The Future Is Now: Jack Jia of Musely On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Never stop experimenting. Even if you build a winning team, you will still fail exponentially more times than you succeed. Accept that failures will happen, but be prepared to fail fast and iterate faster. Never stop running experiments, measuring the outcomes, and repeating.
As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jack Jia.
Jack Jia is an American entrepreneur. He is known for founding and leading Musely, an online platform to provide skincare medical treatments through technology, as its chief executive officer since its launch in November 2017.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Having been a serial entrepreneur in internet technology for many years, I can tell you that skincare was definitely not my planned career path, but the result of a series of steps and an “aha!” moment. Believe it or not — the story of my 4th company, Musely, starts with my own personal passion for DIY and home improvement tips. Years ago, we created an app called Trusper Tips (short for Trusted Helper’s Tips) to empower women to create and share lifestyle tips. Within a year or two, 8 million women flocked to the app and created over a million tips! Can you guess the #1 most popular tip category? Beauty and skincare!
By late 2017, we had created a marketplace allowing 900+ skincare brands to promote and sell their skincare products to this community we had created of dedicated skincare junkies. This was a particularly hopeful moment for my wife, Cherry, who had been fighting her own decades-long battle against melasma. At this point, I thought our community (Cherry, included!) would be thrilled to see and experience the endless options of skincare products we added to the app. Boy, was I wrong!
After doing a little digging, here’s what I learned about these 900+ brands and the $300B skincare industry:
- Most of them shared the same contract manufacturers — just with different packaging and marketing stories. They may spin a different narrative to reach different audience segments, but at the end of the day — it is still the same generic formula and nothing is truly effective.
- Over-the-counter creams have no proven impact whatsoever except being a fragranced moisturizer. While moisturizer does, of course, serve a purpose in our skincare routine, surely it should never warrant a $300 price tag.
When I discussed my revelation with industry experts, I learned two more shocking facts that revealed the “smoke and mirrors” behind the cosmeceutical industry.
- Fact #1: OTC skincare cannot have a real impact.
My friend and renowned Board-Certified dermatologist, Dr. Marie Jhin, told me that OTC skincare creams were actually not allowed to have a real impact on your skin except for being a moisturizer. By legal definition, over-the-counter products cannot directly interact with our skin cells.
- Fact #2: The skincare industry promotes scent over science.
Next, I connected with Lori Bush, founding CEO of Rodan + Fields, and Kimber Maderazzo, former top executive at Proactiv. Both of these experts confirmed that the cosmeceuticals industry is more focused on spending money on supermodel spokespeople than any research & development behind their products. But — both Rodan & Fields and Proactiv had no choice, since prescription medicated skincare products were out of the question for their business models.
Aha! Now, I finally understood why my wife, Cherry, continued to struggle with melasma even after spending tens of thousands of dollars over the years on expensive creams (and even IPL and Fraxel laser treatments), while her dark spots only got worse.
Dr. Jhin invited Cherry and I to visit her practice in the Bay Area, and with some convincing, Cherry very reluctantly agreed to make one last ditch effort to treat her melasma. Using Dr. Jhin’s prescription treatment, Cherry’s stubborn dark spots had been erased in less than two months,, and even her wrinkles started to fade. Just like that, Cherry became “Patient Zero”, and Musely FaceRx was born!
Can you share an interesting story that has happened to you since you began your career?
In my early conversations with Dr. Jhin, who is now the Chief Medical Officer at Musely, she told me a story I’ll never forget. The story was of a patient who came into her office with a tote back literally filled to the brim with dozens of OTC skincare products. The patient dumped the tote bag out on the counter in front of Dr. Jhin and asked, “Which one of these products will work for my melasma?”. Dr. Jhin, knowing the truth about OTC skincare, had no choice but to tell the patient, “None of them”. After painting this picture, Dr. Jhin revealed she actually encounters multiple “tote bag ladies” each month — all with the same saga of failed attempts with OTC skincare.
This was when I realized that the cosmeceutical industry was born as a compromise. One example that illustrates this perfectly is that of retinol versus tretinoin. We all know that the skincare industry loves retinol. But the little-known secret is that retinol is simply riding on the coattails of its more powerful distant cousin, tretinoin. In reality, tretinoin is a derivative of Vitamin A (as is retinol), but tretinoin is at least 20x stronger than retinol! In fact, it’s the only ingredient that is FDA-approved to reverse signs of aging. But, of course, since tretinoin is only available with a prescription, the OTC skincare industry doesn’t want you to know this! Instead, they market retinol as having the same anti-aging benefits. And this is just one example of many similar OTC versus Rx comparisons!
My goal with Musely is to debunk the misinformation put forth by the skincare industry by offering medications that are scientifically proven to slow down and even reverse our biological clock.
Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you have created? How do you think that will help people?
With Musely, we’ve successfully disrupted the skincare industry not only from a technological standpoint, but an efficacy and affordability standpoint, as well. Let me explain:
On the technology front, we have custom-built a streamlined telemedicine platform that connects patients with board-certified dermatologists and pharmacies in a way that is at least 100x faster, easier, cheaper, and more accessible than any in-person or online alternatives.
In addition, with our custom eNurse app, patients have 24/7 access to the highest accredited skincare experts in the country, all from the comfort of their home, with just a few taps on their smartphone. With each treatment purchase, Musely patients also receive 60 days of unlimited access to their prescribing dermatologist — truly a “first” for the skincare industry.
Not only have we applied cutting-edge technology to medical science, but we also developed clinical and pharmacy processes to continually test and improve efficacy. We have commissioned advanced research & development initiatives and built state-of-the-art compounding facilities so that we have the ability to constantly develop, test and produce new formulas. This is something that dermatologists have only ever dreamed of providing to their patients before.
Since Musely FaceRx launched in 2019, we have also created several of the world’s first and only skincare medications such as:
The Body Cream: The first and only prescription-strength body cream specifically formulated to treat dark spots and signs of aging on the body. This was a tough nut to crack, since the body skin is too thick for normal base molecules to penetrate. Therefore, body conditions like dark spots or signs of aging were considered untreatable by the derms. So, we developed a custom Musely Micro Base to effectively penetrate the thicker body skin.
- The Private Cream: The first and only affordable and easily accessible prescription-strength dark spot treatment formulated for intimate areas like the groin, genitals, underarms, inner thigh area and anus.
- The Spot Peel: The world’s first affordable fast-acting peel formula designed to reduce dark spots in just days instead of weeks.
- And most recently, The Eye Serum, the world’s first ever prescription-strength eye serum formulated by dermatologists to treat fine lines and crow’s feet around the eyes. This is a dream treatment for dermatologists and patients who didn’t have access to anything similar until just weeks ago.
Lastly, we have successfully disrupted the inefficient and highly outdated chemical and packaging industries, allowing us to pass major savings along to our patients. By removing the middlemen in the supply chain of doctors, pharmacists, and suppliers, Musely has made skincare and medical services 10x cheaper, 10x faster, and 10x more efficacious!
These advances in technology, efficacy, and affordability have allowed us to completely turn the skincare industry upside down, and allow people across the country (and eventually, the world!) access to skincare that actually works.
How do you think this might change the world?
By flipping the script, we will revolutionize the way consumers think about skincare! From the outside looking in, it seems like truly effective skincare is reserved for the rich & famous. The rest of us, on the other hand, pour billions of dollars into brands that aren’t at all concerned with the efficacy behind their products (so long as they have the top A-list celebrities to promote them!).
By now, you understand why this is not fair. So, why don’t more people know about it? Throughout many conversations with Dr. Jhin and our medical board, I asked about the pain points that prevent most Americans from seeing a dermatologist. Their answer? Cost, accessibility, and availability.
Because there are so few board-certified dermatologists in the country, appointments can require weeks or even months to secure. And then, you’re required to sacrifice time out of your busy schedule to accommodate trips to the doctor and pharmacy, and pay out of pocket if your health insurance doesn’t cover it. If you’re one of the lucky few that do get to see a dermatologist, you will likely be prescribed a generic medication that ranges from $200 to $1000 per treatment. These treatments are often a “one size fits all” formula that does not take into account your unique skin concerns — a concept that we wholeheartedly reject. Instead, we’ve created over 100 formulations that you and your dermatologist can customize into a treatment plan (all within minutes, from your phone!)
We’re on a mission to expand knowledge, affordability, and access to the only effective skincare solutions by completely obliterating those three barriers to entry. So far, in the three years since launch, Musely has allowed hundreds of thousands of patients access to prescription skin and treatments, turning long-time skeptics into believers. It’s this social cause and real-life impact on our patients that makes Musely not just a business but a social movement. And we’re only just getting started!
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
Yes, there were several tipping points!
The first tipping point was the realization that effective skincare medications have existed for years (for many of the most prominent skin conditions). However, 99% of women (and men) are not aware of their existence, and the skincare industry wants to keep it that way! Because how else would they sell you their $300 scented moisturizer?
The second tipping point is that compounded ingredients make the original medications 5–10x more effective and 10x cheaper at the same time. Compounding is the process of combining, mixing, or altering ingredients to create a medication tailored to the needs of an individual patient. It is the oldest and most widespread form of medicine — dating back centuries before the modern pharmaceutical drug manufacturing. In the last century, compounding pharmacies lost the battle to big pharma factories, who claimed to automate the process and lower costs. But there is a catch! It all comes down to efficacy.
Many don’t realize that even prescription skincare has a shelf life, sometimes as short as 2–4 months. With extremely volatile skincare ingredients that can oxidize in the air, the medication can lose potency very quickly, making the treatment far less effective. This puts over-the-counter skincare products, and even other prescription products, at a severe disadvantage because of the lengthy manufacturing, storage & distribution process before it gets into your hands. A product from a brick-and-mortar store could have been sitting on the shelf for months before you pick it up and purchase it!
Knowing this, I knew it was essential that Musely be able to freshly compound our medications, just days before our patients receive them in the mail. We pride ourselves in compounding the freshest medications, which is really the key to seeing any results. By compounding and shipping directly from our pharmacy, we’re able to deliver the medication in its freshest, most powerful state, which will allow you to actually reap the benefits of the ingredients.
Ironically, this “pharm to table”, customized approach is up to 10 times cheaper than pharmaceutical medication (because of monopoly power and insane margins). Yet another way we’re able to pass savings onto our patients.
The third tipping point is that software and internet technology are the key components that allow patients, dermatologists, pharmacists, and chemists to work together simultaneously. Each of these different players can be working over the internet, on the same platform to carry the patient from point A to point Z, all within minutes!
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
Lack of awareness is the glass ceiling to widespread adoption. People don’t know that teledermatology exists, and that better treatment exists outside of the skincare products found at your local department, beauty, and drug stores. We’re up against a $300B industry that leverages the platforms and recognition of global celebrities to continue pushing the false narrative of efficacy.
In order to disrupt the status quo, we must lead with education and foster our own community of brand advocates, who, together, can be even more powerful than celebrities! Having seen my wife, Cherry, go through her own decades-long struggle with melasma, I understand that celebrities are not the way to relate to women who are truly suffering with seemingly “untreatable” skin concerns. Our patients are not “aspirational” or driven by the latest skincare trends. Instead, they are very skeptical, defeated, and they aren’t convinced by gimmicky marketing ploys. For our 500,000+ patients, the glimmer of hope is seeing the transformations and reading the heartfelt stories of other women who have been in that same dark place.
Our ticket to widespread adoption is our patients themselves. Word-of-mouth and real patients testimonials are what drives our business and will ultimately promote widespread awareness and access to efficacious skincare. In fact, as we speak, we are building new technology to help our patients spread awareness digitally. Stay tuned for that launch!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Many mentors have helped me along the way, including my NYU professors who allowed me to graduate early, and several angel investors who offered me more than money, but their collective wisdom on how their companies succeeded. I am also extremely grateful to our current investors who have displayed infinite patience as we pivoted three times in three years before we took off.
But, if I had to choose one person in particular who guided me to where I am the most, it would be my late mother. She was an accomplished professor of geophysics who was willing to try anything and everything. When I was 10 years old and living in China, she taught me (along with herself) to use punch cards for computer programming. This was in the 1970’s when “computer” was barely even a word! Then, in the 1980’s, she visited NYC and managed to convince professors at Columbia University and NYU that I would be a great computer science PhD student for them, all with very poor & broken English! She never gave up regardless of how nascent or naive a field was to her, and her mentorship and tenacity have been the fuel for my never-ending entrepreneurial journey. I miss her and am forever indebted to her!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Your team is everything. Without co-founders that are passionate, talented and somewhat (just somewhat) experienced in the area of your business, you will absolutely not be able to reach your true potential.
- Find an ocean to play in, not a pond. More often than not, successful entrepreneurs are the ones who discover unique and ground-breaking business opportunities in a large market rather than a small one.
- Never stop experimenting. Even if you build a winning team, you will still fail exponentially more times than you succeed. Accept that failures will happen, but be prepared to fail fast and iterate faster. Never stop running experiments, measuring the outcomes, and repeating.
- Accept that moments of feeling lost and in despair are just part of the entrepreneurial journey. These moments can break you, but without them, you cannot break through.
- If you are passionate and talented, you already have a great foundation for being an entrepreneur. While it’s not a linear or stress-free journey, I have never heard of an entrepreneur regretting their choice in starting a business. Enjoy the journey and you’ll be grateful for what you learn along the way.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As an entrepreneur, the single greatest reward (in my opinion, at least!) is seeing the real life impact that your brand, product or service has made. Seeing the transformations and hearing the stories from our 500K+ patients as they have regained their confidence and restored their love of life. These heart-wrenching, inspiring stories and profound emotions have created momentum that fuels the entire Musely team. It’s this shared passion and sense of a bigger purpose that allows us to be so much more than merely a skincare brand.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
First time entrepreneurs may be drawn to the motto “fortune favors the bold”. But at this point in my career, I cherish the message “1% inspiration & 99% perspiration” far more.
Building a successful business (or a happy life for that matter) is never a straight line. There will be many zig-zags and back-and-forths — so many that you’ll lose count. You’ll face dead ends and impasses along the way that will make your initial idea feel like the easiest part (as soon as you get far enough to look back!) This is why you’ll hear many experienced entrepreneurs, executives or investors often say: “Ideas are cheap, but execution is everything!”
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
The Future Is Now: Jack Jia of Musely On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.