Editor's Spotlight: Startup Focus

In the hotseat: Startup growth specialist reveals top tips for success in health and nutrition

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | Tumsasedgars
Getty | Tumsasedgars

Related tags Startup company acquisition Marketing growth strategy

Growing a health and wellness startup company is all about learning how the customer ticks, building trust, creating a community, and collaborating with others to constantly bring the newest innovations to market.

That's the advice from Alannah Wood, startup growth specialist for the six-year-old gene testing company DNAfit​, who works to continuously scale-up the London-based firm. 

She explains her top tips for growing a startup business in this sector.

“I think 'growth' sits in the intersection between product and marketing. So we are building products consumers love and putting that product in front of the right people in the right way.

“It really is true that people trust their friends and family more than brands nowadays and that’s all the more challenging when you’re working in an industry where people don’t necessarily understand what it is you are selling them - so we have to educate at the same time as sell."

With this in mind, Wood works to create organic growth by ensuring customers get an experience they'll want to talk about.

“We are building trust with the consumers which is particularly important in an industry which is quite heavily regulated - it’s important to be very open and honest about what your product is and what it isn’t.

“We work to build reviews and testimonials and we create a lot of our marketing material based on these positive reviews.

“I see this is the best way forward. People don’t buy on Amazon without checking the review score first. I know I don’t buy without checking all the one-star reviews and deciding if I’m willing to take that risk!"

Biggest challenges

Wood says two of the biggest challenges in growing a health and wellness start-up company is scaling up beyond the early adaptors and keeping up with the new research.

But she argues the key to scaling-up is to really understand your target audience and lots of trial and error.

“I spend a lot of time speaking to the shoppers and finding out what drives them. Find a niche where you can place your product. We try different channels all the time.

“Just because you’ve tried a new channel and it’s been unsuccessful doesn’t make that test any less beneficial than a trial that was successful. It’s all about learning from your errors – that’s how you grow.”


DNAfit users simply have to provide a saliva swab and 10 days later they receive their results in the post.

Wood says the company differentiates itself from other DNA test companies on the market with its ‘educational and actionable’ DNA reports which help the user to effectively use the information they’re given. 

Users even get a 30-minute phone consultation with a trained dietitians to help them understand their results and optimise their food choices based on their DNA, as well as receiving a 12 week nutrition programme.

Users can also make use of the DNA recipe book and app.

Power in partnerships

In a bid to continuously innovate, DNAfit recently partnered with Vita Mojo​, a chain of ultra-personalised health-focused restaurants in London which allow diners to order a meal based on their specific different nutritional needs. 

The partnership will enable DNAfit users to go into Vita Mojo and order a meal specific to their nutritional needs, based on their DNA.

Wood says the opportunities for innovation and partnership are endless.

Preparing for the future

In fact, DNAFit was acquired last year by Prenetics, a Hong Kong-based genetic testing startup which launched in 2014.

This acquisition has brought much excitement for DNAfit.

Prenetics launched Circle DNA​ earlier this year which it says is the first and only consumer-facing kit available in the UK to use the advanced NGS technology-based whole-exome sequencing where a massive 31 million positions in DNA are measured per person in comparison to other tests which use basic Genotyping, which only analyses around 1000 - 600,000 per person.

Already the most popular home testing kit in China, Circle has sold over 10,000 kits since launch and will be available to buy in the UK at the end of November.

“This is very exciting technology and eventually we want to work to make whole exome sequencing the standard for DNA tests,” ​says Wood.


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