Transcript – Rachel Sanders of Rootine

Please enjoy this transcript of my conversation with Rachel Sanders, CEO and Co-founder of Rootine, a personalized micronutrient subscription service.
Last updated
October 27, 2021
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Rachel Sanders started her career in investment banking before transitioning into the healthcare space.
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Please enjoy this transcript of my conversation with Rachel Sanders, CEO and Co-founder of Rootine, a personalized micronutrient subscription service. We talk about data-driven health, how the vitamin and supplement industry is broken, and advice for founders. Transcripts for other episodes can be found here

“Feedback's a gift. The worst thing that you can have as a founder is someone ghosting you or not telling you what's wrong or what's right. If you know what's wrong, you know where to focus and know where to fix.” – Rachel Sanders

Rachel Sanders (@rachelssanders) is CEO and Co-founder of Rootine, a personalized micronutrient subscription service. She started her career in investment banking at Raymond James before transitioning into the healthcare space. founding her first company, Patch Health. She then connected with her co-founder, Dr. Daniel Wallerstorfer, PhD, to create Rootine.



Rachel Sanders of Rootine on Inventing the Future of Vitamins and Data Driven Health

Daniel Scrivner:

Rachel, welcome to Outlier Academy. I'm really excited about this conversation.


Rachel Sanders:

Thank you for having me, Excited to be here.


Daniel Scrivner:

We'll get into, and we're going to spend a lot of time today talking about Rootine and the vitamin, and the DNA testing, and the whole experience and product you guys have created over the last few years. But to start things out, for anyone that's not familiar with your background, can you give us a quick sketch of your story leading up to founding Rootine?


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah, definitely. I really started my career in healthcare and I've spent over a decade at the intersection of healthcare and technology, everything from investment banking, to product and strategy. And really, during that time, pre-MBA, I saw what an opportunity there was to use data and use technology to improve how people experience their health solutions and just make it a better experience overall. I didn't know exactly what that was going to look like, and that's really what I focused my two years and my MBA on, is, how do I make an impact? Where are the biggest opportunities to make a difference within healthcare, whether it's healthcare spend or how consumers experience it?


Rachel Sanders:

And I was really in the midst of founding my first company in the musculoskeletal space, which has a massive spend, two thirds of the population has some sort of musculoskeletal issue. And during that experience, just experiencing tons of stress and fatigue and burnout, and really started to look across the board what I could do from a lifestyle perspective. I had some not great experiences earlier in my life with the mainstream medical community, and so I wanted to do lifestyle first, which means looking at everything from nutrition, to exercise, to sleep. And when I looked further into nutrition, I saw that a lot of the issues I was experiencing were likely related to micronutrient deficiencies among many other things.


Rachel Sanders:

Close to 90% of people don't get adequate daily vitamin and mineral intake, myself being one of them, which can lead to everything from stress and fatigue like I was experiencing, to mood imbalance and many chronic health conditions like metabolic health concerns and heart health issues as well. And that experience was happening all around the same time that I connected with our co-founder at Rootine, Daniel. He has a PhD in biotechnology, and he had spent the last 12 years really innovating around, how do you create prevention-focused products using health data from a really scientific basis?


Rachel Sanders:

So we combined, we shared our stories. We were both looking to improve our health at that time and saw what was available on the market just didn't really exist in the form that we wanted it, so we came together really driven by a mission to use real biological data, real science, to build better solutions for consumers, which is how we came to Rootine.


Daniel Scrivner:

Exciting. I want to ask one question around the medical part of your background, which is, I feel like anyone that I know that is working on something in the healthcare field has horror stories in their background. And so I'm curious, what experiences did you have, what did you see that really opened your eyes and made you recognize that, "Yes, this is truly broken. I need to go and be a part of this"?


Rachel Sanders:

Those experiences go back to middle school for me. When I was having some serious gut health issues and turned to the medical community, like you would, back when that was happening, I'm not going to date myself, but I went to a few different gastroenterologists and they basically told me that nutrition didn't matter, which in hindsight is just an absolutely ridiculous comment, especially to tell to a middle schooler. And so we as a family didn't listen and decided to change the way that we ate and how I did things. I didn't have dairy for close to 12 years, I didn't eat processed meat for a long time but really solved my own health issues through what I was eating and what I was putting into my body.


Rachel Sanders:

And thankfully, by the end of college, that was dealt with. It's still something I pay attention to, but that overarching experience, A, lasted for a long time, and B, yes, it had a big impact in how I think about healthcare in general and of prevention and proactive is how it all came to be.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah, that's interesting. Before we get too deep into Rootine, I want to talk a little bit about this concept of data-driven health, because I know that that's clearly the kind of area of focus that you're focused on at Rootine, it also seems like a great way to paint a bigger picture for people. And so I wondered, maybe to start, if you could zoom way, way out, so way further out than just Rootine and give us a sense for the data-driven health space as you see it and the things and companies that you think are interesting in it.


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah. We're at a really exciting time across health and wellness in that things that are possible now that were not possible five years ago and definitely not possible 10 years ago, and that's everything from the wearables and the data that we can get by wearing something on our arm or even the continuous glucose monitors that we can now gain access to, down to the click of a button to get testing for your genes, testing for your blood, testing for your hormones, and just make it so that people have access to data. Close to 50% of the market has some sort of wearable.


Rachel Sanders:

The understanding and desire to get information about your body from a consumer standpoint is also continuing to increase, in large part due to the pandemic. But we're just at this very, I would say the start, but it's a very exciting time when the technology is there and the demand is also there to make some really cool things happen in healthcare. And then on the solutions' side, technology and the cost obviously matters here as well, but there is a number of new solutions that are coming out that are actually using data, individual data and not just one-size-fits-all standard like historical research, but using individual data to create truly unique solutions and deliver truly unique insights to each individual.


Rachel Sanders:

As we look across the health stack, which is a new concept, everything from primary care, there's Forward, and One Medical, Parsley Health is doing some really interesting things around functional medicine. On the sleep side, Eight Sleep, as we think about sleep fitness, they're really pioneering that market. There's new opportunities for glucose tracking, Levels is one that's very exciting, one that I've used that provides really interesting insights and has the potential to make an impact across the metabolic health dysfunction space.


Rachel Sanders:

And then there's of course, I'm going to say Rootine is part of this pioneer, the cellular nutrition and micronutrients side of things. But overall, there's a wide variety of companies that are coming together to help people improve the way they look, feel, and perform really, using data. And the last part of that data that's very important is the feedback loop that companies like ours are really focusing on. It's one thing to build products that are based on data, and it's another thing and where the future is to build those products based on data, and then actually track if they're working to create continuously better products for individuals and for the population that you're serving.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah, which is fascinating. It seems like the two things I would highlight there, and you touched on both of them, is that it feels like we're in the midst of a move, and this is incredibly exciting, of having a one-size-fits-all approach to medicine and fitness and health to moving to have that be truly individual. And then also, say, historically, you would go and see your doctor twice a year, and I may have that totally wrong. Let's say you go see your doctor twice a year, so you're looking at data every six months, and moving to a world where you're going to be looking at data day by day, week by week, but even hour by hour.


Daniel Scrivner:

And I think what Levels is doing around tightening up that feedback loop for people in terms of seeing what they're eating and seeing how that's showing up in their glucoses is really interesting. It's fascinating time. And so it seems like from one size fits all to individual and then from very loose, very big range of sample size of the data to getting really tight. Do I have that right and anything else you would add there?


Rachel Sanders:

Yes. And really, as we think about what that looks like for the consumer, I truly envision that within the next five years, maybe a little bit longer. Consumers that we're going to have basically a health data wallet. So they have a crypto wallet, they have their normal wallet, they're going to have a data wallet that they're going to be able to have access to. And they're not only going to take that and transport that into the products and solutions that use the data, but they're going to demand that what they're getting is actually personalized based on their data. And so, really exciting times, both from what's possible from a business standpoint, but also where I believe consumer demand is really going.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah. I think so too. Although sometimes I struggle a little bit, it seems like, but this is just the phase that we're in. We're seeing this massive proliferation, ultimately we'll see some consolidation and have that stuff start to settle, but today it feels like... Oh man. Say I'm like the prototypical health and fitness enthusiast, I've got an Eight Sleep mattress that's giving me some data, I've got a WHOOP band that's giving me other data, I've got a constant glucose monitor that's giving me other data, which isn't a bad place to be. At least people are getting more data than ever before, but is your view as well too that at some point we're going to enter that consolidation phase or at least enter the phase where you're going to have a single platform that's going to integrate all of these things together in that data wallet idea?


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah. And I actually think we're there, we're at the early stages. I'm seeing a tad of really interesting new companies coming out that are looking to solve that problem around consolidation. What we're doing at Rootine is really focusing specifically on the micronutrient side and how all of those various data points come together to inform the precision formulas and insights. Beyond that, there's a number of companies that are thinking about, "All right, how does the sleep data that you're getting from Eight Sleep impact the glucose levels that you're seeing from Levels, which also impacts the recovery metrics that you're seeing from WHOOP.


Rachel Sanders:

And how does that all work together and how can you most importantly show it in a way that's useful for behavioral change and to really make an impact on what everyone is really trying to solve, which is improving health? We're one of the wealthiest nations in the world and our health is continuously declining. The number one because of chronic disease right now is related to lifestyle and nutrition, and so a lot of these solutions are starting to answer that bigger question of, how do we help people make better choices so that they stay healthier longer and increase their health span? Which is the new term that's being used in addition to lifespan.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah, health span, that's really interesting, I've not heard that term, it's super interesting. So I want to start to get into Rootine a little bit deeper. And one of the things I wanted to pull out is, for a business like Rootine, clearly you're building on top of some trends and technologies that are finally at a place that they're actually usable and they're usable in an affordable way and in a way that's at scale. So what trends and technologies do you feel like have just been integral in your ability to build Rootine?


Rachel Sanders:

I think it makes sense to dive into a little bit more about what we do and how we do it, and then I'm happy to talk about the technologies that actually empower it. Rootine is really focused on optimizing health and human performance, specifically through nutrition. Today, we're empowering thousands of members to improve in areas across stress, sleep, immune health and more. And we do that in a really simple way. So we help members gain access to their health data through at-home testing of genes and other biometric data, as well as insights from bringing data that you already have from a 23andMe or other blood testing that you have.


Rachel Sanders:

We then developed the precision formulas of up to 19 vitamins, minerals and other specialty compounds based on those test results that are dosed specifically for each person designed to optimize around their health goals and their biology. And then we have a really unique digital experience for people to track and improve their health on our dashboard. So when you look across everything that we do and our process, which is really this test take track approach, on the testing side, we are utilizing a number of technologies around the at-home health testing. We work with CLIA certified laboratories to make sure that the samples are being processed in a really effective way.


Rachel Sanders:

And then on the taking side, we utilize our precision nutrition tech, which is AI that ingests the hundreds of data points that we look at across lifestyle, blood levels and genetics, and then compares that data to thousands of clinical studies to create any equals-one formula. So when we say n=1, there's over 700 trillion different combinations just based on the genetic data that we're looking at alone. And then really on the tracking side, that's the AI that we're also utilizing there. Everything that we do is based on the clinical studies and the health data, and that's how we create that foundational formula and those foundational insights.


Rachel Sanders:

But then as you continue to progress and take Rootine over time, we're tracking how well you're working towards your health goals, how well you're progressing, and then taking those outcomes and pushing them back into your formulas and those insights, and that helps us improve on an individual member basis, but also on a population basis. And ideally, going forward, that will also help to figure out and help people make a bigger impact across the board.


Daniel Scrivner:

You talked about It there, the lifestyle, plus genetics, plus blood levels, which I have a much simpler understanding of those things and you do, but the way that I would think about those things is it feels like that starts to paint the truly 360-degree view of your health. Maybe expand on each of those a little bit more, and why are each of those so important inputs?


Rachel Sanders:

Each data point really is critical in creating a holistic understanding of what's going on in your daily life and in your body. On the lifestyle side, we look at things like age, weight, biological, sex, activity levels, and diet. And as we think about expanding that, we'll be expanding more into wearables and other lifestyle-based tracking opportunities. On the genetic side, we look at about 50 genetic variants that are all proven through clinical research to have an impact on how your body processes or utilizes various nutrients or where you might have a predisposition to need additional support, whether it's heart health or brain health support.


Rachel Sanders:

And then on the blood testing side, we look at levels for all of our various nutrients that we offer through both our at-home test as well as the ability to connect in with other tests. Our current at-home blood test looks at vitamin B6, B9, which is folate, B12 and D3, but we're definitely looking at expanding that testing source. But if consumers have their data, we could utilize it, ingest it, analyze it, and create the products and insights from that.


Daniel Scrivner:

I imagine, obviously you talked about someone comes in, they maybe tell you a little bit about their goals, then they're going to get this at-home test shipped to them, they're going to take this test. And then out of that is going to be created the multivitamin that they're going to be taking, or the Rootine vitamin they're going to be taking. Do I have that correct? And then once someone gets through all of that, what does the feedback look like? And what is the continuing of that experience look like?


Rachel Sanders:

To clarify it, it sounds a little bit like there's a large list, but we make it very easy and it's really not challenging, especially if you already have data, but even if you don't, we facilitate that testing quite quickly. On that step one is, you order through our site, step two is you connect and take your tests. About 50% of our members will bring data they already have, the other 50% with-ll take tests through us, whether it's the DNA test or the blood test. And then we create the precision formulas, you can log into your dashboard, dig in further into your formula, other insights from the test results.


Rachel Sanders:

We'll deliver those nutrients to your door in really easy to take packs that have microbeads in them. So our nutrient delivery is through microbeads, which are slow release. They are engineered to be more absorbable and bioavailable in the body and make it easier for people to take pills. Close to 40% of the market can't or won't take large pills, whereas close to 100% of our members are easily able to take our microbeads and really enjoy the option to take it with liquid or a third into a smoothie or morning breakfast bowl.


Rachel Sanders:

And then from there, there's a variety of ways to look at your feedback loop, including self-reported results, including continuous blood testing. And then eventually, as we look into expansion into the wearable space, how that data will continuously provide feedback.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah, that's super interesting. And how does the goals that someone set, does that have any influence on the vitamin itself or is that more just their targets that they're sharing with you and then you can help them get there?


Rachel Sanders:

A bit of both. We look at everything and the algorithm is very complex in how we greet it, but in general, based on your genetics, there's certain nutrients that your body can't absorb or that it's dangerous for your body to absorb. So we often make sure to not include those or lower them, if there's a danger or a noncompliance with your body. And then from there, it's a very complex series of data points, and we use our clinical advisors as well as my co-founder, who is the scientist behind everything that we're doing, to build out those formulas.


Daniel Scrivner:

I don't currently take a personalized multivitamin, I just take a standard men's multivitamin. I would guess that that's the default for most people. Talk a little bit about just how big a difference and improvement it is taking a generic one-size-fits-all multivitamin versus something that's tailor fit to your body.


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah. The first question I like to ask is, would you ever buy a house without looking at the pictures or at least looking at the address? And if the answer is no, why are you putting something into your body without actually testing what you need or understanding if it's even compatible to your body? So that's really the picture or where we start there. But on average, of the 20 nutrients that are in a standard multivitamin, one is likely harming you, two are ineffective, and the rest are incorrectly dosed.


Rachel Sanders:

More is not more when it comes to nutrients. There is obviously different science on this, but you can read a variety of different articles related to this, but there is a lot of clinical evidence showing that genes really play a role in what's harmful, what's helpful, and the dosage that you really need, as well as understanding your blood levels. So without looking at that data, you don't really know what you need, you don't know what you're taking, and you don't know if it could be harming you or helping you,


Daniel Scrivner:

Which is the state that most people are in today yeah and large.


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah, definitely. And I'll say too, our members experience everything from boosting productivity. Over 70% sees an improvement in some health metric that goes to 85% after taking Rootine for three months, people are seeing impact across lower stress, better energy, mood, health, better immune health, and more.


Daniel Scrivner:

I want to get a little bit into, something you and I talked about before we we recording this interview is just around why vitamins are broken. We've talked a little bit about that. We talked about that something's likely harming you, you have a bunch of things that are incorrectly dosed. Why else are vitamins broken generally? It's just, if we zoom way, way out, because I guess the sense there is we're talking about the change of like a high quality multivitamin, which is definitely better than things broadly available on the market to something that is much, much, much better because it's just tailored to you.


Daniel Scrivner:

But if we zoom way out from there and just look at the vitamin market at large, why is that broken? And what are some of your observations by working in that space of just how bad things really are?


Rachel Sanders:

The vitamin and supplement industry is, A, massive. Over 75% of the US takes some vitamin or supplement, so it's also very utilized to. Problems there is, there's historically been dubious claims. I think a lot of newer brands are doing a lot better job of actually looking into what's in the products and what's on the label. We come close like three to 5% of what's in the label whereas the FDA only requires plus or minus 30% of what's on the label, which is something that most consumers don't really understand. There's also just been this proliferation of different distribution channels, different brands and massive amounts of differing education and conflicting education around what's good and what's not.


Rachel Sanders:

The funny thing is, most of that comes down to what is going on in the biology of the people that are actually taking it, which is when things do or do not make an impact, but that hasn't been as much in the conversation until the last couple of years. There's a recent Brigham and Women's study, I believe it was done in 2019, that showed that nutrition research and things around vitamins and minerals really need to be taking into account your genotype when it comes to figuring out what the results are. And the other basis for a lot of this is historical nutrition research has not been done on a wide variety of populations and it's done on an average basis.


Rachel Sanders:

Some of the best or most-cited research around vitamins and minerals is a decades-old study on middle aged white male physicians. And so if you're basing a lot of your products and research or claims on studies done on very specific populations, you get into a problem, and that's really where we are now. And what's exciting is because of this technology that we've talked about, because of the ability to do more n=1 optimization, we can now really start to figure out what works for each individual, because we know that micronutrients, so vitamin, minerals and other specialty compounds, have a significant impact on health. And so we want to help people get that right without overdosing them or under-dosing them.


Daniel Scrivner:

I want to talk about one related thing you just brought it up, but I think it would be helpful just to dive a little bit deeper into macro versus micro nutrients. This is something you and I talked about before, I thought was just fascinating. And clearly, you guys are focused on the micro part of that. So just help flush that out a little bit for us.


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah, definitely. So when you look at what you're putting into your body and how you keep your cells healthy, there's macronutrients, micronutrients, and hydration. On the macronutrients side, that is the proteins, carbs, and fats of the world. Most of the US is getting enough, if not too much of all of those. The micronutrient side or the vitamins like vitamin B, vitamin D minerals, that's zinc, magnesium and specialty non-vitamin, non-mineral compounds, which are alpha-lipoic acid, MSM, coenzyme Q10, and things like that. All of this is really important to keep yourselves functioning at their optimal level.


Rachel Sanders:

The problem is, as you think about nutrition first, and that is an argument that a lot of people have, it's very hard to, A, know what your body actually needs from a macro and micronutrients standpoint, and B, get that on a daily basis. In the US according to the CDC, 90% of people don't get adequate daily vitamin and mineral intake, so they can have micronutrient deficiencies that really create problems across the board from stress fatigue, to these chronic diseases that we've been talking about. That's really how it's broken down.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah. Super interesting. I'd love to go and switch to tactics and talk about just building this company over the last few years, and maybe we can start there. Because I know you guys have been on this journey for three years. We were talking before we started recording, but the website you just launched, it looks amazing, tells a really compelling story. And you were just making the comment that, yeah, it's taken us three years to get there. So just to start, what do you feel like has changed the most and what do you feel like you've learned the most in these first three years of the company?


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah, definitely. We founded Rootine in 2018 and launched publicly in 2019, so we've been in market for about two years, but been working on it longer than that. And we've really scaled from Daniel and I being the two people that did everything, to a team of close to 10 now and continuing to grow, with scaling to thousands of people and making a true impact in their health. And so it's been a very exciting journey. We've definitely made mistakes and it's been a fun learning experience across the board, but we've really put a lot into figuring out, what is our messaging? How do we tell this story? How do we continue to iterate based on feedback and keep talking to our members and talking to the people that love us and the people that hate us?


Rachel Sanders:

And diving deeper into why on all of it and building out solutions that are better for them. And that's really where our blood testing came out of our member dashboard and has really iterated and improved around that building out the tracking functionality. We have a number of exciting new things in the product pipeline that are all coming from our conversations with our members and folks that really want more from us, they want more data-driven health solutions beyond just our foundational product, which is what we offer today.


Daniel Scrivner:

You talked about something there, listening to people that love you, listening to people that don't like you or just wasn't a fit. And I want to dive into that because that's something that every founder, every operator in a company, at least at the executive level, has to grapple with that question, how to deal with that feedback, what to listen to and what not to listen to. Do you have any lessons learned there or any insights?


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah, definitely. Obviously, an argument out there beyond maybe get an MBA or not when it comes to founder, this is one of those, thank you to my MBA and specifically the professors that I got there, and I took a class in product management from a woman named Julia Austin who has been instrumental in helping us think through growth and feedback, and really thinking about how to implement that from a product standpoint. Most of the time I hearken back to the lessons learned from her. She was CTO at Digital Ocean and she's been in product for 20-plus years, and so has a lot of experience on the early Silicon Valley side of things.


Rachel Sanders:

And really, feedback's a gift. The worst thing that you can have as a founder is someone ghosting you or not telling you what's wrong or what's right. If you know what's wrong, you know where to focus and know where to fix. And if 10 people are telling you all the same thing it's wrong, it's amazing, you have the exact data you need, "Where do I focus?" Building a company is all about resource allocation and prioritization. And if you do something wrong that 10 people have told you is wrong, it's like, "Okay, no question. That's where our resources and time allocation is going this week, this month, this year." And so I love feedback whether it's good, bad, but I hate when I don't know.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah. That example there of 10 people saying the same thing is super helpful because that does happen. But I guess my experience has tended to be, it's definitely company specific, but that oftentimes feedback can also lead you in very different directions. And the approach I try to take there is, listen to it all and then triangulate, which is just this idea of like, sometimes people use different words, people use different languages, but they're really talking about the same thing. Any insights there into like what to do when you have conflicting feedback you're getting?


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah. And this happens a lot too as a founder, as you're talking to people that are giving you advice in the space.


Daniel Scrivner:

There's no shortage of advice.


Rachel Sanders:

Some people refer to it as mental whiplash, and I guess the biggest piece of advice there is, you and your team know your business better than anyone else, better than your customer, you know it better than your mentors, you know it better than your advisors and your investors. Everyone most of the time is trying to be helpful. So one is digging in on the whys behind why people were saying certain things can lead to more information that's more helpful and more discernible information. And two, being okay with saying, "That's dumb," or like, "We've tried it and it doesn't make sense," or, "Yeah, that's a great idea, but we're not ready for that, we don't have the resources or the money or the time to really dig into that further, but we're going to put that on our to-do list. Let's prioritize it as like three and come back to it."


Rachel Sanders:

But being really confident that you and your team know the business, all of it is helpful, but really figuring out where you can make the biggest difference to move the company forward.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah. That's great advice, especially the confidence piece. Obviously, everyone is willing, often way too willing, to give you feedback. But ultimately, at the end of the day, you're the one that's going to have to square that up with resources and timing and prioritization. So that makes a ton of sense. What has been the hardest and what's been the most fun parts of this journey for you so far?


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah, I would say the hardest is, being a founder is hard, there are a lot of high highs and a lot of low lows, and just making sure that you figure out a way to deal with it is super important, and that's advice I give to everyone. It's, one, are you taking care of yourself? Because if you're not, there's no way you're going to get through it. And two, the best founders and as you see people that have been successful and raised for multiple companies, there's this ability to level out those high highs and low lows, and really just continue forward. Some people do it better than others, but that's just a general piece of advice that you hear that you can't let your emotions get the best of you, but it's hard. You get a lot of no's, especially when it comes to fundraising, and you get a lot of nos when it comes to products, and there's a lot of problems that happen.


Rachel Sanders:

We're continuing to live through one of the harder times, but that just happens on a daily basis, you're always putting out fires, you're always getting nos and figuring out a way to move forward. I've definitely flexed that muscle and learned a lot over the last three years how to do that, and I do it much better now, but that's hard. And then I would say the most fun part is just seeing the impact that we're having across members, and especially in the last year, we've had everyone from Steve Aoki to we just had an [inaudible 00:28:19] with Matt Brown who has been a UFC fighter for the past 20 years, even to our normal members who are writing in and saying how much Rootine has helped them improve their energy and learn about their bodies.


Rachel Sanders:

And that is why I got into the space and why I started in healthcare in general. And so being able to see that impact and the brand awareness growing is fun on a day-to-day basis.


Daniel Scrivner:

It's a long list when it comes to dealing with stress, anxiety, just feeling burnt out when you've just sprinted for a long period of time, or just feeling like you just don't have those ideas. I saw a tweet you had recently, which I loved, which was just something along the lines of like, "Take the day off, take time for yourself, love your future self." That's one technique, which is obviously just acts, which is very common, but just actually making sure that you're taking time away. Are there other techniques you have for, I don't know, when you're feeling indecisive or you're feeling stress and anxiety like journaling, like meditation, anything else that's really been helpful for you?


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah. First and foremost, I really pay attention across my whole stack, across nutrition, exercise and sleep. I have tested a lot of different things and exercise is my number one de-stressor, and walking is my number one way to get my mind in a place where like make me think through something, thankfully I have dog, which I think you just saw it jump off my lap, but that means I'm walking on an almost daily basis. I also am really paying attention to what I'm putting in my body, both on a macro and micronutrients side. And there is a massive impact or connection between what you're eating and how you're moving and how your mind feels.


Rachel Sanders:

If I'm doing nothing else, I am still doing that. Beyond that, I think from a young age, I've been able to recognize when I just can't, which is very millennial thing to do, but just if I'm sitting in front of my computer, scrolling through something and my mind is just not there, I try not to force it unless I absolutely have to.


Rachel Sanders:

If that's happening, I take a break, I get up, I do yoga for 30 minutes, but I just try to get back there and to give yourself that time is really important. I would say the founders that we've evangelized of the past 10, 15 years, there's generally this mindset of just go, go, go, continue to do what you're doing. And we've seen people burn out, we've seen the health problems. Founding a company is a long, stressful journey, so you really do have to take care of yourself. And so remembering that if there's days where you just need a break, you got to take one.


Daniel Scrivner:

If you could go back and whisper something in your ear three years ago when you were founding this company, is there any advice you would give to that early version of yourself? It could be advice, it could just be a reassurance. What would you say?


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah. There's about 100 things that I would say, but I was actually talking to someone about this recently and it has more to do with being a female founder than anything else. And that what's happening in the news, the advice that you read, you have to look at who's founding those companies because it matters. And if things look unfair, they are, and you just got to accept it and figure out how to work around it or do better. Female founders have to do more with less, and that just is what it is. It's a very unfortunate state of the market.


Rachel Sanders:

The percentage of funding that goes to female founders is abysmal, I think we're at 2.2% so far this year on average, which is the worst it's been in five years, we're going down where we're seeing in a fundraising market, these massive early rounds being raised at insane valuations with no revenue and no product. There are some female founders in that, but for the most part, that's not necessarily the reality. So figure out who you are as a founder, whether it's a female or someone underrepresented or not, and understand what that means for you and how you need to think about relationships, how do you need to think about fundraising and go forward?


Rachel Sanders:

That's something I would have loved to know a little bit more and focused on, or maybe listen to because it's probably advice out there when I was starting the journey.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah. And it's obviously terrible that that's the state of things. And I feel like individually, you can try to move the needle there, but the overwhelming stats are what they are and they're incredibly depressing. And so it sounds like a lot of that feedback is generally around just thinking deeply and setting your expectations correctly. And I would guess, just to restate it, but I'm guessing that things like raising capital, things like recruiting have just been more challenging for you as a female founder than you would guessed they would have been.


Rachel Sanders:

I wouldn't say that they're more challenging I would just say we had different challenges, or there were different things to think about that male founders might not. There was a lot of research, I think it was published in Harvard Business Review, specifically around prevention and promotion questions. This is one specific where female founders across the board that are raising, 70% of the time get prevention questions, which basically is talking about how your business will fail, whereas male founders, 70% of the time get promotion questions, which is talking about how big the business and the idea can be.


Rachel Sanders:

When you think about what you're investing in and you're investing in moonshots and you want to talk about how big the vision can be, and the problem is when you got those questions, most of the time people you don't know about it we'll answer in the same manner. So you have 30 minutes of talking about all the things that could go wrong or 30 minutes, an hour or however long the meeting is, talking about all the things that could go right.


Daniel Scrivner:

It's a very different conversation.


Rachel Sanders:

Just understanding that and knowing that is important.


Daniel Scrivner:

We'll try to find that article and link to it. Those are fascinating stats and as someone that's in those conversations, I feel like the bar, both for founders and for investors is you want to leave a conversation more excited than you began it. And it's hard to do if you're spending the entire time feeling like you're just defending a laundry list of possible things that could go wrong with the business. And yeah, that's never a fun conversation. I want to ask one more question and that's around, I highly encourage, we'll link it in the show notes, but the website you just shipped, I think is beautiful.


Daniel Scrivner:

You guys have done just done an incredible job on marketing. And I was telling you before we recorded, and you were sharing a little bit of the backstory that obviously the first important data point is you've been working on this problem for three years, you've learned a lot. The second important data point is you've been working for nine months on just branding and messaging and storytelling. But the reason I wanted to call that out and ask you a question around that is, every founder struggles with that. And I would say most, get it wrong or most aren't able to, I guess, have the success that I think you guys have had so far.


Daniel Scrivner:

So, what advice would you give there to other founders that are really trying to figure out how to take this amorphous thing that's really exciting and interesting in their mind and make it this tangible thing that anyone can grab onto and just get excited about?


Rachel Sanders:

The biggest piece of advice that I had back, I guess it would have been last fall, so almost a year ago, as we're thinking about what are the next steps, how are we going to scale this, I watched an All Raise Bootcamp Course led by Alexandra at Eight Sleep, who is one of the co-founders and head of marketing. And she said in that talk that spending the money to think about the positioning and really truly tell the story of their vision and differentiate it in a competitive space against Casper was the best money invest time that they had spent.


Rachel Sanders:

And it was a similar question that we had been having is, "Look, we're so much more than a multivitamin company. We are so much more than a vitamin company in general. How do we tell that story and how do we bring that positioning to the forefront in a really easy, clear, simple way with great visual design?" And so that specifically really spoke to me and I was like, "All right. You know what, we need experts. We need people who've done this before. We need help, and we need to invest the time, resources and money to make this happen." And we did, and we're still in the process of doing it.


Rachel Sanders:

And it's hard to make that decision, but you can only get so far, especially building a consumer brand without bringing in that expert help, even if you're an expert in the space, to have that external view is really helpful when you think about it. But as you're thinking about it, I would be very diligent about reference checking, seeing what work, whoever you're working with has done before, seeing how they're able to work with. It can be a long process, you want to work with people that you like, and making sure they understand the vision of where you're trying to go from the get-go and not asking those prevention questions because you can get those from everywhere and everyone can get them.


Rachel Sanders:

So do people want to go on this journey with you and want to help you? And that's how we really thought about selecting vendors.


Daniel Scrivner:

I would love that advice because I think Eight Sleep has done a masterful job at that. And it is something that, my sense is a lot of founders just misjudge how important that is, because I think for a lot of people, they're like, "I'm excited about this, I'm interested in this." And they don't quite recognize that there is quite a big barrier in chasm, you have to span, figuring out how to articulate that to others. One more question I was going to ask about that is, I've been a part of a number of those journeys where you try to define what a company is doing and how you communicate that message.


Daniel Scrivner:

And I've always felt like when those projects are going really, really well, I feel like every week we're learning something new about the business or we're seeing it from a new, interesting, different lens. And often it's not a big leap, but it's just like, rather than looking at it this way, it's just a slight twist in the angle. So having gone through that process, what would you say were like ahas or were just things you didn't expect that you learned along the way working on that?


Rachel Sanders:

I would say just the language and the how we say things that resonates was not necessarily surprising, but just so interesting and fun to figure out along the way and everything from that, how it works, then like how we talk about it and how does simplify that message, and we're still working on like, how do we simplify this? It's a very complex thing that we're doing, how do we make it simple for people to understand and just grasp and want to get involved with without a 45-minute conversation. Those conversations typically get people excited, how do you distill 45 minutes of talking into a 30-second view of our website?


Rachel Sanders:

It's just a fun challenge, and it's always very insightful and fun to figure out, especially when you see things that are working.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah. And I would just say, to plus one that, on those projects, especially you learn that copywriters are just insanely valuable in terms of being able to take something that's amorphous and turning it into something it's really compelling. And I feel like that's a battle I've fought with multiple, multiple founders of just really trying to convince them that, "Hey, it's a profession to actually write, we should just go pay somebody that can go and do this." And so it's wonderful that you were able to cross that barrier, I imagine, without much arguing. Where can people that are interested go to learn about Rootine, and where can they go to follow you?


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah, definitely. You can find us at our website, which is rootine.co. R-O-O-T-I-N-E. And find us on social @rootine_co. In terms of following me, you can find me on Twitter @rachelssanders.


Daniel Scrivner:

You have some great stuff on Twitter, so I highly recommend people follow you. Thank you so much for the time. This has been a fascinating conversation. I appreciate you, Rachel.


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah. Thanks so much, I think for having me.




Rachel’s Habits, Influences, and Life Lessons – Rachel Sanders of Rootine

Daniel Scrivner:

Rachel, thank you so much for coming on the show. It's awesome to have you.


Rachel Sanders:

Thank you so much, excited to be here.


Daniel Scrivner:

This should be a lot of fun, we try to keep these conversations to 20 minutes, so they're little bit faster paced, and we'll ask you the same 10 questions in 20 minutes that we asked every guest. How does that sound? And are you ready?


Rachel Sanders:

Sounds great. Definitely ready.


Daniel Scrivner:

Okay. First question. What have you been excited about or fascinated about recently?


Rachel Sanders:

Data-driven health. Super excited about where we are and what's to come, excited to be building in the space, but also love seeing all the founders and new companies that are coming out and recently started angel investing. And I've been investing in some of them as well.


Daniel Scrivner:

Do have any favorite products that either you use or that you're working with at Rootine?


Rachel Sanders:

Well, I love Rootine, that's one favorite and I've been enjoying Levels, and I am hampering together Eight Sleep mattress, but haven't done that yet given the price, but I will.


Daniel Scrivner:

It's coming.


Rachel Sanders:

Yes


Daniel Scrivner:

I'm really excited to hear your answer around this. The question is, what are your superpowers and how do you harness those strengths?


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah, definitely. So efficiency is my number one, two and three, I would say. And then I'm also fantastic at distilling down information and understanding what that means for the business and how to get it done. So really around prioritization is another one.


Daniel Scrivner:

On the flip side, what do you struggle with, or what have you struggled with over time and how have you improved or worked around those things?


Rachel Sanders:

One of the things that I'm working on right now is being less of a bottleneck for the company. We've grown, basically doubled our team size in the last six months. And there's a lot of processes that didn't exist before, and a lot of things that I owned or was needing to approve. And so working through, making sure that I'm taking myself out of certain processes that I don't need to be a part of anymore and really making it easier for my team to be efficient and get the work that they need to get done done.


Daniel Scrivner:

Are you using any playbook there? I've read a handful of different books that offer different playbooks. Are you working from any playbook or are you feeling it out and doing what makes sense?


Rachel Sanders:

I'm an On Deck Fellow now and they send everyone the book, The Great CEO Within, which is a fantastic book that has not necessarily working from it as a playbook, but it definitely gives a basis for thinking through how to work through those issues. And we're also building remote-first, and so there's a lot of new content out there around what makes remote-first organizations thrive, and really thinking about how to build something an organization that thrives on a sync work. So combining things like Notion and Loom and getting rid of as many meetings as you can, stacking any internal meetings that you need to to decrease the amount of time between meetings and make sure that people can get stuff done whenever it works best for them.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yep. I see a clear through line of efficiency and all those things. That's one too.


Rachel Sanders:

Yeah. Exactly.


Daniel Scrivner:

On the habit side, what habits have you experimented with? These could be things you do today, these could be things you've just tried and you want to try again, but habits that have had a positive impact on your life and performance.


Rachel Sanders:

I've been trying a lot of different productivity hacks, and this goes back to the string of efficiency and how to get more work done and be more efficient throughout my day and give myself time back. The top couple that I've been doing is I started building out two no-call days a week about two months ago, which has been a game changer and the amount of stuff that I can get done because I can really focus on things that I need to do and get into that deep work, deep focus side of things, especially as you're thinking about strategy, and growth, and execution, and what needs to be tested, and how do we think about scaling.


Rachel Sanders:

Those are big questions that you need to have time to think about, and you can't do that if you're having a call every other 30 minutes.


Daniel Scrivner:

On the health side, and this is very related to your work at Rootine, but on the health side, what's your approach to diet, exercise, sleep, and how have those things evolved over time?


Rachel Sanders:

Data driven and trackable. That's my overarching approach to all of it. So I want to understand where I am, where I'm trying to go, and making sure I'm looking at the feedback loops that exist. So on the micronutrient side, seeing where my levels are, seeing if the nutrients that I'm taking are impacting the goals that I want to make. On the exercise side, I have a Peloton which is connected to fitness and intractable from that perspective, as well as just understanding what other biomarkers, whether it's digital biomarkers or tested biomarkers, where my body is and where I need to go.


Daniel Scrivner:

I want to ask a sub question to this one, which is, I'm a parent as well, I definitely feel like if you're a parent, you know that you can't really grade yourself on the same curve. Maybe diet, you can grade yourself on the same curve, but exercise and sleep, there's just very different challenges when you're a parent. So any advice that you would have around health, fitness exercise, sleep for parents?


Rachel Sanders:

I don't know if I got less sleep when I had a new born or when I was in investment banking, but I would say both are problem. So as you think about across your whole stack, sleep nutrition, exercise, and mental health, when you're a parent and when you have a kid, some of those are going to suffer, and you just have to accept it and then think about, "Okay, what can I do? What can I do today that can help me feel better tomorrow?" And if the answer is sleep, great, if the answer is like, "I'm not going to get any sleep for the next six weeks," then, okay, can you move? Can you take a walk? Can you exercise? Can you try to eat a healthier meal? Or can you order a salad for takeout instead of ordering a hamburger?


Rachel Sanders:

And just make those diligent choices as much as you can. But yeah, as a parent, it's hard, you're not going to be perfect and you can't necessarily live to those standards, but you can make healthier choices and things get easier over time, and then you have another kid


Daniel Scrivner:

Maybe start it all over again. But I would say, just to plus one, that I feel like being compassionate with yourself when you're in those places, because there are some things in life that are malleable, there's other things in life that are not super malleable and kids are put in that bucket. Next question, around ideas, what books or podcasts have had a striking impact on the way you think?


Rachel Sanders:

The Great CEO Within that I recently finished reading has definitely had a huge impact. We're currently reading The Tell-Tale Brain in the community that I run called the Precision Health Club. We're reading that book. That's been super interesting and understanding how our brain functions, less impactful, but more insightful. I always love learning and reading and doing things that change my perspective forever, travel is one of those. And when you get really good, interesting books, that's another one.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah, no, huge plus one to that. For tools, what tools do you use to manage your work tasks in time? And we've talked about things like Gloom and Notion, something to just add onto that list?


Rachel Sanders:

We used to use Google Docs, we still use some Google sheets, but have transitioned, mostly everything to Notion, which has been a huge time saver and efficiency improvement across the team. What else? I'm a Superhuman user, it's amazing. My inbox zero is not always, where I want it to be, but being able to triage is super important. And I'm trying to think. Those are the main tools that we use. As we scale, there's a number of other tools that are out there, but you also don't want to get too complicated.


Rachel Sanders:

If you can keep everything more to two or three different tools and your team knows how and where to use them, then you can scale pretty quickly with that and then reassess when you need to.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah. It's a dream if you can keep that count small and it prevents you from having like a one password with like 120 different login details for a million tool that you're not using. We ask every guest the same three closing questions, and the first one is around success. And the question is, what is your definition of success? And you can take this any direction that you want, but I think it really is just as you think about your life, you think about your work, what does that bar for being successful?


Rachel Sanders:

When I think about me as successful and how I thought about it, you leave business school, especially the one I went to wondering, "Okay, what's next? How am I going to be successful?" And I think taking those steps and trying, and if it's failing, that's fine, but really trying and putting it all into it is definitely successful, and then making an impact. And that's really what we're doing here at Rootine too. And one of the ways that you can build impact is help people stay healthier, but there's a ton of different ways to make an impact.


Rachel Sanders:

But success really looks like that for me, and continuing to learn. I'm a lifelong learner, I love learning. So if I'm doing something where I'm learning a new skill, a new task, whatever, then that's successful as well.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah. I get the sense you're insanely curious, which I always think is a very good trait. The next question is a flip side of that coin and it's around failure. And the question is, what is one of your favorite failures? And I think what we try to look for there is something that didn't work out for whatever reason, but that taught you something valuable or just pushed you, propelled you in a better direction.


Rachel Sanders:

The first company I founded, I would just say that. It was my leap into entrepreneurship, it was what taught me that I loved it, it was what taught me that I could do it, and taught me some of the key things to look out for and how to think about building a team, scaling, and all of that. And I would say that was the best failure I've had.


Daniel Scrivner:

Last question, and the last question is around gratitude, and it's super simple. Just what are you most grateful for in this phase of your life?


Rachel Sanders:

My current family work combo, I couldn't be more happy with what I get to do on a daily basis and the time that I get to spend with my family and then with my daughter. I often think back to my investment banking days and know that my current life would not be possible in that position, and building a company that helps other people find great balance, whether that's with family or their own personal pursuits, because we're building a sync, because we're building remote-first, and because we're making an impact for others, it allows people to fulfill that part of their journey as well.


Daniel Scrivner:

That's a beautiful answer. Where can people go to find out about Rootine? Where can people go to follow you?


Rachel Sanders:

You can find us at our website, which is rootine.co, spelled R-O-O-T-I-N-E. You can follow us on social @rootine_co, and you can follow me on Twitter @rachelssanders.


Daniel Scrivner:

Thank you so much, Rachel. This has been a great little conversation.


Rachel Sanders:

Thanks so much. Thanks for having me.




On Outlier Academy, Daniel Scrivner explores the tactics, routines, and habits of world-class performers working at the edge—in business, investing, entertainment, and more. In each episode, he decodes what they've mastered and what they've learned along the way. Start learning from the world’s best today. 

Explore all episodes of Outlier Academy, be the first to hear about new episodes, and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.

Daniel Scrivner and Mighty Publishing LLC own the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of the Outlier Academy podcast, with all rights reserved, including Daniel’s right of publicity.

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