Tell us about yourself?
It’s a multi-layered answer, but I suppose I’m an entrepreneur who has taken a somewhat untraditional path in my career.
I grew up in the Bay Area and went to Stanford for undergrad, but was signed to a record label during my second year, so I switched majors and graduated in three years. I pursued a career as a music artist and songwriter for many years and cut my entrepreneurial teeth by taking that route. As an independent musician, there is no one path. There is no rulebook, so you figure it out on your own, which is aligned with the life of an entrepreneur at a startup.
Looking back, it set me up to think and execute in a certain way – to be thoughtful, resourceful, and resilient.
That journey led me to Stanford for my MBA. From there, I led operations and brand marketing for several consumer-facing companies. A few startups later, I co-founded Parallel Health, a precision skin health company using genomics and microbiome science.
What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?
One of the biggest misconceptions about startup life is that it’s glamorous and easy – that people will throw money at you if you have a good idea.
We hear about the outlier stories of how easy it was for Adam Neumann or Elizabeth Holmes to raise funding, but the reality is that it’s a grind and you really need conviction and resilience.
There will be a lot of NOs that you have to get through, so you have to have conviction around your vision to keep going. And the YESes are just that much sweeter.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
Nothing worth doing is easy. You have to learn to be resilient. Having belief in the vision, mission, and the team you have built is just half of it. The other half is execution and luck.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
We’re still very early because we’ve only been around for almost 2 years. But, everything always takes longer than you think it’s going to take so be prepared.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
It’s difficult. I don’t think I’ve aced that class. I’m lucky that my husband is also an entrepreneur so we both understand the challenges that come with this choice.
So, we’re both very understanding of each other. You have to be really thoughtful about your time. And so, for me, if it’s not in my calendar, it does not happen. Even with personal stuff and even on the weekends, I’ll send calendar invites to my husband. It helps to keep me on track.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
There are a few factors actually. A few experiences led me here. As a teenage runner, I had acne. I used benzoyl peroxide which sort of worked, but caused dryness, redness, and accelerated aging.
I recognized that it wasn’t a good solution, but there wasn’t anything better – other than accutane or antibiotics. The second is that my brother has a skin issue and was prescribed antibiotics. Being prone to autoimmune issues, being prescribed antibiotics isn’t the best.
The seed was planted in my head asking the question “what other solution can we use other than antibiotics?” and “what do we do when we become resistant to antibiotics as a society?” The last was meeting my co-founder, Nathan.
He was the VP of science and I was the VP of marketing at a previous consumer skincare brand. We got along really well and when I used his serum, it worked.
I had a breakout and within 24 hours of using it, some blemishes were gone with no redness or extraction.
That motivated me to want to support him in whatever way that I could to get this technology out to the masses. If you ask the same question to Nathan, he would say he has dedicated his whole academic career to phages and to bring a solution to optimizing microbial ecosystems.
For him, it’s been a lifelong passion that he’s wanted to bring to the world. Collectively, we have a vision around prevention.
We live in a society that is more reactive than preventative when it comes to health. The question is: can we create something that helps people prevent disease before they get it?
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
I think we are truly science driven. There are companies that toss around the word “science” but are not super thorough. We check ourselves and we do not take shortcuts.
That’s a challenge as a business, but to us, it’s worth it to go the extra mile. Second, it would be our team.
Nathan and I have been really thoughtful about who we are and what skills we bring to the table, including the culture we want to build. I think that means something.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
We’re pre-launch so I don’t have anything revelatory to say here.
But, we do have a waitlist of over 3,000 people; I think it is a testament to the fact that people are looking for answers and want science driven solutions that are personalized.
It also underscores our thesis that precision and personalization is the future.
What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in California over other states in the US?
There are many other states that have lower tax rates, but there is so much innovation in California. There is nowhere in the world that has as much creative innovation as California.
Outside of California, there’s New York, Israel, and China, but California is where startups are born and bred.
What (if any) are the weaknesses of operating your business within California?
It’s expensive. That’s #1. Land is expensive. Space is expensive. Talent is expensive. We’ve talked to other states that have encouraged us to move, but ultimately it isn’t the right fit for now.
We are currently suffering through a cost of living crisis. With California already being one of the most expensive states to live in, how has this impacted your business?
It’s a hard question to answer because we’ve never been in any other state. I don’t know what it’s like to operate the business in Ohio or Florida. Again, real estate and talent is expensive.
You want to treat your employees well and there’s a standard of living you want to meet. It’s hard as a startup to match and keep up with those standards at such an early stage.
It makes hiring harder in terms of finding the right people and the right motivation who believe in the vision and mission, as well. It made us even more thoughtful about how to build out the team.
It is no secret that California is the birthplace of innovation. But that also makes it incredibly competitive. How have you found the competitive environment of California?
Competition forces you to keep your edge. It makes you more innovative. It makes you compete at a higher level. I think that pushes us to a greater place.
Talent is more expensive, but you have a large talent pool of people who are amazing.
Have you considered moving your company to another state? If so, which state and why?
We have definitely thought about expanding into other states. For us, we have vendors in other states and would consider expanding operations in states where we already have partners.
Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?
We’ll certainly be in a growth period. We will have launched our personalized testing, products, prescriptions, and services. I think at that point, we’ll be fully functional on a DTC and B2B level.
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
Go to parallelhealth.io and if you’re interested in personalized skin health sign up for our waitlist for exclusive offers: parallelhealth.io/waitlist.