When my son Aiden was born, I noticed a distinctive blue birthmark on his back. As I researched this unique mark, I found it had an interesting name: Mongolian Spots.
Legend has it that anyone born with this birthmark is a direct descendent of Genghis Khan (some studies suggest he impregnated over 1,000 women). A study in 2003 found that up to 16 million men, half a percent of the world’s male population, or 1 in 200 men, were genetic descendants of Khan who led the Mongol army as it aggressively expanded through Asia and parts of Europe.
Now my son’s imperial bloodline may only be a legend, and he’s definitely going to be upset in 10 years when he realizes I shared his bum on the internet, but it inspired me to write this post about Genghis Khan’s army as it relates to me developing my anti-aging startup.Turning an unlikely trait into a strength
At the turn of the 13th century the Jin Dynasty had one of the most powerful militaries in the world, with more than 1M soldiers. Genghis Khan’s army, with less than 100K men, was still able to defeat their more powerful foe, thanks in part to a rare mutation.
You heard correctly! As Jack Weatherford, author of Genghis Khan and The Making of the Modern World, explains, the Mongols were able to defeat the Jin Dynasty’s military thanks to a rare mutation that allowed them to drink milk into adulthood.
Those of us who are able to tolerate drinking milk do so because we possess an enzyme called lactase, which helps break down lactose, the sugar molecule in milk. The ability to digest milk or milk products is inherited from our parents. All babies drink milk, but after they’re weaned, some lose the ability to do so without feeling ill. That’s because when we are infants, we produce large amounts of lactase.
After the age of 5 however, about 75 percent of us stop producing the lactase enzyme. That leads to lactose intolerance, a condition causing nausea, stomach cramps, bloating and diarrhea after consuming dairy or dairy byproducts.
So how are some able to drink milk without feeling ill?
A mutation, that’s how! Mutations are changes in the structure of genes, causing an alteration in the DNA. In the case of lactose, a single point mutation in the DNA near the lactase gene changes the cytosine (C) nucleotide to a thymine (T). Individuals who have the thymine (T) nucleotide are lactose tolerant and can digest milk products in adulthood.How did this help Genghis Khan?
Unlike the Mongolian Khan soldiers, the Jin soldiers did not have this enzyme and relied on rice as their staple food source. This mutation allowed the Mongols to digest milk and dairy, which made them faster, and more agile and nimble than their enemy.
They made cheese from horse milk, which was a great source of nourishment, protein, and calcium for their battle-weary bodies. Lacking this resource, the Jin relied heavily on their carb-rich diet, which made the army dependent on a huge supply train to feed the soldiers. This also kept them on foot. In Khan’s army, the horses not only provided food, but also transportation, which meant every man in the army was a warrior, with no attendants to slow them down or make them vulnerable to attack.
As Khan’s army expanded through western Asia and Europe, so did this mutated gene, which is partly why some of us are able to digest milk to this day!Jin vs. Khan = Current Skincare Industry vs. How It Should Be
As I was working to develop my new startup, Qyral (/ˈkīrəl/), a skincare and supplement line utilizing AI technology to personalize a regimen that adjusts with your lifestyle, I thought about many of the same lessons learned by Khan’s army.
I realized that there are many shortcomings in the anti-aging skincare industry, and I wanted to do it right. So with my warrior hat on, I came to employ the following lessons:
Lesson 1: Use your mutation to your advantage
Khan’s army should have been at a disadvantage against the Jin. They were smaller, from a landlocked country, with less logistical support. But they turned these disadvantages into advantages, and used a mutation, or biological innovation, to help them succeed.
Just like Khan’s army evolved into a greater force by innovating, so at Qyral we’re innovating using our ability to leverage on technology to truly personalize a regimen as unique as the individual.
Skincare has become a multibillion dollar industry by repositioning the same old ingredients and techniques and rebranding them as new, despite formulating products for the masses for over 100 years. This forces us all into a small number of general categories (oily, hydrating, etc.) and we end up with shelves of products made for so-called “specific” skin types (ie. oily, dry, combination skin).
The only way to defy this trend is by creating a uniquely personalized regimen made for the individual, not the masses.
We want to evolve technology and use it as Qyral’s mutation to fight the status-quo of how things were always done. This will enable us to deliver a skincare regimen that adapts to the real needs of your skin.
Lesson 2: Don’t be intimidated
The Mongols were outnumbered 10:1 and the dire odds could have deterred them from pursuing their conquest. By the same token, when developing my startup, I could have been intimidated by the existing masstige conglomerates such as L’Oreal or Coty. However I choose to believe that being a small, independent brand has its advantages.
As an indie brand we can apply the concepts of design thinking and lean startup to stay agile and nimble enough to pivot, iterate, learn from our customers, and truly deliver an exceptional service and product.
A recent study conducted by Nielson shows that the balance of power between large beauty brands and small ones looks different online than it does in retail stores. Where the top 20 cosmetic brands captured 90 percent of dollars going to brick and mortar, retailers only have 14 percent share online. Instead, the e-commerce and digital landscape is predominantly occupied by small indie brands.
What this demonstrates is that customers are demanding more choice, along with socially conscious brands that resonate and connect with them — and that’s why indie brands are on the rise.
Yay, the indie brands are winning!
Lesson 3: Always stay agile, deft, and nimble
As Dr. Seuss wrote in Oh! The Places You’ll Go!:
“Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!”
Khan’s army was able to defeat the Jin by being able to move freely. They could sneak up on the enemy and attack from any direction without giving the Jin time to prepare. In the same sense, companies need to adapt and move freely, and small businesses have the advantage over big brands.
That’s why we have chosen to apply AI technology, so that customer input can be adopted, analyzed, and implemented rapidly. Big beauty and skincare brands have difficulty maneuvering and navigating because they are so large, with established retail channels. It’s not easy and extremely costly for them to change or pull products off their shelves.
Being a digital and personalized brand gives us the agility to change and pivot based on customer response and feedback.
Lesson 4: Give autonomy
Genghis Khan had a very unique chain of command where every officer could make decisions about how to act on the field of battle, independent from his outranking officer. The Jins however (which resemble a lot of companies today) used a centralized command system issuing orders: “We’ll go this way, You go that way.” Because the Mongol officers did not have to ask a superior officer’s permission, as long as it tied into the overall master plan, they could move on the field chaotically, confusing to the unlucky enemy soldiers who had to face the approaching Mongol armies.
When thinking about how to give the ultimate form of autonomy to individuals within my organization, network marketing and direct selling immediately came to mind. Nothing could be more autonomous than an individual having their own distribution downline and effectively building their own income potential.
Lesson 5: Reinvest in your own resources
The soldiers of Khan’s army had symbiotic relationships with their horses that made the Mongols extremely powerful. Horses provided food, fuel, and transport for the soldiers, helping the army to move swiftly, and providing gave soldiers the nutrients to make them faster and stronger.
Existing skincare companies invest heavily in external resources such as advertising and marketing. While no one is disputing the power of such methods of getting the word out, they come at the expense of feedback from clients and the lost opportunity of growing human capital assets.
When developing Qyral, I wanted to be sure that it would be one with powerful symbiotic relationships with its clients and customers. That’s why we believe in empowering our Brand Ambassadors and investing our resources internally. In this way, we can build a business that looks after its own and ensures that we all grow stronger together.
If you want to learn more about Qyral or to join our entrepreneurial family, sign up for our waiting list at: www.qyral.com