Birchbox goes global with acquisition of Paris-based JolieBox

Beauty e-commerce startup Birchbox is crossing the pond with the acquisition of JolieBox, a Paris-based company offering similar services.

In the past year, JolieBox, basically a Birchbox clone, has itself acquired Spain’s Glamourum and the UK’s Boudoir Privé, so in addition to adding an office in Paris, New York–based Birchbox is expanding its footprint to London and Barcelona. As more companies enter the beauty e-commerce market, including Fab and Beautylish, an international focus could help Birchbox keep ahead of competition.

“We always knew that we would be a global company because we believe wholeheartedly in discovery commerce,” said Birchbox cofounder Katia Beauchamp. “The business model really does translate…it makes sense for us to be international.”

With its first acquisition, Birchbox, which has raised $11.9 million from investors including Accel Partners, First Round Capital and Lerer Ventures, will add about 30 employees to its 90-person team.

Birchbox was founded in 2010 by Harvard Business School classmates Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp and sends over 100,000 subscribers a monthly box of beauty samples, which they can purchase in full size on the company’s website. The company initially focused on women but, earlier this year, expanded to include a men’s box of grooming and lifestyle goods.

Birchbox is often credited with giving rise to the recent trend of subscription commerce but, in recent months, the trend has come under scrutiny, with some saying it’s overhyped and over-saturated. On a panel this week at TechCrunch Disript, Sequoia Capital’s Alfred Lin (who is not a Birchbox investor) reportedly said there’s now a “Birchbox for everything.” Statements like that are good for the Birchbox brand, even the business model doesn’t fit every category.

But Birchbox distinguishes between “subscription commerce” and “discovery commerce,” with the former involving just the delivery of a monthly box of goods and the latter creating new demand among consumers.

“We’re not a box-of-the-month company — that is the very surface view of what Birchbox is,” Beauchamp said. “What we do is generate demand where there wasn’t any before.”

Of the company’s subscribers, she said, about 50 percent go on to purchase full-size items from the online store.

As for future international expansion, Beauchamp said Birchbox will first look to other European countries, then potentially explore other areas, like South America and Asia, with its brand partners.