The Future Of Tattoos

Years ago, I was interviewing Alex Iskold for the Managing Director position of our Techstars NYC program. We had a great visit and towards the end he asked me “What’s one particular investment you’d love to make?” I responded “Find me a company that’s going to solve the problem of dealing with America’s new love affair with tattoos and I’m in.”

I’ve got three tattoos. The first came a long time ago; a valentine’s gift to my wife with her name, the date we met and vines growing intertwined throughout – all wrapped around my ankle. I later added our children’s names and some more vines. I loved having my first tattoo from the outset and dreamed of getting another but honestly, felt like I was getting a little too old to do it. Then a couple of years ago, I met Amos, Managing Director of our Austin program. Amos has some of the most beautiful artwork I’ve ever seen and what moved me so much were the stories behind his tattoos. He served as my inspiration as I started thinking seriously again about it. My kids were excited and encouraged me to do it. So after spending a long time pondering what I would get, I worked with a local artist and when I turned 50 a couple of years ago, had a half-sleeve designed and tattooed on my arm which holds deep meaning for me. It was an intense experience and it turned out better than I ever imagined – I love it. Last year, my wife and daughter got matching tattoos on my daughter’s 18th birthday and just last week, my son and I did the same on the eve of his 18th. That’s three for me and I suspect it won’t be the last.

Everywhere you go these days, people from all walks of life have tattoos. I regularly strike up conversations with anyone I meet about their artwork and I’m fascinated by the stories I hear behind them. Some inspirational, some whimsical, others tragic and completely heartbreaking. What’s fascinating though is how many sit in a big pile of regret. So often I hear “I did it when I was young and stupid, I wish I could get rid of it.” The fact is, getting a tattoo removed is much more expensive than getting it in the first place, it takes multiple sessions and at the end of the day, the results aren’t very attractive.

I digress. Getting back to my conversation with Alex, damned if he didn’t go and do it. I was thrilled when Alex called me last year and said, “remember when I asked you what company you wanted to invest in? Well I found it.” He told me all about Ephemeral Tattoo and the incredible founders who started it. Seung and his cofounders have created a sophisticated method to tattoo using inks, applied by tattoo artists, that disappear completely on their own in 3-12 months, depending upon your preference. With Ephemeral ink, people can test drive a tattoo; design, size, and placement – before committing for life, or continuously change their tattoos to reflect their changing values and tastes.

Ephemeral is currently in the later phases of testing on pigs, given the close genetic similarities. The company expects to have the product in market by the end of the year. Personally, I’m thrilled that we’re investors in a company which is going to allow people to experiment with tattoos before making a lifetime commitment.

  • Alison Johnson

    What a great technology! This will be perfect for folks like me who want that tattoo test drive before doing the permanent thing! How cool!

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