. With today’s tools, you should be able to get all the benefits of coordination among cells.”

Read more: Filipino Investor Mica Tan On Innovating And Seeking Opportunities During A Crisis

We are probably the most copied brand in the world. If they can improve something, I actually don’t mind at all

- Filip Sedic -

Marketing, Sedic says, is the only thing other than product development that excites him, because it’s constantly changing. But it’s a challenge when your products are so innovative.

“There’s a huge difference between just another version of a product that people are already using compared to what we are selling, where you have no idea what it’s for or how to use it,” he says. “All the normal marketing tools like ads can’t help you. All they can communicate is: look at this product, it’s nice, this is its advantage over the competition. 

“What we need to do is storytelling: to first explain why they need a product like ours. It’s difficult to get people’s attention long enough to tell a story today. About 0.01 percent of new products are entirely new concepts—what an epic task [it is] to tell people about them.”

As you’d expect for an almost pathologically innovative company, counterfeiting and IP theft are big issues. Except, characteristically, Sedic doesn’t really regard them as problems.

“We are probably the most copied brand in the world,” he says. “If they can improve something, I actually don’t mind at all. I know that’s strange to say for an inventor, but I think the whole legal framework of patents does more harm than good. 

“It’s 100 years old and it can be improved. At the moment, it serves only one purpose: preserving the wealth of big nations against small ones, and big companies against small ones.”

The Catalyst Series is a series of roundtables co-organised by J.P. Morgan Private Bank and Gen.T. Each event features a guest speaker, with the aim of providing actionable insights that Gen.T honourees can take back to their business. See more content from the series.

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