IQONIC.AI – A Project of the SkinTech Corp. GmbH
IQONIC.AI harnesses AI for both client needs and medical professional assistance in offering free skin screenings and other custom-made solutions.
Martin Pentenrieder, Maria-Liisa Bruckert
Healthcare, Beauty, Artificial Intelligence
Founded in 2021, IQONIC.AI is an AI startup in beauty and healthcare based in Berlin that harnesses AI for both customer needs and medical professional assistance. In an industry that is facing a critical shortage of doctors, IQONIC.AI offers free skin screenings and other custom-made AI solutions.
IQONIC.AI’s technology makes quality hair, skin, and other healthcare both accessible and personalized to the customer. IQONIC.AI founders Martin Pentenrieder and Maria-Liisa Bruckert saw a unique gap in both the beauty and healthcare industries: The need to assist dermatologists and other doctors in early assessment of patients. Originally, the startup interfaced with consumers directly, providing personalized product recommendations tailored to the individual.
As early movers in the industry, the startup gained professional recognition for the product’s quality and secured US$1 million in pre-seed funding while participating in the Master Accelerator program. This success poised IQONIC.AI (formerly known as SQIN) for simultaneous growth in the healthcare and beauty markets.
Why IQONIC.AI Chose German Accelerator to Expand to the U.S.
Early on, IQONIC.AI knew its product was cutting edge, but Pentenrieder and the team wanted to ensure the product fit the U.S. market.
“The first time I heard about German Accelerator was in 2014, when the New York office was established,” said Pentenrieder. “I joined the program with my first company in 2016, and that experience was such an amazing success.”
After flipping his first startup in the U.S. and securing a US$200 million valuation with the help of German Accelerator, Pentenrieder knew that with his next startup, IQONIC.AI, he also wanted to take advantage of the program again when the time was right. With the U.S. being a healthcare and beauty industry leader that was especially open to advances in AI, it had been on Pentenrieder’s radar from early on. But the startup team was unsure of how to adapt its product for a U.S. market expansion.
That’s when IQONIC.AI enrolled in German Accelerator. Their participation in the accelerator program was a game-changer for the startup on several fronts. First, the U.S. Market Access program provided invaluable support in shaping their market entry strategy and rethinking their product offering. Subsequently, they joined the AI program in the U.S., launched in 2022 by the AI Competence Center and tailored to address the specific technology-based needs of AI startups. The AI program helped IQONIC.AI to significantly improve their product’s cost efficiency and speed. This combination led to IQONIC.AI’s successful U.S. market entry with a scalable and sustainable business model and product offering.
How the Market Access Program and its AI Program Helped IQONIC.AI on Their Expansion Journey
During the Market Access program, the IQONIC.AI team needed to develop some key solutions to adapt its business and product to the U.S. market.
The German Accelerator team not only helped IQONIC.AI identify the best product-market fit, it also opened doors for the internationalization of their product. To address their specific needs, IQONIC.AI was paired with local mentors with strong AI expertise. These mentors opened the startup team’s eyes to the immense potential of IQONIC.AI’s product in a B2B setting and guided them in pivoting their go-to-market strategy from their existing B2C- to a more sustainable B2B-centric approach.
“The one major hurdle was to pivot our whole core product, because it is a health tech AI for dermatology. We pivoted into AI for beauty brands. The code is quite the same, but the business model and the go-to-market strategy are very different.”
Martin Pentenrieder | Co-Founder of IQONIC.AI
During the program, IQONIC.AI went back and tested their new product in Germany with a few different companies and met with early success. The companies weren’t only interested in the product, but some also wanted to engage in long-term contracts with IQONIC.AI. Shortly after, IQONIC.AI signed a three-year contract with one company for a high six-figure sum.
By the end of the Market Access program, IQONIC.AI pivoted from its original SQIN brand to divide the clinical aspect out of the product and to target beauty brands in the U.S. They were able to identify the core of the business model and focus their AI solution for a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering.
How the AI Program Helped IQONIC.AI Optimize and Scale Their Product for Success
Once IQONIC.AI made the strategic shifts to a SaaS business model, the team realized the need to optimize their AI pipeline for speed, cost, and other critical features to support the new-found business scale. They found the expertise they were looking for in German Accelerator’s AI program.
“On the technology side, we had to do some more homework if we wanted to sell the software and not just the service,” Pentenrieder explained. “In the program, we nailed down the goals: increasing efficiency in our code and machine learning algorithms. In addition to looking at cost efficiency, German Accelerator also helped us to focus on what IQONIC.AI is all about.”
During the program, IQONIC.AI worked with AI experts in reaching key technological milestones.
“What was vital about the AI program was the specificity and focused workstreams. That was important in order to nail down specific goals.”
Martin Pentenrieder | Co-Founder of IQONIC.AI
With the help of the AI program, IQONIC.AI reduced latency in their Machine Learning (ML) pipeline from 30 seconds to 5 seconds by optimizing their individual models and streamlining user experience. They also improved cost efficiency, decreasing AI operation overhead substantially.
“The results speak for themselves: We had the AI speed up 10 times faster,” said Pentenrieder. “And we had a reduction in AI operation costs by about 90%.”
With access to a global network of world-class AI mentors through the AI program, IQONIC.AI was able to hone its ML pipeline to be faster and cheaper for market entry and scaling.
“That was almost 90% influenced by the German Accelerator program,” said Pentenrieder.
“That pivot and the acceleration of our business, in terms of even becoming cash flow positive, was highly influenced by the program.”
Martin Pentenrieder | Co-Founder of IQONIC.AI
What IQONIC.AI Achieved Post-Program & Beyond
IQONIC.AI launched their SaaS model to the U.S. market, matching skin care, hair care, or supplement companies to the AI needed for accelerating their services. Beyond these commercial successes, IQONIC.AI also built a wider network within their target markets through German Accelerator.
“It’s all about meeting the right people, so the German Accelerator network was most relevant to our success,” said Pentenrieder. “I’m excited to continue collaborating with that network.”
With this larger ecosystem and new strategic focus in the market, Pentenrieder said there was much to look forward to in the next phase of growth.
“There are at least 50,000 beauty brands, and not even 500 are being served in terms of technology right now,” said Pentenrieder. “So that is at least 95%, perhaps even more, open space in a blue ocean market. We are eager to meet this need.”
For IQONIC.AI, German Accelerator and its AI program was a critical step towards redefining their go-to-market strategy and optimizing their technology to support it – something that Pentenrieder advises for any startup looking to do an international expansion.
When asked about IQONIC.AI’s experience in the German Accelerator program, Pentenrieder shared his insights:
“It’s always worth it to take part in these programs in person,” said Pentenrieder. “Even if you’re right before cash out, even if you don’t know where the product is going, it’s always worth it, because the first thing you learn is the mindset your startup needs for success.”
Advice for Other AI Startups Considering an International Expansion
When asked what advice IQONIC.AI could offer to other startups considering the AI program, Pentenrieder said to first figure out the business model.
“After that, you can decide which machine learning models and types of code make the most sense for your product,” Pentenrieder explained. “Ask yourself: How critical is time, latency, accuracy, and data for my commercial strategy? Then, prioritize according to what you need when, and treat each priority as a separate topic to work with mentors on. Start with the first priority – ignore the others – and once you have solved it, move on to the next one. It’s hard to do everything at the same time.”
And while prioritizing goals and strategizing with mentors are crucial, Pentenrieder shared one final piece of advice.
You should not be afraid of taking risks, even if you’re on a good path, and we were on a good path with dermatology already,” said Pentenrieder. “But IQONIC.AI was not afraid to test something entirely different, and it turned out to be something much greater, something that makes much more sense.”