• Osa Iluobe

Clear’s Ahana Banerjee: "The skincare industry isn’t known for innovation"

Updated: Nov 21

In conversation with Clear CEO & Founder Ahana Banerjee.

When I sat down with Ahana Banerjee, the Founder and CEO of Clear - A uniquely exciting skincare tech startup, it was pretty evident from the outset that she is very intelligent. A physics undergraduate from Imperial College London, Banerjee’s journey from aspiring academic to Y-Combinator backed-founder has been an interesting tale. Her ambition is noteworthy, something that has been true from the outset. “ I had wanted to be a physicist since I was about the age of 10”. Now a little older, Banerjee is now trailing the path of entrepreneurship. The future is exciting.

Banerjee’s story is one of nomadic quest, self-realisation, self-belief and clear ambition. Educated in Britain, India, and Singapore, she’s not short of experience when it comes to adapting and grappling with change. This may explain why when Banerjee realised that she didn’t want to be an academic, (a moment that came at the end of her first year of university), she quickly pivoted and successfully applied for various internships working in investment banks, startups and tech companies. But, such a realisation wasn’t painless. The academic challenges and pressures of studying physics, a subject that she had hitherto loved and was aiming for a career in, was demoralising at times. Her closest friends were the academic high-flyers but for Banerjee this was less so the case. “Something that I appreciate about myself is that I’ve had the courage to admit when things aren’t working, it would’ve been worse if I’d have tried to force the aspirations of being an academic”.

With a renewed perspective and on the back of introspection, Banerjee kept at her degree and did well in the end. And despite the initial academic difficulties, the self-belief that she gained was invaluable. “I realised that if I could do this degree, I could do anything”. Doing anything was seemingly what she did. In her summer holidays, various internships were sandwiched in between academic terms and such experiences would be the catalyst entrepreneurial ambition. Banerjee’s first business idea was an interesting one. Following her time as an intern at an investment bank - Where she was tasked with taking meeting notes among other things, she thought of an idea wherein meeting notes would be automated thereby saving the time and toil that an intern such as her is typically tasked with. In her final year, and with deadlines looming, Banerjee ‘casually’ applied for Y-Combinator for the idea. Although she admits, ‘I didn't really know what Y-Combinator was’ it was clear that Banerjee had the action and the ambition to match. So impressed were the interviewees at Y-Combinator during her 10-minute interview, that despite not being too receptive to her automated meeting notes app, they asked her to come back with another idea in under a week and for a re-pitch.

Tasked with thinking of something new before her second pitch interview, Banerjee got to work brainstorming and pivoting towards a new idea. She did so successfully. ‘I had 4 days to think of a new idea and it was during a break during my brainstorming session that the idea of Clear came to mind’. By the time the second pitch interview came around, Banerjee was prepared and ready to impress. This time the interview was longer, something that indicated to her at the time that ‘things are going well’. She ultimately impressed, and received the $125,000 (as the figure was then) to begin the process of building Clear in January 2021. The flexibility that her university showed in allowing her to do so is another crucial part of the story that she is grateful for.

Although Banerjee remains building and developing Clear, its USP is a strong one. A social skincare app through which consumers can share their experiences and recommendations of skincare products is an exciting proposition. Especially because, as Banerjee notes, ‘The skincare industry isn’t known for innovation’. Clear is something that promises to change that for both consumers and producers. And for Banerjee, as somebody who has ‘suffered from skin issues my whole life’, the personal purpose of Clear is what is driving it forward. For that reason, we’re confident of its success.