Startup Q&A: Health Optimization with InsideTracker’s Dr. Gil Blander

Startup Q&A is an interview series showcasing health, fitness, and wellness companies.

In this Q&A, you’ll hear from InsideTracker co-founder and chief science officer Dr. Gil Blander. We discuss the company’s approach to personalized nutrition and performance optimization. We explore emerging opportunities in biohacking, longevity science, and direct-to-consumer healthcare. Plus, we get a preview of the partnerships and integrations InsideTracker has in store.

Can you tell us about what you’re working on at InsideTracker?

Dr. Gil Blander: At InsideTracker, we are working hard every day to realize our mission of helping people live a healthier, longer life — to add years to their lives and life to their years.

Since founding InsideTracker in 2009 alongside colleagues from Harvard, MIT and Tufts, that mission has fueled us to create what InsideTracker is today: a truly personalized nutrition and performance system that analyzes biometric data from blood, DNA, lifestyle, and fitness trackers to give a clearer picture of what’s going on inside your body than ever before.

Through our digital platform, we don’t just tell you what’s normal, we identify optimal ranges and then deliver “Action Plans” of science-backed recommendations, plus regular retests, to continually calibrate your body and help you reach your goals.

We know people want to take charge of their health and wellness, and, while they have the right intentions, it’s not easy. Every day, they are bombarded by misinformation—sometimes biased or misleading, and always impersonal—which creates doubt and confusion, impeding progress.

We believe people lack three important things to help them arrive at the truth: One, a clear picture of what’s happening inside their bodies. Two, clear insights about whether their diet and exercise choices are helping or hurting. Three, a clear idea of who or what to trust when it comes to health.

InsideTracker has been designed to solve this — guiding you on your own path towards your personal best.

How did you come up with the idea? What key insight led you to pursue this opportunity?

GB: When I was 12, I lost my aunt, who I was very close to. Her passing left a permanent mark. I’d never really thought about death and assumed everybody lived forever. I was so sad and asked myself “Why couldn’t life go on forever?” This event led to my lifelong pursuit in the science of longevity. Eventually, I latched onto the benefits of caloric restriction and pursued whether choosing the right foods for the right person would help them live a longer and healthier life.

Today, there are over 8,000 foods available, yet the average American only consumes around 20 different foods per week. To me, this means that we have a tremendous number of building blocks but are only using a few. So, my goal was to build a product that would tell each person which specific building blocks work best for their unique physiology.

Our bodies are complex machines. If we don’t take care of the machine and it breaks down, we have to go to the physician. But what if we can prevent the machine from breaking down in the first place?

Just like we get an oil change for our car every 5,000 miles, we need to perform routine maintenance on our bodies. And, similar to how that increases the average mileage of our cars, prioritizing maintenance on our bodies can increase lifespan.

So, instead of testing for blood biomarkers of illness, we look at biomarkers of health. Measuring and optimizing those through personalized nutrition is a means of prevention that can improve lifespan (the number of years) and healthspan (the number of healthy years).

How did you turn your idea into a company?

GB: When starting my academic pursuits, I sought out institutions doing innovative aging research. I earned my Ph.D. in biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science and completed my postdoctoral fellowship at MIT studying in [director of biology of aging research] Lenny Guarente’s lab. While working in Cambridge, I was inspired by the innovation of biotechnology companies and knew that, in order to make real and large-scale changes, I needed to start a company.

In 2009, I assembled a team of esteemed scientists in aging, genetics, and biology to found InsideTracker. With like-minded individuals who were scientifically curious and dedicated to improving the lives of others, the InsideTracker algorithm was created and continuously refined.

How big can this get? What’s the addressable market and how do you go about capturing it?

GB: I’m inspired by the quote, “The quest to live forever, or to live great expanses of time, has always been part of the human spirit.” I think that’s true now more than ever. We’ve seen some remarkable scientific discoveries and groundbreaking technologies, but I believe we are just scratching the surface.

I’ve seen market analyses projecting that the biohacking market will reach over $60B by 2028, and the amount of capital being invested in AgingTech has already surpassed $27B. Meanwhile, the consumer-directed healthcare and at-home health test space is sized as an $8B-plus market.

Right now, we are focusing on our core—the high-performance healthspan seekers and strivers—but there are mid (proactive health and wellness managers) and outer levels (the health- and wellness-curious) of the market we know InsideTracker can serve, increasing our current TAM by greater than 7x.

Who is the core customer? How are you acquiring customers? And how will you grow the customer base?

GB: The “seekers and strivers” that make up our audience are high-performing individuals who are motivated and educated. They actively seek to expand their healthspan, aren’t afraid to look inside themselves to get the clarity they need, and understand their bodies are sophisticated machines requiring ongoing tuning and calibration.

We have attracted a range of customers, from elite endurance and strength athletes to enthusiasts who want to continue doing what they love for life and are looking to remain healthy for the long haul.

We also have a lot of biohackers who are progressive in their practices to help their mind and body function more efficiently.

Since these people tend to be insatiable information-seekers, our primary source of acquisition has been carefully aligning ourselves with InsideTracker ambassadors who share their personal Inside Stories.

Case in point, since the beginning, InsideTracker has valued our relationships with the science community and influential scientists like Dr. David Sinclair (chairman of our scientific advisory board). We continue to expand that approach because we know that an authentic nod from these trusted experts is incredibly powerful and valuable.

We also love the podcasting space, as both a guest and a sponsor, and we’ve most recently launched our own podcast, Longevity by Design. We explore the cutting edge of longevity research with influential scientists like David Sinclair, Dr. David Katz, Dr. William Evans, and Dr. Andrew Huberman.

In a nutshell, nearly all of our customer growth is attributable to helping those “seekers and strivers” find the relevant information they want to live healthier, longer lives.

Looking at your road map, what are some of the milestones you’re targeting over the next 3-6 months?

GB: We’ve got some exciting things on the roadmap.

InsideTracker launched the Android version of our app in October 2021 (following the 2020 release of our iOS app), which lets customers connect with Garmin or Fitbit. This is a first-of-its-kind capability to integrate blood biometrics with DNA, and now physiomarkers, providing more personalized real-time insights.

Another addition to InsideTracker in the coming months will be connecting Apple Health Kit to the app. Through this, several additional trackers and health markers will come online to inform recommendations and make the full power of InsideTracker accessible to more people.

From there, we’ll more deeply explore other integrations such as other wearables, constant glucose monitors, etc.

Another company-wide initiative is the addition of “Signature Panels.” In October, we launched a panel with Olympic runner and endurance legend Shalane Flanagan which focuses on the markers that matter most in supporting endurance resilience and durability.

We’re demonstrating the value of tracking those markers by working alongside Shalane to come out of retirement and run the six World Marathon Majors in seven consecutive weeks. It’s a great example of how InsideTracker collaborates with best-in-class athletes and experts to create custom products, each containing a specific subset of biomarkers that zero in on a focused goal.