Ara Katz sees connections where the rest of us see gaps.
A self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” and “nerd,” born with a thirst for knowledge, she co-founded and served as CMO of mobile commerce marketplace, Spring, and co-founded social commerce company, Beach Mint, where she launched six direct-to-consumer, influencer subscription brands. She’s been a fellow at the MIT Media Lab’s Center for Future Storytelling and CCA's DesignMBA program, and was named in Marie Claire’s “The New Guard: The 50 Most Influential Women in America” and listed on Business Insider’s “Silicon Alley Top 100” and “36 Rockstar Women in NYC Tech.”
Katz’s latest venture—and true passion project—is Seed, an “ecosystem” of experts in science, medicine, wellness and business who have come together to create products that best capitalize on working with the human microbiome.
Here, she explains why, if harnessed correctly, this could be the key to the future of health:
Live The Process: Your expertise is vast and diverse. What is it that you do so well that links it all together?
Ara Katz: First, I realized from a very early age that the right words at the right time are powerful. Second, I can see the matrix, I think, in ecosystems. I understand how seemingly disparate things dance together to create something greater than the parts. Third, love—wherever something can feel, be and sound more human, I will fight for it to. Lastly, I learned to breathe very early (thanks to yoga).
LTP: How did your interest in the microbiome develop and expand?
AK: While I’ve always been a nerd about health and research (and the friend that people text, asking for advice), my interest in health and the body started very early. My mom was sick with pancreatic cancer when I was a teenager, and I remember printing out clinical trials in my high school computer lab and learning the language of medicine and physiology. That was also when my yoga practice started.
Doing yoga, I’ve been in close proximity to the wellness space, watching it explode in both the best and worst ways. The best: offering people a door into their bodies, methods for self-care and increased awareness. The worst: misinformation about the body and products and recommendations for optimal health (albeit wrapped in beautiful packaging and compelling Instagram feeds). But it wasn’t until I was pregnant that I recognized the vast space between science and the products and information sold to us.
Though I had started to read about the microbiome (see nerd part above), it wasn't until I had trouble breastfeeding four months after my son was born that my interest went from intellectual curiosity to personal mission: The development of an infant's microbiome is one of the most critical processes that can inform the health of a child for life. But when I looked for supplementation options, the formulas didn’t reflect the science.
The entrepreneur in me kicked in. My journey started with the personal mission to re-invent formula, but, my co-founder, Raja, and I have expanded into a much bigger collective vision to think about the future of bacteria for both human and planetary health.
LTP: What exactly is Seed? What inspired the idea for it and when did you launch?
AK: We are an ecosystem of scientists, doctors, innovators, entrepreneurs and translational storytellers from around the world, who collectively believe in the potential of the microbiome to improve human and planetary health. Most people know this as probiotics today, but, in the coming years, microbes (bacteria) are going to play an increasingly important role in our health and in the solutions to some of our biggest environmental issues. And with categories like probiotics fairly unregulated (hence, why consumers are so confused), we are working to create the standard in bacteria.
We launched our first product, our Daily Synbiotic (a combination of probiotics + prebiotics), in early June 2018 on Seed.
LTP: Aside from what Seed offers, what are some of your current beauty and/or wellness obsessions? What rituals keep you feeling balanced and healthy?
AK: I might bore your readers because my obsession is nutrition; namely, a primarily plant-based diet high in fiber. Unfortunately, there is almost no product you can buy in a bottle or put in a gift-guide that will ever be as impactful as how you eat. Pomegranates, avocados, walnuts, and purslane are of particular obsession.
Other things that keep me feeling good:
Nature grounds me, as does the sounds of it when I can’t be in it.
Yoga and books are constant friends.
I meditate at night and have the mornings with my son.
I walk to work and whenever I can to take calls.
I take a plant-based vitamin D in the fall and winter, sometimes magnesium.
Green tea and matcha are my drinks of choice.
Power Plant hot sauce (made in the Central Coast of California)
FaceTimes with my best girl friends
Locally made things.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
AK: My son’s face.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
AK: “Doing the thing because you love the thing” with no attachment to outcome. A daily recognition that it is all just, and will only ever be, a process. There is no endpoint, no finish line, no “should’s”—only the doing. It’s extraordinary what you accomplish when you not only understand the phrase, but can live it.