Creating Tech-Enabled Custom Hair Solutions

Ifueko Igbinedion

Solving hair-care problems for Black women has been a lifelong journey for Ulupreneur Ifueko Igbinedion. One of eight daughters, she and her sisters spent countless hours teaching each other different techniques to style one another’s hair. Collaboration was key … and it proved to be inspirational in her startup.

Her “aha” moment came after attending AfroTech, the largest global Black tech conference. Ifueko realized there’s a huge beauty market for Black women—if they could just figure out how to use AI to help them with their hair. Later, when her sister and co-founder Isoken Igbinedion complained about terrible experiences with stylists, they decided to come up with a solution.

Parfait Founders

Ifueko holds bachelor’s and graduate degrees from Stanford in computer science and electrical engineering, and is now a PhD candidate at MIT. Having begun her career in the computer vision space, Ifueko realized that from a recognition standpoint, computer vision is facial recognition. So they began thinking about how they could leverage the power of all the work that’s been done in facial recognition and extend it a bit further to the wig sector. In 2020 they founded what was initially Hairtelligence and is now Parfait. The platform uses AI to design custom-fitted wigs.

Parfait has raised $5M from VCs including Ulu, Unshackled Ventures, Upfront Ventures and Serena Ventures, Serena Williams’s venture firm. Parfait was also featured on the Today Show last year. Soon, Ifueko says, they will be announcing a new funding round. We spoke with her about how their target market evolved and she shared some exciting news involving the retail sector.

Your main target market initially was Black women. How has that changed?

We thought Black women would be our main demographic because of the many underserved challenges we experience with our hair, but we discovered that a wide variety of women and even men were coming to us wanting custom solutions—people with alopecia, those undergoing cancer treatments, even those experiencing hair loss due to pregnancy, aging, or stress. It was inspiring to see that we were solving a problem that was more than aesthetic and vanity-focused. We are solving a core problem and making sure people have a seamless concierge experience.

Will people be able to have an in-person experience with Parfait soon?

We hope to launch in retail stores soon with a partner that can provide a joint shopping-salon experience. We’ve explored appointment-style salon experiences before, but the retail environment is a great opportunity to test more advanced technology capabilities. In-person, there’s a bit more you can do with camera calibration for customers. We’re keen to experiment in an environment where we can create a unique and experiential space.

What are your tips for founders who are fundraising?

Recognize how much perseverance it takes to get through it. Before we received our first investment, I think we had 39 or 40 meetings. It can be really discouraging when people take a look at your idea and rip it to shreds.

I would encourage founders to take that sometimes-tough advice and transform their company with it. I think every time we got crushing advice, Isoken and I would go back to the drawing board, recalibrate, determine a new pitch strategy, or determine a new technology strategy until it worked.

What have been your biggest challenges?

Constructing the right team has been a big challenge. Our company was born in the COVID age, so everything has been remote from Day One, and we had no intention of changing that. It’s been really hard to figure out the most effective strategy of leading and maintaining teams—developing a company culture—with this remote environment. And on top of that, being able to find the right people has been difficult given how unique our technology needs are.

What’s it been like working with Ulu Ventures?

Having Ulu Ventures as an investor in Parfait has been an incredible asset. Their deep understanding of our mission to use AI in order to meet genuine human need has been an invaluable support. Ulu’s dedication to nurturing early founding teams resonates deeply with us, and truly reinforces our personal commitment to innovation.

What are your dreams for Parfait?

I’m a technologist at heart, so I would love to see next-generation technology be brought into Parfait. We’re revamping our machine learning algorithms to use a lot of state-of-the-art technologies for the sizing and color matching. I’m really excited for our next rounds of funding as we’re going to be able to explore high quality robotics, dexterous manipulation—those  very challenging robotics tasks that are directly applicable to the manufacturing of hair products.

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Rusty Dornin
Rusty Dornin is the director of marketing and communications for Ulu Ventures. An award-winning radio and television journalist, she was a CNN correspondent for nearly 18 years covering domestic and world news ranging from war to natural disasters and tales of crime and politics.
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