top of page was an e-commerce retailer for high-end beauty products. Founding it was an unexpected shift in Varsha Rao’s career path, but it proved to be the genesis of her future focus in consumer technology across ecommerce, marketplaces and mobile. Rao became interested in digital marketing during her tenure at McKinsey & Company in New York, where in addition to her client work for consumer and telecom companies, she co-authored the article ‘Internet Advertising: New Medium or New Marketing Paradigm’, which was published in the McKinsey Quarterly in 1997.


Rao co-founded in 1998 with her friend and past-roommate Mariam Naficy. It all started late one night when she received a call from Naficy, who was intrigued by Internet business ideas. Rao noticed that she and fellow co-workers with their busy travel schedules and work commitments, didn’t have time to even buy a lipstick.

Inspired by their own busy lifestyles, Rao and Naficy decided to launch an online cosmetics platform for busy working women, where they could find and purchase high quality beauty products. With early seed funding from Idealab and venture capital from Menlo Ventures, Lightspeed and Charter Ventures, launch in 1999. secured relationships with well known brands such as Benefit Cosmetics, NARs and Urban Decay. By the time of its one year anniversary, the business was seeing traffic numbers three times higher than its online competitors. had 110 employees and offered over 250 brands from top-of-the-line cosmetics companies through its online site. Fortune Magazine named as the 6th best e-commerce website in 1999. 


Varsha Rao and her partner, Mariam Naficy, sold in 2000 to Idealab for $110 million.

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