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Personalizing Nutrition is Product Management

Sherry Zhang, founder and CEO of GenoPalate, discusses the future of health tech and healthy eating, including how product management and genetic data come together to bring personalized nutrition and better health outcomes to consumers. 

In front of a live audience at Fall Experiment in Milwaukee, Sherry Zhang talked genetic research and mapping.

“Every time you put something in your body, it makes an impact - whether you like it or not, or whether you’re aware of it or not,” she said. Sherry offered attendees a personal example: Her genetic makeup indicates she’s a slow metabolizer of caffeine, which affects how quickly her body is able to break down its effects. Because of this, she has to limit both the amount she consumes in a day -- and the time of day when she can consume it at all.

It wasn’t only a great insight into how genetics play a massive role in our well-being, but it was an example of the powerful data that Milwaukee-based GenoPalate, which Sherry founded, provides to consumers every day around the world.

GenoPalate identifies the optimal genetic pattern for healthy eating, and then maps out the foods that are most beneficial based on an individual’s unique genetic makeup.

GenoPalate is a passion project, resulting from Sherry’s lifelong study of health, genetics, and nutrition. Before founding GenoPalate, she got a Ph.D. in molecular biology and then spent 11 years studying the genetic factors that contribute to the global obesity rate and various metabolic disorders. “I decided to create a commercial vehicle, so we could channel all of the growing knowledge in genetics, nutrition, and metabolic health into a product for public use,” she says.

During the wide-ranging conversation, Sherry discussed how product management and genetic data come together to bring better health outcomes to consumers. She also explored key lessons she learned in the transition from professor to entrepreneur. As a first-time startup founder, Sherry is doing many things she’s never done before, and encountering plenty of new challenges along the way. She discussed what she learned about product development, scaling a business, networking, team development, customer feedback, and fundraising -- and how she’s applied those learnings along the way.

“It is challenging to build a big idea or a big platform, especially in the Midwest. I can see why people think the East Coast or West Coast are more conducive to that undertaking, but in our experience, anything is possible,” she says. “You can do anything if you want to.”

In this episode, you’ll learn a lot about product development, empowerment, and entrepreneurship.

Here are the highlights: 

  • The best product management lessons Sherry’s learned (11:32)
  • How creating a culture of autonomy can accelerate product development and innovation (12:58)
  • What it’s like building a tech company outside of the Silicon Valley bubble (13:59)
  • Ways to approach building an entrepreneurial support network (15:17)
  • How GenoPalate will evolve to realize the future of nutrition (16:27)
  • What types of feedback you should solicit from your customers (19:35)
  • The role leadership plays when it comes to empowering teams (22:03)

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