3 Questions with Beauty-Tech Founder Keena Newell of Pigment File


Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Keena! Can you tell us about what you do and how you came to create Pigment File?

Pigment File is a makeup database that allows you to search every foundation out there. My background is in digital advertising and e-commerce, and my first job after college was as the assistant in the advertising department at Barneys New York. I was the liaison between every brand (from cosmetics to men’s suits) and the in-house advertising team. It was creative, but I also managed hundreds of spreadsheets. The combo of skills that I developed there fueled my career — and ultimately — Pigment File.

When I relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina, the cosmetics buying experience was totally different. Stores in Raleigh only carry a tiny percentage of what I know is available. I had to get comfortable shopping online-only for certain categories, and even though I work in e-commerce, I found it tough to buy makeup without consulting several sites. I made a bunch of bad decisions and cringe at all the money I wasted.

Out of necessity, I started scraping websites to build a spreadsheet of every foundation and their attributes. It stripped away the marketing and gave me straight facts. The final sheet was massive and I wanted to turn it into something visually simple that could help everyone. I started building Pigment File in 2016 and published it in February 2017. It’s nearly 500 pages of products, organized by a custom taxonomy that visitors can search.

Beauty and tech rarely collide, but when they do, incredible things can happen like the development of Pigment File! Can you talk about the challenges of integrating beauty and tech and how you’ve dealt with that?

Beauty brands have to face the challenge of using tech to duplicate the entire in-store shopping experience, instead of just supplementing it. There should be easy ways to answer every question we have about a product without walking into a store. Building Pigment File as an outsider helped me realize that the industry still has a ways to go.

Pigment File, fingers crossed, will be a very transparent authority. Sometimes, to display one line of information, I had to aggregate 20 sources. The info should be much easier to find.

Right now Pigment File is your MVP — where do you hope to evolve it next?
Lots of content, more brands, and a really simple color indexing system. There’s actually a list of a dozen features I want to add, but those stand out. It’s ambitious and I’m excited to get to work.