601 Yael Joffe:
Many of us start out with the best laid plans for our future, an intention to do something, be… …something. And then life throws us curve balls and corrections if the plans we laid are not in alignment with our true purpose. So today find out how an aspiring architect became a leader in the field of … nutrigenomics.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who is globally acknowledged as a leading expert in the rapidly-evolving discipline of nutrigenomics – the science of using genetic testing to determine the interplay between genes, nutrition and health.
Yael is the co-founder and Chief Science Officer of 3X4 Genetics, a genetics-based foundational health company that combines advanced genetic testing, nutrigenomic education and a global network of accredited practitioners to help people listen to their bodies and make sound, daily choices to live longer, healthier and better lives.
I can’t wait to introduce you to Yael! First…
Now back to the inspiring Yael Jaffe.
Yael began her journey as a dietician and then went on to obtain her Ph.D. in Nutrigenomics from the University of Cape Town, exploring the genetics of obesity. Yael is now passionate about teaching and seeing clinicians become experts in the nutrigenomic space.
Yael is also a highly sought-after speaker, the co-author of the books, ‘It’s Not Just Your Genes’ and ‘Genes To Plate’, and has been published in multiple peer-reviewed scientific journals. She is at the forefront of nutrigenomic education, as an Adjunct Professor, teaching Nutrigenomics at Rutgers University and MUIH – and helping to develop and supervise nutrigenomics courses around the world, including her own Manuka and 3X4 Ed. courses, which have trained hundreds of healthcare practitioners globally.
Yael describes herself as a “reluctant entrepreneur” – listen on to find out what she means. We talk about what makes her company 3X4 so different from other companies in the space, what keeps her motivated on the entrepreneurial roller coaster, how she’s overcome challenges along the way, and of course, how to hack your health!
Let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Yael Joffe.
Melinda Wittstock: Yael, welcome to Wings.
Yael Joffe: Hi, Melinda. Very happy to be here.
Melinda Wittstock: I am excited to talk to you. You’ve gone from architecture to genetics. How did that happen?
Yael Joffe: Yeah, it’s quite a bizarre story. So I actually never really intended to ever have any interest in science. And in fact, my whole school career was much more based on art and English and history. And so kind of delved into the architecture. I thought it was the most perfect degree for me, perfect profession. And then in 1988, my grandmother got cancer and I had only one grandparents who I was really, really close to. And I used to spend a lot of time with her. She taught me how to cook, she taught me how to make macaroni cheese and two nuts and play Rummikub and all those things. And when they severed her cancer, it was already far gone, like riddled and they opened it up and they pretty much closed up and said, “You’ve got a couple of months to live.”
And to end from being this larger than life, big woman, caring, nurturing to, I mean, she probably weighed 30 kilograms when she passed and I sat and watched her just die. And no one had any answers for us. No one could tell me how this happened, why it happened, what we could have done differently, what we could’ve done when she was sick. There was just the silence. And I used to go to architecture in the morning and then comes [inaudible 00:01:41] afternoon. And just towards the end, there was just obviously something that happened to me. And I was like, this is not good enough. We cannot have no answers. And I remember sitting at a bedside and going, you know what, grad, “I think maybe I’m going to have to leave architecture and I’m going to have to go and do something different and try find some answers.”
And that’s actually what happened. So I left architecture in search of the vague idea of finding and studying health. And there was no health to be studied, there’s no health degree and definitely not in the 1980s. And so the closest thing I found was dietetics. And I went and I did some science subjects and managed to get myself into the dietetics program, kind of only to discover that there really wasn’t anything help in dietetics, either. There was serving patients chocolate cake and ice cream and sugar and processed food. I don’t know that it’s improved so much since then, but it was really appalling and I was just devastated. I left home to go away to university, I changed degrees and to find that there were no answers at all, and a lot of my life has been this kind of concept of searching for answers, not finding them.
And so I finished dietetics, never feeling I was happy, feeling I was a complete waste of time, not really knowing what else to do. So, just did it. And then when traveling in the UK, as you do with a backpack and you go to the UK and you earn money in London, and then you go traveling in Europe and it was actually there that I met up, I was working at a nutrition clinic and met up with a startup really, really small startup as there was one employee. And there was an extraordinary woman, Dr. Roslyn Gil Garrison. This is in 2000. She was an amazing visionary. And she had figured out that genetics and nutrition were going to be the future of medicine. And everyone thought he was completely mad, but she found an angel investor who believed in her and gave her some money to start this company called Sciona, based on this idea that you could build a genetic test around nutrition.
Melinda Wittstock: See, this is so commonplace now, but back in 2000, yeah, it would have seen really like out there.
Yael Joffe: It was like science fiction. I mean, 2000 was three years before the human genome project was done. So in 2003, they drafted the human genome project and every single magazine, Newsweek and the economist was talking about genetics, but in 2000, no one was talking about genetics. And so she was so ahead of the game that you could say like too early or first to market. But for me, it was just being in the right place at the right time, having that kind of deep discontent that I would have really just kind of jumped on anything that sounded interesting. And she was looking for a dietician who had expertise in genetics, and of course, that just did not exist. And so I kind of put up my hand and said, “I don’t know anything about genetics, but I’m willing to learn.”
I don’t actually even understand what the connection is between genetics and nutrition, but it sounds really interesting. And so I became the second employee of [inaudible 00:05:13] and moved to the US, I lived in Boulder, which is where our head office was. And I grew up in Sciona when Roslyn and I were like lepers. I mean, I was not invited to any associations and conferences. I was definitely not invited to speak. There were no courses to study. I had no way of studying this new subject of Nutrogenomix. I had to get a biology textbook out of the library and remind myself what a gene was. The first decade almost was really, really, really tough.
Melinda Wittstock: When you look back and you just see how far the science has come, that now just even with a lot of the COVID vaccines using RNA, so, so much that the connection now between what we’re eating and how that manifests in our bodies, the environmental impacts so many things. I mean, do you feel now going back to your grandmother, that you have the answers that you’ve been searching for, for most of your life, or do you continually have new questions?
Yael Joffe: I mean, that’s a great question because that’s how I always kind of measure where I am or how far I’ve come. I’ve always said is, did I find the answers that I was looking for? And it’s interesting, because it’s only recently, I would say it’s literally in the last three, four years, where I started understanding where the answers are, not that we have all the answers, but I some understanding where we can find those answers. And it was interesting because the first 10, 15 years of my career in genetics, was all around this idea of genetic variation, that’d be different from each other. And we can do a cheek swab and we can understand how we differ and how we respond to the world and who we are in this world.
And that was the majority of my career. And that’s definitely my area. And then suddenly, I discovered this other area of genetics, which is actually the Nutrogenomix, which is how do you use nutrition to change gene expression? How can you use choices you making to switch on in search of genes? It was like, I got 50% into the equation and then I was still very lost. And then I kind of discovered the other 50% of the equation. And I was like, wow, if I couldn’t know who you are and what your susceptibility are, and how you respond to things, to toxins or died or… And then I can design a diet or plan or lifestyle that speaks specifically to your genes. And I can get your genes to behave in a way that’s really going to drive up to my health.
Then suddenly I had this full picture, this big picture. That’s really where we started off with, which is this idea of food as medicine actually could be really true, that we could use nutrition in a way that heal. And that’s really what I set out to do in 1988, which is how does nutrition act like medicine? And it literally took me almost 20 years to try and figure out what their full work circle is. And I think that now we really starting to understand it. And as you say, people often say to me, “You’re so lucky to be a Nutrogenomix, how did you do that?” Then I’m like, “Well, for 10 years, no one spoke to me.” And it’s always like that first 10, 15 years where you kind of under the radar, kind of in a stealth mode doing the work perilously, no one’s actually acknowledging what you’re doing. And then all of a sudden everyone’s like, this is a great field. I’d love to do that. How do I get into that field?
Melinda Wittstock: Right. So much of entrepreneurship is pioneering, it’s being willing to be kind of out on that edge and that there’s such a delayed gratification in that path. I know in my own entrepreneurial career, I’ve often been on the bleeding edge until I’m not, until the timing is right. So I look back at all my previous companies and in many ways they were my lab for what I’m doing now, where you have to wait where the timing has to be right. But at the same time you’re advancing it, you’re pioneering it. And the gratification does come later. Has that been the case for you in terms of your entrepreneurial journey?
Yael Joffe: Yeah, I think that’s very true. I think that for me, my story of being an entrepreneur and not a scientist really came out of looking for answers, not finding them and then figuring out, well, if the answers don’t exist in the marketplace, I’m going to have to build it. So it was part of the same story. It was like my current company 3×4 Genetics was really a case of, we still haven’t solved the problems. No one’s solving these problems so I know have to go and build a company to try and solve-
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. So many, female entrepreneurs end up in entrepreneurship that way, they, they don’t necessarily start out saying, “Hey, when I grow up, I’m going to be an entrepreneur.” It’s usually like 600 plus interviews into this podcast in my own journey and my extensive female entrepreneur networks, right? Almost every single one of us just sees a problem, tries to fix it a whole bunch of different ways, can’t find the answers and says, okay, well I guess if no one’s doing it, I better do it. And then the engine that is usually the most effective way to get these questions, not only answered, but to actually create and market a solution that results in the change you want to see is entrepreneurship. So what was the moment where you said, “Okay, you know what, I just need to form my own company.”
Yael Joffe: Well, it happens about every four or five years.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay. So you’re a serial entrepreneur, just like me. [crosstalk 00:11:49] as well.
Yael Joffe: I’m a kind of serial reluctant entrepreneur, it’s when people say, why did you do it? And I said, I never had a choice? I feel like I never had a choice. And I sit out on an academic career and it was never going to be because I could not help myself, but to create things. And that’s what entrepreneurship is, if nothing else. And, I was lucky that in right in the beginning I was involved in. So I know which was a real startup of startups. And I guess I became a little bit addicted to that kind of startup sense of discovery and innovation and building things that never existed. But it took me about, I’d say 10 years to acknowledge that I was never going to be anything different, but I was never going to work for a corporate, never go back to academia, the epiphany for me was I realized that despite my journey through academia, my father was a serial entrepreneur.
He made businesses for breakfast. He left school very early like making cushions and selling them door to door. We came from like typical kind of Jewish family coming from Eastern Europe, from Latvia, having to make do. And that was his life, was building businesses, selling them or losing them or burning them down or something. And then he would come up and he would build another business. And I always said, “I wasn’t doing what my father did. I was going to be an academic and I was going to study.” And then suddenly, I look back and then I said, “It’s actually part of my DNA.” There was such an inevitability about it because that was what I was brought up on. And so I kind of took these two things that I had going and eventually it was like, this is what I do. I love building things that don’t exist. I love solving problems. I don’t want to work in big organizations. And I don’t know if you’ve had that experience where you almost become addicted to the process of innovation and challenge and that kind of, yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. So interesting. So tell me a little bit about 3×4, and what it’s doing that’s different? Because I know it’s got to be, just listening to you so far. I guess you’re pioneering stuff. So tell me about 3×4.
Yael Joffe: Yeah. So in genetic testing world, as I said, it started in 2000, 2003, we’ve got some really big companies like 23andMe and ancestry.com. And I’ve been involved in many, many genetic companies and building genetic tests. And then I became so disappointed with how we were working as genetic tests and ineffective they were and how the patient and the practitioner was just honing in value out of it. So I actually stepped out of genetic testing, just thinking I need to get away from this and focused on education. I bought the education company, teaching nutrition genetics, Nutrogenomix, for four or five years online? Well, okay. So I kept on finding problems in the industry. So the first was the test. Then I wasn’t happy with how tests were bobbing. Then I thought, well, let me solve education.
So I built an education company lab that ran that for like four years. I mean, okay, I’ve kind of tick back one. Then I was like, well, now I’m going to open a clinic because I want to test whether what I’m teaching actually works in the clinic and see whether you can build a specialist can based on genetics. So we did that was to provide three, four years. And then when I was doing the clinic, I realized that the tool we were using in the clinic was just so underwhelming and really didn’t meet the standard of the education we were teaching and the clinic we were offering. So I got to real crossroads in about 2016, 2017. And I was like, well, I’ve done education and a book test and I’ve run a clinic and I still feel like the industry is just not doing, going well.
In fact, it is my sense that actually the genetic testing industry has failed, that we had the great promise of what genetics would deliver to us, to the individual and actually it got hijacked by these companies that really decrease the value of genetics instead of increasing it. And so when I got to 2016 and I looked back at this industry, I’ve been part of for the 16 years, I was really disappointed and I had been as much in my opinion, as part of the problem in that there was so many things that hadn’t improved in the genetic testing industry. So I had to make a decision of do I step out and say, “You know what, 16 years it’s enough, I’m tired. I don’t want to fight this fight anymore. I’m going to do something else or do I try one last big effort to really fix it.”
And because I’d worked in building genetic tests in education and clinics, I decided that I would use all that experience to try to create something that was really the answer, the solution to all the things that were wrong. And so 3×4 Genetics came out of this journey really of not being happy with the genetics in the markets not being happy with the science that was being done, not being happy with the translation of genetics, not being happy with the education. And we built a company based on all four pillars. So normally genetic testing companies, just bought the genetic tests and company. And what I like, well, you can’t fix one thing without fixing all of everything. So 3×4 is based on really bringing the science into a completely new level of kind of the web 2.0 of genetic science, which I believe we’ve done.
And there’s a whole lot of reasons why I’ve done that. I won’t go into the detail of that. Then we spoke about what is the experience of using genetics, which no one had actually cared. All the genetic testing companies were both by scientists and no one said like, for people experiences this, how did they understand it? How does it make them feel? And so I formed a partnership with a gamification company called Sea Monster and they do behavioral gamification. So how do we use gamification to get people to change their behavior, which is in essence, what we try and do in health anyway. And they asked if I have this information and I have no way to portray it in such a way that someone will find it valuable and meaningful and get them excited and engaged. And so that was a really big step of being able to produce a genetic report that wasn’t a data report, but really lots of color, lots of imagery and lots of storytelling is the only way to describe it?
Then we brought my education company into 3×4 so we had an internal education office. So we wouldn’t just have a test for you, we would actually train you, educate you to a much higher level to become an expert in the space in the way when I was doing so there was no way for me to study. Then we built another element, which is a mentorship program. So just because you know things doesn’t mean you know how to practice that information. So we built a real nurturing handholding, now that I’m working in genetics, how does this actually work? And then the fourth element is we both community. And the community was a response to my experience of having been very isolated, very lonely, very left out, have not having my own tribe. And now 20 years later, we have practitioners all over the world who are saying, I love this field of nutrition and genetics.
I want to be a part of it, but I want to be in a safe place where I know I can get good answers and I can learn or, I don’t want to have to be forced to sell. I just want to learn and be part of this group. And so 3×4 is actually built on all those principles and all those pillars I should say. And I think so it wasn’t that we did one thing, we try to do everything better in the industry. And in doing so raise the bar of how genetic testing is done, both for the consumer, but also for how health professionals experience.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s amazing all the different things you’re leveraging there, like gamification, community. It’s so funny, it sounds like you’re describing my podcasting network put out below because we leverage all those same things except for podcasting. So, so interesting. We could geek out about gamification for hours. What are some of the applications though of genetics? Because I think most of the population is like, “Oh, okay. I know about my genetics.” But, what can it tell you to help really with, I guess preventative medicine. And I want to contextualize this question because so much of the healthcare system, at least here in the United States is kind of not a healthcare system, it’s a sick care system. It treats symptoms. It doesn’t really focus on preventing disease. So in your view and in terms of how 3×4 is working, can it really be used as a preventative?
Yael Joffe: Well, I mean, I would argue that, I mean, it’s part of preventative medicine. It’s part of curative treatment medicine, it’s part of weight loss medicine, it’s part of sports medicine. But the thing about genetics is that, when I studied, dietetics, I got given this kind of story, that what we eat, what exercise we do, what we’re kind of exposed to will determine whether we will go on to get sick or not. And by the time it came out [inaudible 00:22:15] degree, I was like, “Wow, we got like half an equation.” So when we were trying to understand what our susceptibility is to getting ill, or why we responding to the world around us, we were only working with a few pieces of information. So what genetics does, I always talk about genetics as self knowledge.
That we are 99.9% identical genetically, but this 0.1% where we differ, which is that a couple of million points and our DNA really gives us that, I wish I could another word for Nutrogenomix is responsiveness, which is how do we respond to the world around us? And that means a whole lot of stuff. So it means obviously how do we respond to foods we eat? To supplements we take? How did we respond to exercise we do or don’t do? How do we respond to trauma, stress, anxiety? How do we respond to toxins in a word or molds or COVID viruses? So when we think about genetics, it’s giving us a deep dive insight into who we are and understanding who we are in the world and how we respond to our world around us. Now, if we can know about ourselves at that what we call molecular level or a cellular level, we understand what our choices are.
So I would say it’s like insight and action. Insight is the self knowledge of genetics. Now we need to take action. So we take action based on two principles. One is knowing who we are and which parts of who we are we need to focus on. So do we need to address detoxification or inflammation or glucose insulin. What were those clues that genetics gave us that really is an area we should focus on? And then we can use, which I spoke about earlier, this extraordinary new science, some people call it epigenetics, some people call it Nutrogenomix, which is I make thousands of macro decisions every day. I wake up and I decide whether to pick up my phone or whether to journal or whether to meditate or whether to go back to sleep. I go to a coffee shop and I make multiple decisions on what to drink, what milk to drink, how much caffeine to have. Every single macro decision we making will change the way our genes express themselves.
It’ll switch on genes and switch off genes, it changes our genes behavior. So what we trying to do is when we work with the patients, we try to say, “Know thyselves.” Let’s figure out who you are. And then let’s work on those micro decisions to make the decisions that are going to optimize your genetic behavior to be able to heal your own body. And so that’s the kind of journey from starting doing your cheek swab, getting a report through to, and because people think of health as this, Oh, this month, I’m going to eat more vegetables or this month I’m going to start exercising. But actually it’s not about that, it’s about every second of every day, when I’m making a decision, I am impacting how my genes behave themselves.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay. So that sounds complicated practically. It’s a brilliant, but what an visual to do with that? Because it’s kind of overwhelmed, like every single micro decision.
Yael Joffe: No, no, a 100%. So 3×4 does not sell genetic tests direct to consumer. It’s not a DTC company. So you cannot order our tests online, get the report and go off and do your own thing. And the reason being that genetics is a tough science. And also you are an individual, you bring a whole lot of stuff to that conversation. So you need a trained health professional who is trained in Nutrogenomix and genetics, but also is trained in health and preventative disease. And so I’m trained in like functional medicine, which is really where I was kind of brought up, which is what is functioning and what is dysfunctioning that we need to address. And that practitioner brings all that information, including your psychosocial environment, your connection to other people, your spirituality, your history, and they take that plus your genes and then they help you build those micro decisions for yourself. So there is no expectation that you’re going to figure these answers out. And that’s why we train practitioners all over the world, and in the US you cannot our genetic test if you’re not trained by us.
Melinda Wittstock: Got it. Right. So like an integrated or a functional medicine specialist is what you need to really be able to do this. I mean, and what’s interesting is that the trend towards personalized healthcare, in my own case, for instance, having gone through all sorts of different tests, have arrived at personalized vitamins for me. But that’s not something that most people in the population have or can afford or even necessarily know they need. And it’s very difficult from a business point of view to scale.
Yael Joffe: Yeah. Yes and no. I mean, 20 years ago they said that to us and they were probably right. And definitely it’s not for everyone, but there’s like 20 million people who’ve done ancestry genetic testing. 20 million, that’s a lot of people.
Melinda Wittstock: That is a lot of people, right? But then the solutions for them are all going to be different or at least subtly different, right? In terms of their own-
Yael Joffe: So I’m not saying [inaudible 00:27:47], but I’m just saying that genetic testing has been come quite endemic and quite prolific. So not everyone can afford a personalized supplements, but actually you can do an extraordinary amount without personalized supplements. You’re a 100% right, it’s not for everyone. And it’s definitely not for the kind of the underserved, it’s definitely not. But the barrier is learning all the time. Genetic testing is getting [inaudible 00:28:16] all the time and one of our great challenges, I mean, one of the greatest challenges is that medical insurance doesn’t pay.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, this is a huge problem. That whole industry needs to be changed more. If it was preventative, the cost would come down, arguably in this country we wouldn’t have had nearly as many COVID deaths, for instance. More than a half a million people now.
Yael Joffe: Yeah. I mean, so rightly said, it’s a sick care or disease care environment where they prefer to treat the disease and give you a stent or put you on insulin then actually, get you 20 years or 30 years before and have you eating and living well. So I mean, that is a major problem. So functional integrative medicine kind of live in the opposite of that, which is the complete opposite of what we’re trying to do, which is really… chronic disease takes 20, 30, 40, 50 years to happen. You don’t wake up in the morning with a chronic disease. So what if we could get hold of people before and really get them to change the behavior, because everything’s about behavior change and really change the outcome.
But we’re against the bureaucracy of disease care. But despite that, as I said, when I started in this industry, I used to go to a functional conference with 50 people. And every year it was the same 50 people. And there was only one conference to go to. And now it’s like 1500 people and it sells out in one day and I could probably attend conferences every weekend if I really wanted to. So in the 20 years I’ve seen the most extraordinary growth and adoption of integrative and functional medicine. And it’s not that what I’m discussing is only for integrative and functional, it’s just, they have been the earliest adopters and they’re the ones who really get it. They’re the ones that have gone out of their way to study more, lifelong students and really bring it into their world. So I’m quite optimistic that if this is what I’ve seen in 20 years, that the next 10 and 20 years, we really are going to get to the point where there isn’t a question of whether you should do your genetics or not to your genetics.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. So what do you say to all the people who are afraid of genetics in the sense that it can be manipulated, like the dark side of it? Because there’s so many positive things. What are some of the dark side? What are some of the things that are challenging for the industry in that sense and people’s attitudes?
Yael Joffe: Well, I suppose it depends how dark you want to go. But so in the non dark space, in the non dark of the dark space is companies [inaudible 00:31:03] 23andMe where they are setting ancestry tests, but they’re actually selling genetic data to pharmaceutical companies. I don’t think that that’s dark. I actually think that that’s okay. People get to opt-in or opt-out they get to choose if they want to be part of it. And they got no personal information. So I actually am not of the opinion that doing genetic testing and having companies have our genetic data is really going to put us at any high risk than being on Facebook. In fact, being on Facebook would be way more concerning than having our DNA done.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Yeah, yeah.
Yael Joffe: So I think that the world is a very different place in terms of what’s available. And for me, genetics is again, an inevitability of knowing ourselves and having data. I think the dark side of genetics is happening in a very different space. I’m not worried about the space we’re in. Obviously there’s some better companies and worse companies and you need to do your due diligence and you need to ask questions on these companies about data privacy, do they destroy the DNA once the test is done? Do they sell to other companies? You should absolutely ask those questions. The dark side is not in my space, but in the CRISPR, which is the gene editing, which is the greatest breakthroughs in science, but also has the darker side to it.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly, all technological innovations always have a good side and a bad side.
Yael Joffe: Exactly. It’s like physics playing it out again.
Melinda Wittstock: Or like all kinds of artificial intelligence, right?
Yael Joffe: Exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: It can be used for good or for bad.
Yael Joffe: Exactly. And I think that’s where we are with gene editing. So gene editing is definitely one of the most exciting breakthroughs in genetics and in medicine and in curing diseases. But we also know that countries like Russia and China have been doing this for a very long time, at a very long time. And so it’s the danger around the regulatory environment and what they’re doing with it. And when we always say, there’s nothing better than living in a country that isn’t a democracy. If you want to do genetic research. Because in a country like America, you can’t. The regulatory environment and the ethics environment is so strong that if you do genetics research, they know exactly what you’re doing. In China, the government is doing the genetics research. So, people don’t have a choice, but to have the DNA done. When you born, you get your whole genome sequenced. There’s like one city where every single baby has been sequenced.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness.
Yael Joffe: Yeah. I mean, you have a genetic passport. I think we’re going to land up there voluntarily anyway one day. But that is the dark side. It’s like, what is happening that we not seeing, not the stuff that we are seeing.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, right. That’s interesting, because all that applies to what’s going on with artificial intelligence and in China, soldiers who’ve been sort of augmented if you will, right. And it changes so, so many things. My goodness, so Yael, you have obviously a long path ahead of you as well. How do you see your future in terms of what you’re doing with this? Where do you want the company to be in five years, 10 years? What is the big vision and the big goal?
Yael Joffe: So I think in short term probably five years, we really want to be the kind of practitioners choice of genetic test in the marketplace because we have solved a whole lot of the problems and have really raised the bar. So in five years time, I’d like to be 3×4 Genetics, change the way genetic testing has done in the marketplace. And we have brought back trust, we have brought back value, engagement, and we’ve really, really impacted people’s lives. So we’ve taken that information and we’ve made it something that does exactly what you spoke to, which is prevent disease, manage disease, manage environment and I think that’s part of my vision.
The second part of my vision is to build, because it kind of came from a lonely solitary place is to build a huge global community of what I call expert practitioners. Where they really go into this field, they stopped learning the field, they own the field and they kind of take over from me. And we’re really seeing this happen where the word is spreading. They becoming experts in thyroid or experts in anxiety in genetics, experts in dental health and that the whole field will actually grow. And I guess the third thing is just that people start understanding the value of knowing their genetics and seek it out in a responsible and valuable way. And I think that will be quite enough for me really. I
Melinda Wittstock: And I have no doubt just listening to you that you will achieve all of that. As we start to wrap up the interview, and if you look back at your challenges as an entrepreneur, because we all have them, if you would boil it down based on your experience to advice you would give other female founders and innovators in your space or beyond, what would those things be?
Yael Joffe: Yeah. So I think I’ve been quite upbeat and optimistic and happy in this podcast. But I would actually say that [inaudible 00:36:51] is the hardest journey of all journeys.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, it is. I agree with you 100%.
Yael Joffe: I don’t think I’ve come across the total truth, because the reality is, and I did say that you don’t choose to be an entrepreneur because you’d been insane to choose to be an entrepreneur.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, I hear you.
Yael Joffe: So hard. And the despair, the sleepless nights, looking for money, paying salaries, being rejected so many times, hearing no, the pitchers, trying to get people to believe in you. I’m sure you know all these things that I’m telling you.
Melinda Wittstock: And I’ve lived this over and over again, right?
Yael Joffe: Over and over. It never gets easier. And I think that the advice, again there’s some of us who that’s what we do. And I wouldn’t change it for anything, I wouldn’t not be an entrepreneur for anything. I think it’s a gift as much as a curse, but yeah, the advice would be, courage is everything. And being a woman in this world is just that much harder. I mean, there are so many boys clubs and you hit up against them in the places that you don’t expect to.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. All the time. It’s so interesting. And yet there’s so many advantages that women bring to entrepreneurship that men don’t have. And that’s starting to bear out in the data. For instance, companies that have women on their boards outperform all other companies, whether you’re looking at the NASDAQ or the Dow. Companies that have women founders survive. They tend to make it to like 10 years, whereas if they are missing a woman, also things like more efficient use of capital. And then of course there’s the fact that women come at entrepreneurship with exactly what you’ve been describing.
They come at it with a mission, something that they want to solve. I think you mentioned the phrase reluctant entrepreneur, but they’re in it often for a different reason than men are like, “Oh, Hey, how can I create wealth real quick and flip this company?” It’s a completely different attitude. And I think in terms of when you look at the world and all the big problems that need to be solved. I mean, my hunch is that female entrepreneurs such as yourself are really the impetus, and the way in fact to tackle a lot of these problems. So I’m hoping that’s going to get easier with boys clubs and all that kind of resistance. But I think we’re here at this moment in our earth suits for a reason.
Yael Joffe: Yeah. I know. You think it’s got a little bit easier, but I think that sometimes you get lulled into this false sense of security of thinking, “Wow, everything’s okay now. Now I’m on a roll.” And it’s just always there. It’s always there. I mean, it hasn’t been, but it’s always there. And I think that part of being a woman entrepreneur is having a sixth sense for it so that it doesn’t trip you up. And also don’t be a victim. And I think that is the reality of the world right now, fight against it, have the courage. Again, like it says one word for me about entrepreneurship, it’s about having courage, doing something that is so uncomfortable. I always say find comfort in the discomfort and you do it anyway.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. That’s where the growth happens, all those fail moments, all those rejection moments, all those times when you’re like, “Oh my God, how am I going to make payroll?” Which is not something that just only happens in the early stage, that can happen when you’re growing super fast and you need capital to sustain your growth. I mean, it can happen at all different phases.
Yael Joffe: It actually happens in all phases. It seems to happen-
Melinda Wittstock: And it does. So it’s almost like you get used too, you almost take that kind of stuff for granted. I’ve found that in my career, the highs are not as high and the lows aren’t as low. There’s just kind of you know that there’s this kind of roller coaster, but it starts to kind of regulate a little bit or you find these mechanisms and honestly, I would be lost if I didn’t meditate, if I didn’t focus on myself care, if I didn’t surround myself with really great mentors and people, if I didn’t invest a lot in all of that, like the spiritual growth. That underpins all that stuff. Is that part of how you sustain and keep positive and everything through all the ups and downs.
Yael Joffe: Yeah. All of that. I mean, we never did enough self-care and biggest reason is I have two young children. But I think also being a mother and having two young children actually in its own gift because it grounds me a lot. And I always say, if it wasn’t for my kids, I would just work. I mean, I would literally just work. And I think what they do is, you’re not the boss, you’re not the CSO, you’re not being invited to do podcasts. You just mom and you got to make stop it. And I think that my kids for me have kept me grounded through the process of these companies. And also, I think the one thing that you spoke to the roller coaster starts not stopping a roller coaster, but it’s not such a scary roller coaster, is that you start understanding that your life and your purpose is way bigger than whichever company you’re building at that time.
And I think in the beginning, I thought that if anything happened to the business I was building, that would be the end of me, that would be the end of my world. And I think we’ve got to the point now where you realize, we go on and the businesses come and go and that is not what defines our success. That is not what defines us. We know we loved our businesses and we invest them and we found them. But they don’t define who we are. And I think that for me has probably been the most important lesson, especially recently. That I love 3×4, I want it succeed, but it doesn’t define who I am in the world.
Melinda Wittstock: Yael, what you’re saying is so important. So I want to make sure that people can find you, learn about 3×4 and also grab the books that you have written. It’s not just your genes and genes to plate. What’s the best way?
Yael Joffe: So the best way is always through the website. It’s 3x4genetics.com. And if you’re looking for me, it’s simply firstname.lastname@example.org. And really those two ways is best way to find me.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.
Yael Joffe: Thank you very much, Melinda. It was great chatting.
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