May 29, 2024
Highlight, now flush with $18M, helps CPG brands automate product testing


Highlight, an in-home product testing company, raised $18 million in Series A funding to continue developing its technology already helping hundreds of brands test thousands of products.

Dana Kim and Ethan Kellough started the company in 2020 after working in market research and engineering, respectively. Kim told TechCrunch that performing physical product research — the way it is done currently — typically involves multiple vendors, over 300 emails, many months and tens of thousands of dollars.

Ethan Kellough, Dana Kim, Highlight, product testing

Highlight co-founders Ethan Kellough and Dana Kim. Image Credits: Highlight

“The number of SKUs on the grocery store shelves is exploding,” Kim said. “Thirty thousand products launch every year, and 95% of them fail. With 75 million SKUs on Walmart shelves today, there’s just a ton of risk and reward, but the point of product testing is really to de-risk and enable product success.”

As the pace of innovation accelerates, so does the timeline that CPG companies have to innovate, Kim explained. On the testing side of things, that has shown a need for real-time dashboards, agile insights and a quick turn up in data collection.

And that’s what Highlight is trying to do. The company automates that testing process to bring all of those components together into one platform. Customers can set up their testing, get the product results they need quickly and scale their testing over time.

Today, the company has more than tripled its revenue, employees and customer base. It also calls hundreds of top brands as clients, including Nestlé, Estée Lauder, P&G, Target, Sakara and Hanes.

Earlier this year, the company launched a client portal to automate each step of the product testing process. This now ultimately turns those 300 emails into a nine-minute action with a few clicks, Kim said.

Brands target their audience among a customer community of over 25,000 “Highlighters,” sending their product to Highlight and the company takes care of the rest. Highlight uploads the community feedback as the data comes in.

Acre Venture Partners and HearstLab led the $18 million Series A funding and were joined by Ingeborg Investments and GS Futures. A group of angel investors, including former Favor CEO Jag Bath and Next Legacy Ventures managing director Ryan Nece, is also part of the round. This brings Highlight’s total raised to date to over $30 million.

Kim intends to use the new funding to accelerate Highlight’s product roadmap. This includes offering a more self-service experience complete with templates, wizards and best practice resources. In addition, the company wants to onboard the waitlist of “Highlighters” and iterate on their user experience. Kim also wants to add more employees.

“We have really cemented this awesome position in the market as the first and only product testing platform that allows you to get quality data on the agile timelines that you desire,” Kim said. “We’re moving from a product testing platform to a product intelligence platform. That’s why when we think about features, it’s building on that unfair data advantage and making that big jump.”



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