Twenty years ago, Kibbutz Hagoshrim called a mysterious news conference to introduce a revolutionary hair removal device called Epilady. The device was ingenious in its simplicity, with a rotating metal coil that rapidly tweezed out unwanted leg hair.
Two days after the news conference, Hagoshrim's entire inventory had been grabbed up and the race for hair removal products had begun.
The kibbutz, to its dismay, did not enjoy the fruits of the emerging market as rivals quickly developed a refined version of the product and squeezed Hagoshrim out of the market.
In the two decades that have passed since then, Epilady's metal coil has been replaced with a rubber wick, a version later neglected in favor of the laser hair removal dream.
In Israel and all over the world, masses of prestigious salons sprung up with sophisticated laser technology systems - all to respond to demand from men, women and youth seeking to look younger, smoother and prettier.
No small number of Israeli companies have played in the laser arena in the last decade, with a series of systems that offer small succor to the big problems in the West's culture of plenty - wrinkles, cellulite, veins, acne and more.
Now an Israeli company called Radiancy hopes its new innovation will bring the hair removal system back into the private home.
Radiancy developed small devices for cosmetic treatments like hair removal, acne clearance and skin rejuvenation, that integrate light and heat-based technologies. The device for hair removal, for instance, called No No, is no larger than an electric shaver and it meant to remove leg or bikini hair. The price to the consumer will be $200, although it will not be sold in Israel but launched in South America.
Like razor blades, the No No will also require a change in "blades" - in this case the head which must be replaced every three months and will cost the consumer $10.
"Our technology brings these devices into the home for the first time," says CEO Zion Azar. The appeal to the private consumer with small cheap products allows Radiancy to ogle a multi-billion dollar market and compete with electric shaver manufacturer Philips and razor blade giant Gillette.
Until now, the company sold $30,000 mobile systems to cosmeticians and some doctors. This target audience allowed the company to develop in the hair removal market with large systems sold to doctors at $80,000.
The market is limited in scope at about a half a billion, something considered an advantage for Israeli companies. "$500 million a year for the entire world is considered a marginal market. So it suits Israelis because it is small enough that the giants won't get involved, but big enough to allow Israeli companies to develop," Azar says.
These statistics allowed Israeli company Lumenis to dominate a huge market share in the late 90s, but terrible management almost toppled the company more recently.
Competition in the market and the appearance of cheaper models reduced the price of salon treatments. "Since Radiancy entered, prices really have plummeted, but the American companies for instance chose to raise prices," Azar says.
The big systems that appeal to the medical market allege to permanently remove hair after a series of treatments that can cost a few thousand dollars in Israel. The new home product cannot boast that kind of performance, but is supposed to remove hair for longer than razors.
Radiancy, headquartered in Yavne and established in 1998, has a payroll of 100. Azar projected 2004 revenues will be $30 million with $7.5 million in profits on sales of its traditional products alone.