Research into nutrition has shown that as many as 90% of people in the U.S. don’t get the right amounts of vitamins and minerals. The resulting micronutrient deficiencies can have a significant impact on the human mind and body — from fatigue and stress to chronic diseases and adverse effects on sleep. Inadequate nutrition is also a top cause of illness, reportedly responsible for a staggering 700,000 deaths a year in the U.S. alone.
Founded in 2018 by Rachel Soper Sanders and Dr. Daniel Wallerstorfer, PhD, precision nutrition company Rootine is working to reverse this worrying trend and boost human health and performance across the globe. Leveraging AI to take into account DNA, blood, and lifestyle, Rootine is reinventing the way people fuel their bodies, by creating accurate personalized daily micronutrient formulas that meet individual needs, rather than generic solutions based on what the “average” person may need.
The data-driven nutrition company has now raised a $3 million seed round to improve how they can empower people to access and leverage their health data to achieve optimal health. The roster of investors is diverse — the company makes a point of including investors from underrepresented backgrounds and geographies, with different types of expertise. Backed by names such as Novogenia GMBH, DSM Venturing, Duro VC, Launch TN Impact Fund, Cleo Capital, and upwards of twenty angel investors, Rootine is poised to build a future for the health space that is data-driven and personalized.
We sat down with CEO Rachel Soper Sanders to take a deep dive into the company’s mission and future plans. Rachel, who recently started her journey with On Deck Scale, talked us through how Rootine is empowering people to leverage personal data to optimize health and performance, and her vision for how their fresh funding can facilitate a shift towards better human health globally.
Could you tell us about your background?
Rachel: I started my career in the health space focusing on investment banking, advising healthcare companies collectively valued at over $5 billion. During that time, I saw a lot of opportunities to use tech and find ways to democratize data — to make it more accessible, and make the way that people experience health and wellness products better. I didn't know what that looked like, but that was part of the reason I chose to get my MBA from Harvard Business School. I spent two years looking into the broader health and wellness market, further understanding where I could make the biggest impact and where I could take my expertise and my interests to build out products using technology that help a wide variety of people.
My entrepreneurial journey started with founding a company in the musculoskeletal space. Two thirds of people have some sort of musculoskeletal condition, so we focused on improving the patient experience and decreasing the massive, nearly $400 billion drain on the US healthcare system.
How did your entrepreneurial journey set you up for success with Rootine?
Rachel: Before Rootine, I had great experiences both founding and advising startups across industries, and there are a bunch of lessons I learned:
Firstly, team is everything. Paying attention to your co-founders and early employees and advisors is critical. As an extension of that, I’ve learned that careers are really about building relationships — even if it doesn’t necessarily seem linear or clear at the time. There have been times where I’ve been able to call upon folks I worked with 10 years ago in a different industry. Similarly, I’ve been able to help people I’ve worked with in the past.
From a product perspective, I’ve learned that focusing on the customer first allows you to build more effectively and prioritize features and product launches.
Finally, my journey has taught me that innovation is always possible, and it is the key to growth.
For many years prior to starting Rootine, I was also suffering from stress and fatigue — things that made it harder for me to perform at my best on a daily basis. And as a founder, that's very, very hard. So I started looking into my own health stack — what I was doing across exercise, nutrition and sleep. I dialed in on the fact that even if I'm eating well, which I was, I'm not eating well every single day. And there's a wide variety of reasons that you can have various micronutrient deficiencies. I was shocked to learn that 90% of people don't get the adequate daily intake of vitamins.
As I was doing this research, looking into how to improve my own health, I met Austria-based Dr. Daniel Wallerstorfer, PhD, a biotechnologist and leading expert in nutrigenetic science. He was in the midst of building one of Europe's leading biometric innovation labs, having spent the last decade looking at how nutrition and biometric data — personal health data — plays a role in figuring out what your nutritional needs are. So we teamed up and looked at the market. We were both trying to optimize our own health in different ways, and unimpressed with what was going on. We took Daniel's research, and much more of an innovative, scientific and data-driven approach, and launched Rootine in 2018, looking at optimizing health and human performance through a really strong focus on data and science.
You mentioned being unimpressed by what was available. What was the nutrition space like at the time?
Rachel: The nutrition space in general can be broken down into macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, and specialty compounds that our body needs much less of, but that are also critical to health. When we looked at market need, we knew that most Americans get too many macronutrients. So we decided to build our first product to focus on optimizing cellular nutrition through micronutrients.
Most companies on the market at the time offered one-size-fits-all supplements and nutrition plans, based on the “average” human, without looking at what's going on from a genetic component, or taking into consideration other personal health data. The first generation of personalized vitamins had recently grown in popularity, but they were still only personalizing products based on a lifestyle or quiz perspective. No one was looking at biology or using personal data to deliver precision-personalized nutrition products and actionable health insights. Further, no one was creating a health feedback loop related to health outcomes. With standardized formulas or products based only on lifestyle factors with no health tracking, you're missing a number of key components.
We also saw that there was this influx of health data, but it was still hard to access. Even if consumers had access to it — whether it's genetic data or blood data — they weren't able to effectively leverage it to get key insights and products tailored to optimize their health and performance.
And that's the root of how we differ. We're solving two problems in the consumer space: One, we’re approaching micronutrients from a biological and data standpoint versus a survey standpoint. And two, we're helping and empowering people to leverage that data to more effectively use it to improve their health while delivering a continuous feedback loop
For anyone who's unfamiliar with the product itself — how does it work for consumers?
Rachel: Rootine's first product focuses on optimizing cellular nutrition through a precision-personalized daily micronutrient membership and a unique digital experience where members can track and improve health. Today, Rootine members get access to at-home testing and health data analytics, actionable insights, daily micronutrients, and a member dashboard.
Our technology leverages AI to ingest, analyze, and match individual DNA, blood, and lifestyle test results with thousands of clinical studies, with the end goal of unlocking better health outcomes.
Members start by purchasing their personalization kit, along with their micronutrient membership. Once members upload their data or take an optional at-home test, they can view the results on their dashboard to get health insights and discover their personalized micronutrient formula.
After that, daily micronutrients are delivered directly to their door. Members then track how they are feeling across core areas like energy, stress, mood, mental clarity and more in their dashboard, to see how their health is changing over time. Plus they can see changes and optimizations in blood test results with additional data-driven feedback loops in development.
On the data side, we currently look at DNA, blood, and lifestyle test results. Lifestyle is the only thing that's required, because we base all dosing on age, weight, and biological sex, layering on diet and activity levels. From there, you can optionally choose to further personalize through DNA, which you can do either through our test, or you can input data you have. Similarly, on the blood results side, you can buy a test through us or input your medical history.
The pills are slow-release microbeads, engineered to absorb better in the body. And they allow us to personalize on a one-to-one basis. They also make it easier for more people to take vitamins and minerals and other compounds. About 40% of the market can't or won't take large pills. Rootine solves for this, and broadens the range of people who can access cellular nutrition. You can take Rootine with liquid or stir it into a smoothie, so it allows you to get your nutrients without having any sort of gag reflex or nausea — for most people.
What kinds of stories are you hearing from users?
Rachel: We try to get as much feedback from our customers as possible and use it to understand how customers are using Rootine and to build out a product roadmap that our members are excited about. We do a lot of internal analysis and tracking as well. Based on member-reported data, 70% of members see improved health after using Rootine, and that number gets closer to 85% after three months. 50% of members are improving energy levels, 60% are managing stress better, and there's a positive impact across sleep, skin health, mood, and more.
And people love the microbeads delivery system. Giving people the option to get all the micronutrients they need without having to take large pills gives them something to look forward to during their day, versus something to dread.
What can you tell us about building the company over the last three years, and how you've grown in that time?
Rachel: Rootine has transformed dramatically from the early days of zero revenue, when all core operations were handled by Daniel and I.
We’ve grown membership, continuously improved the member experience, launched new products, and expanded the team. We're now helping thousands of members improve their health, including a number of celebrities and professional athletes, with the majority of our members being health enthusiasts and high performers from around the US.
We’re a team of eight, building remote-first with headquarters in Nashville. We initiated remote-first before it was popular, so before the pandemic. I'm a strong believer, as a leader, that finding talent wherever they are, and enabling people access to a startup environment, regardless of geography, is really important. And it allows for a better team. We have a great culture, great collaboration, and strong values around work efficiency versus work hours, which was very important to me coming from an investment banking background where it’s the exact opposite.
Speaking of enabling access to the right environment, how did you find out about On Deck?
Rachel: I heard about On Deck through the founder community. This was back when On Deck had about five programs on the website. I thought it sounded super interesting and that we'd love to be a part of it. I believe in On Deck’s mission around creating a community that supports people building from everywhere. Because I don't live on one of the coasts, I'm not in Silicon Valley or New York, I always seek out places that allow me to meet people and be part of a founder community virtually. On Deck has given me access to a community of founders tackling similar challenges, where we can support each other to achieve key milestones in our business, from fundraising to growth and hiring.
Entering the next phase of growth for Rootine, I’m excited to have this community to learn from as we improve our member experience, expand the team, and reach more people.
What is the next milestone that you're working towards?
Rachel: We’re excited to continue working towards our mission of empowering individuals to leverage their health data to achieve optimal health with precision nutrition. This funding round follows a period of significant growth for the company and unlocks a number of opportunities.
Over the next few months we will be investing in product and software development to improve the member experience, announcing several exciting partnerships, and expanding our team across engineering, marketing, and customer experience.
We also recently launched The Rootine Community: a place for health enthusiasts and high performers to connect, inspire, learn, and achieve their goals. The community exists to empower each other to fulfill our highest potential. Membership is currently invite only. Apply here for access.
Rootine is hiring for numerous positions, to learn more, visit the Rootine Job Board
We strongly believe that personalized medicine is the future, especially in areas such as oncology and nutrition. Health solutions that utilize personal data and create tighter positive feedback loops will revolutionize health care, and Rootine is a leader of this trend within the nutrition market. Rootine has created true differentiation by coupling an innovative micronutrient format with a personalized data focus, and their first-mover approach to consumer vitamins has led to significant growth.
— Dan Hightower, Partner at Duro VC
Note: This is part of a series where we talk to On Deck Founders alumni about the companies they’re building and what it will take to propel them to the next level. Consider joining our incredible community of founders who have launched over 1000 companies worth over $9B. Apply here.