Revolutionizing Skincare

Natalise Kalea Robinson, CEO & Co-Founder, Parallel Health

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At Parallel Health, Natalise and her team use next-level science, particularly in microbiology, genomic technology, bioinformatics, machine learning, and AI to provide effective, personalized skin care. Natalise is Fiercely passionate about exceptional design across the board: product function, brand aesthetics, and user experience. Grounded in the belief that a winning strategy always includes fostering people to be their best selves, building great teams, and being thoughtful and intentional with every step.

Skincare is important for everyone. The reality is that skincare is a trial-and-error cycle. Healthy skin, Eczema, and Acne, all need proper skincare. Natalise is launching a new product that already has over 4,000 on the waitlist. Natalise shares the journey that led her to this point. She also shares her experience leading a startup.

Talking Points: 

{01:40} How Natalise is revolutionizing skincare.  

{07:15} Using doctors instead of celebrity endorsements

{15:45} The startup journey. 

{21:30}The importance of humility and hard work in the startup team

{26:45} Natalise’s leadership style

Welcome, welcome to the Talent Empowerment Podcast, where we support business transformation and share the stories of great CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs, and leaders of all backgrounds. So, you can borrow their vision, their tools, and their tactics to lift up your organization, your team, and your community.

I'm your host, Tom Finn, and on the show today we have a successful entrepreneur. And the founder of Parallel Health, a clean science-based skin microbiome company. Her name is Natalise Kalea Robinson.

Natalise, Welcome to the show.  

Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.  

Well, we are thrilled to have you on the show. I can't wait to get into your story, but if you don't know Natalie, let me introduce you to her Parallel Health. She and her team use next-level science, particularly in microbiology, genomic technology, bioinformatics, machine learning, and AI to provide effective, personalized skin care. Yes, ladies. Personalized skin care.

Natalise fiercely is passionate about exceptional design across the board, including product function, and brand aesthetics, and user experience, and from a strategy standpoint, she's grounded in the belief, that a winning strategy always includes fostering people to be their best and building great teams as well as being a thoughtful leader and intentional with every step.

Natalise, you have got a deep and interesting background. I can't wait to jump into it, but for all of those folks. Out there when we say skin care and we say innovation and we say AI. And we talk about the science behind skincare. We've got to start there.

So how are you revolutionizing skincare?  

So let me take a step back and if we look at skincare today and even dermatology today, you have a lot of us, we're inundated with product after product, and we don't really know if these products work for us.

And even on the prescription side when it comes to, you know, certain indications you might be prescribed a certain key ingredient or key active and then it may or may not work. And then you try on you go on to the next thing. What we've developed in parallel is a precision sort of solution, an end-to-end solution. So, what we've developed is a skin microbiome test. We use whole genome sequencing, and I can explain that in a bit, but essentially we provide a kit where you swab different areas of your face. You send it back to us. We then understand your skin microbiome and we look for patterns and based on those patterns we then can give you a precision skincare solution.

Now our area of expertise is phage science phages. The one-liner on phages is that they are microbes that infect bacteria. So, you can think of phages as a natural antibiotic, but they're safe and they're really targeted so I can if I give you the right phage that will target the exact bacteria that is causing your kind of issue, but it's leaving the good bacteria alone. And then from there we also provide sort of clinical guidance and then we can also provide personalized compounded prescriptions as well.  

So we can think of this as a natural antibiotic to help cure certain portions of the skin while leaving alone the healthy cells.  

Healthy bacteria? Yep.  

And just impact one area that's incredible. So how does it work from a consumer standpoint? So they get a kit. You talked about a kit.

And so walk us through what that consumer experience looks like.  

So, if you order a kit, that kit is simply mailed to your home, and you unpack the kit. It's very so we. Use swabs, which is, you know, you're probably familiar with; most people are because of COVID Right, so it's non-invasive, it's easy to use, but instead of you know, sticking it up your nose, which is that very uncomfortable we're we just ask you to swab different parts of your skin, so you know you're swabbing. Let's say your forehead and you use another slob. You're swabbing, you know your cheeks or your chin or etc.

We ask you to have multiple swabs so that we can have full coverage. We also include a control which is important for us from a science standpoint and then you just, you know, send the swabs back in the mail, and then once we receive them, we process them and we then in you know, two weeks can tell you your skin. Microbiome types your skin age, hydration levels, and microbial diversity, and we also identify good bacteria and bad bacteria, and then from there we can provide recommendations.  

You know, in the introduction I said, hey, ladies, listen up. But this is not just for women, is it? This is for men too.

Absolutely, yeah, yeah. Of course, yeah.  

And so, when we think about our target audience, if I'm listening to this and I'm saying OK, Natalise am I a candidate? Do I need this? Does my partner need this?

How do you identify who this is for?  

Yeah. So that's a learning experience for us as well. So today we have nearly 4000 people on our waitlist. And if I look at that waitlist, you know half of the people might have some kind of issue like, you know, hormonal acne comes up, Eczema, rosacea, melasma. And some of these issues are very common that we see and then the other half of people really have, you know, they have no complaints, they have healthy skin, they say, but they're just really looking for a solution to optimize their skin microbiome and to optimize better aging.  

So, this is a really diverse product that can really focus on a lot of different issues that folks are dealing with at home.

There's a very clear use case, though I would say for us and that we've done a lot of testing around acne and eczema and rosacea. And the reason why we focus sort of on those areas of our research is because there is a clear sort of bacterial component in those indications. So generally when you have acne, even if it's hormonally related, there's an overgrowth of sebum which is food right for bacteria. And so when that bacteria overgrows, that's when you see sort of that redness, inflammation. And sort of the effects from an appearance standpoint. Our phages have a really clear mechanism where they're killing that bacteria and leaving the rest alone.  

Well, beautifully said so. I've got to ask the question that's on everybody's mind. It's a pretty simple one. You are not a Kardashian, is that correct?

OK no

So how are you allowed to be in the skin care industry if you're not a Kardashian? Is that a thing that you can actually start a skincare company if you're not?  


You know you don't have your own reality show.  

Yeah, that's funny. I didn't know where you were going to go with that, but, right. So certainly in today's sort of …  and certainly in the last few years. You know, you see a lot of celebrities. And in reality, stars come out with their own skincare lines, and certainly, that's a way forward. You know we thought about it. You know, do we … Should we have a sort of celebrity endorser? Ultimately, and we may in the future, right? But ultimately, we are science-based. We are started by, you know a microbiologist, dermatologist, doctors. So, we're coming at it from that standpoint.  

And I love the way you're coming at it because in today's day and age, you can go on to Alibaba and you can slap a logo on top of any type of makeup brand, a skincare brand that you really want to. If you've got $5 to $10,000 in capital to make your first order, you can throw that on Amazon; and call yourself a skincare company.

But at the end of the day, that's not really helping anybody. It's not solving a real consumer issue and the underlying components of skincare and skin health, which has so many different impacts on others along the way, right in terms of your, your confidence and how you feel, and how you approach the world and how you approach your day.

And So, what I love about what you're doing is you're taking a science-based approach in a lab that is designing something that is so incredibly different from what's available in the market today and you're carving out this beautiful niche to help people. So I say the Kardashian comment in jest because I think it's so important that people understand that you can go out and build something if you really feel like it and you can, you can get on Alibaba seriously and go find skin care products that you can slap a label on, but that's not going to help anybody. You've really got to get deep and rooted in science to be able to make an impact.  

Yeah, I think you know specifically about skin care. And I think in other industries too, but in skincare especially, we're just saturated right, with many, many products. And so I think you know for us it's not there's no reason for us to exist unless we're going to create something different and actually helpful.  

So let's go back in time and justice, and learn a little bit about you because I think it's so interesting that you've gotten to this spot, but you didn't always start here.

So, tell us a little bit about how you got started, your background, and what got you interested in this line of work.

So, my background, I think of it as having many twists and turns. I started my journey at Stanford, so I did go to Stanford. I was a physics major actually going in, but I actually grew up a musician and trained in music. And I actually got signed as a record artist to a record label, and when I got signed, I thought you know you only live once and you're only young once. So I said, you know, I should think about graduating early and I thought, OK, let me see if I can do that. OK, I think. I can do that. So I did so that I could. Go on a tour and record this record and kind of pursue this dream.

I went on to start my own record label and publishing house. And then I again twist and turn. Recognizing that 80% of music is marketing, I started a marketing firm. I worked in film finance and then at some point, I was working in Excel so much that I thought Maybe I should think about it. Business School also, maybe there's a bigger world… There is a bigger world out there and I'm curious about it and what kind of. What impact can I make beyond what I do now?

And so, I decided to go back to Business School. I ended up going back to Stanford for a number of reasons, but ultimately, I said I wanted to work in startups because I think you can make it if you can have grand visions. You can really create innovation and move innovation forward. So, let's do that. So since then, I've worked in startups, and I ended up meeting my now co-founder. So, when I talk about the microbiologist ph. D that's Doctor Nathan Brown. So, I met Nathan actually at another company. We worked there together. And we were just, I was just really inspired by his work and his motivation and passion and decided to start this company.  

Well, that's an amazing story. So I think what people need to take away from that is that you've had some twists and turns. Starting as a musician is incredible. I don't think most people don't think about that as then getting into business and starting your own company with somebody that you met somewhere else, right?  

So, tell us. A little bit about what it's like to be a young musician in the world.  

Yeah, it's hard, right? I think there are a few lessons there. So, I can maybe back up to when… before I got signed, I was and maybe I'm aging myself here. But I was sending out demos to different record labels. I did hear from one of the majors and what was interesting was something he said to me I really, we had our you know morning meeting our Monday morning meeting, and we all really like you, but we're not going to invest in an Asian American artist like, we just don't believe that the US is ready for that. That was sort of a wake-up call. I hadn't even thought about that as a factor.

And so, you know, that was a little bit shocking. I think in the 1st 24 hours but, by the next day I was like, OK, well, they're not going to let me through the front door. I'm going to go through the side door, you know. So, I started reaching out to them. You know other record labels that were not, let's call them… Not tier one, but like Tier 2, Tier 3 sort of record labels and let's see how we can make this happen a different way.

And so, I think that's one of the lessons that I still sort of that stays with me today, which is that it's not always going to happen the way you want it to happen. Do you think it's going to happen? But if there's a, there's a well, there's a way.  

I'm right with you. I feel like when you hear that story, sort of a door gets closed and you're thinking about my goodness, the door got closed. But you pretty quickly said great doors closed. I'm going to find another door, and that is the beauty and gift of entrepreneurship and leadership. There's always going to be doors closed no matter what or who you are or what you're trying to accomplish, there are going to be doors that close. Hopefully, they close softly, and they don't slam.

There are going to be doors that close and it's our job. Innovators and leaders and founders and CEOs to really find the next open door to find that crack and pull the door open really by any means necessary. And in your case, you started with some other recording studios that perhaps might be beneficial to you, and then and then moved along the path pretty quickly. So kudos to you for taking those shots because It's not easy to do.  

No, thank you. And I'll say just to add to that is that. You know, I think in music and kind of untraditional sort of paths, there's not a linear way forward. You know, you kind of must navigate your way and it's not so much, as you know if you do X then Y happens. It's like well if you do X then maybe that happens. But also, like a through? Like Z happens and I think that's the same in entrepreneurship, right? And so, I think in some ways it prepared that journey, prepared me to navigate, sort of being in a start-up.  

Yeah, I think I think you're right because there are a lot of ups and downs in the startup. So how has that been going for you so far?

Tell us where you are in your startup journey.

Yeah. So parallel has been around for about 2 years, so we're pretty early in our journey. You know, I'd say for the first, you know, 18 months we've been really heavy into R&D, right? So, what we're doing is completely novel. Well, we're using the latest innovation. There are a lot of questions that we have to answer and that we've had to answer to get to this point.

But we're getting ready to launch. We're launching at the end of or. It's Q2. And it's really exciting, you know, a lot of it's been really productive thus far. So, we're excited about next year.  

Well, you said earlier that you have 4000 people or so on a waitlist who are really excited about the product and they all fit into different types of categories. Do you feel like you have the operations set up well enough yet to handle the 1st 4000, that's the thing a CEO thinks about, right? Am I going to be able to execute?  

Now, I mean, there are a lot of moving pieces, right, like we have the sequencing side for our microbiome test. We have the precision serums that we're manufacturing partially in-house. The key ingredients are all in-house and yeah, it’s there… It's very operationally heavy.

But, I'll tell you this. We just hired our head of OPS and are so relieved that there's help there as well, but you know we're working out the kinks now. You know, people can already started to pre-order, so you know all of the early, kind of activity is really helping us as well as sort of you know, work out the operations as well.  

Yeah. So, we're hoping that this is going to launch in the second quarter. And if somebody's listening, what would be the path that they would take, do they go to the website and sort of put their name on a list, is that, is that? A simple way to do this.

Yeah, absolutely. So, you can go to parallelhealth.IO. There you can sign up for the waitlist. There and we ask you a few questions about your skincare journey, your skin. You know what you're looking for and then we can, from there, give you access to the ability to pre-order.

Well, amazing. And what type of products do I actually order from parallel health? What are we talking about?  

So you have a few different products, so of course the skin microbiome test that we've talked about your phage serum that would be right for your skin microbiome type. We also have a microbiome-friendly moisturizer and cleanser. I use them myself. I love them.

I always say, you know, I'm never going to sell anything that I don't use myself. And that I don't absolutely love. So I'm happy that I use them too, and I'm excited about them.

And then lastly, we do have doctors on board, right, so. If there's a consumer or patient out there who is looking for some sort of next-level guide like just a little bit more guidance, a little bit more support; and maybe they're in prescriptions now, but they’re thinking about switching or trying to find something else. We also provide personalized prescriptions too.  

So, we've got a whole array of products available to help get people started. And I would imagine the game plan is, let's get this out in the market. Let's see how people do, and then let's develop more products because those customers are going to come back and they're going to say Natalise, thank you so much. This is awesome. This changed my life.

But I also need this… is that the plan?  

Right. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, definitely we want to, we're we've always been guided by the data, right, and by feedback. So, I think you're absolutely right there. You know, we're looking to expand our product line, but we want to make sure that we're meeting the needs of the people who are in the community.  

Yeah, and I think that's a beautiful way to build a business when you start to look at data and you also look at your customer feedback, you can build really wonderful product road maps by just looking at those two things.

The egotistical side of our brain says I know best, but if we are sort of quiet with that noise in our head, the best path forward is really through data and customer experience. And really listening to those that are using the product, that's what I've seen take the sharpest turn in terms of revenue and certainly, you know units sold is taking that approach. Do you agree?  

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think it's really important. I think the customer experience is so important, right? Like when we're designing sort of the customer journey and the experience. I think of it as, what would I want? How supported do I want to be? How supported can I be? I apply that to how we look at designing for our community.  

Yeah, I love the way you're looking at the world and I also, I'm really grateful to you for taking this leadership style and approach that that a lot of people are taking these days and it's a winning strategy around, you know, building great teams and working with great people and casting the right leadership shadow. Gone, I hope are the days of people pounding the table and telling others. What to do? You know, this little podcast is called Talent Empowerment and the whole idea is to lift, lift others up by doing the right things and talk to me about your leadership style and how you brought them together. Let's start here.

How did you bring together that first founding team for Parallel health?  

So I think so, Nathan and I co-founded the company even before we started the company. We had many conversations, just interpersonal, you know, kind of conversations, you know what, what are your values? What do you believe in? What do you want for the world? What do you want for yourself? I think all of these have to align in order for you to not ensure, but you know kind of give yourself the best chance that you Can build a successful company.

I think a lot of times, you know some of the downfalls of companies oftentimes is really due to, you know, toxic behaviors or unhealthy relationships that that's. Sort of because. It's hard, right? Like, startup life is hard.

And so it creates, it can create conflict and so you have to be confident that you can overcome those challenges. In a healthy way. So, we spent a lot of time doing that and one of the values that came out of these conversations was that we want to build an awesome team of great people we have a no ******* role, right?

But we also, you know, we're very open to, you know, people whom you know, even if you lack that maybe you don't have 20 years of experience, but you are eager and you're excited and you have the capacity to learn. We'll take a chance on you.

It's like sometimes that eagerness and cultural fit is maybe more important than that. You know, 20 years of experience, you know, not that we're opposed to experienced people. We love those too, or to have those people too. But I think it sort of maybe paints the picture of how we think about a team.  

You're hitting all the right piano keys for me, as you're talking here. I'm just, you know, eagerly listening and what I hear is it's got to be the right cultural fit regardless of what's on your resume and I love to hear that because I feel the same way.

I mean look, 20 years of experience doing something doesn't mean. You did it right.  

That's true.  

It does not. And so, what I tend to feel when I'm looking at people, and hiring is... What is the cultural fit where? How are you going to fit in? In with the. Other people that are already here and how are your skills going to bring us to another level? And if that person is 22, awesome. If that person is 62, awesome. It doesn't matter. It's just really about cultural fit. And are you going to lift up the rest of the team with what you bring to the table?

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I think especially in startups, right like… The reality is, even if you are assigned or given a specific title, the reality is you're likely going to have to do many things beyond what you expected and people do it every day. And I always say you're not too good for any particular job or activity and vice versa. It's not… Nothing should scare you either, right? Nothing's too good for you.

Yeah, there's a couple of things that I think of, you know, in corporate America, we tend to hear people say, well, that's not my job, right? That's not my job, but in the startup world, if you say that you're likely not going to be there very long because everything is all our jobs in startup land, right?

And I will tell you, you know the one thing that really perhaps saved our business a leg up which we founded about five years ago was pulling together these jobs to be done spreadsheets.  So we have a Google Sheet and it basically has all of the jobs on the left-hand side. And it has the roles at the top, so the names of the people right that are in the company and then we put little check marks. You know in these columns.

So, you know Tom's got all of these and Victor has those. And then you kind of go down the list, right? Is there something you do in that fashion in terms of jobs to be done in organizing the work within your company?  

It's a very timely question because we just had an OPS call this week where our head of OPS is like we have to organize all of this. So we're all on Asana and we're kind of… this is a process as we speak that is being sort of refined and developed.  

Yeah, and. And look, for those of you that are founders out there or early-stage CEO's or my goodness late stage CEOs, you have to redo this work over and over and over again. It's not a one-and-done right.

So whether you're on Asana or using a simple spreadsheet, whatever it might be using Trello for example, you've got to do this work. Every year, essentially because your organization should shift and move and change on an annual basis unless you're, you know, a giant organization and you're pretty static in the way that you do business, so it's great to hear that you're going through this process and it sounds like… Sounds like the new head of OPS has had their handle on what needs to get done right out of the gate.  

Yeah, exactly.  

So, as we think about your leadership style. Do you have a way that you like to lead the team? Do you bring everybody together? Are you collaborative in nature or do you like to look for consensus? Or are you perhaps more of a person that says no, no, the vision is… needs to stay static? We need to move down this path. How do you like to lead?  

Good question. I don't know if I have one kind of way that I am or lead in a certain way. I think I try to keep space, right, like space and room for creativity and the ability to sort of see things differently, to move in a different direction if we need to. But there has to be a balance between that and sort of staying on track and being focused and executing the priorities.

So, I think part of my role is to have everyone stay focused, but then also create that room and atmosphere for creativity and spontaneity. I don't know if that answered your question, but….That's what came to mind.  

Yeah, as a follow-up, how do you create a room? Does that mean from a logistics standpoint, leaving time on the calendar for people to be creative, does that mean actually assigning time for creativity? How does that actually look operationally?  

I think it's softer than that like it's not necessarily and maybe you're planting a seed in my mind, maybe we do need to do that, but I think it's more about saying to the team, look, if you ever have any ideas on how this should go, please Speak up.

If you ever have feedback on any part of the business, whether it's like literally the business model or it's the way that we interact, or the way that we operate, please let me know. My door is open. And you know, sometimes the best ideas come from people you don't even expect, even have an opinion On that.  But they might. And so, I don't underestimate anyone. And it's really that communication of hey, like the door is open.  

And the best companies have that kind of directive from the top, which is let's find the best idea and the best way forward. And that can come from anybody in the company, you don't have to have a title for it to come up to the top of the organization and actually get implemented.

It does take a certain level of humility from a leadership perspective to be able to take that feedback and implement it. Do you feel like you ever struggle with that, that this is somebody else's idea and it's not mine?  

No, I mean if it's a good idea. It's a good idea, right? It doesn't matter. It's mine or not, you know.  

Yeah, I think that it's important to note though because there are some leaders out there that struggle with humility and struggle with taking sort of the sword and charging forward that I'm the leader and I'm the CEO. And they still exist, by the way. They're not all distinct.  

Yeah, yeah,

they're still around, unfortunately.

I say that because I think it's so important that we embark on this leadership journey, and we think about what the steps are that we take with our team. And as we said in your introduction, something that's really important to you is being intentional, right? Intentional in the way we behave, intentional in the way we lead and the way we run team meetings, and the way we bring people on and all of that has a process. And all of it has some humility behind it, and certainly some love and some energy, right, in terms of following that vision that you're setting for your organization, which I think is so cool.  

Thank you.  

So, one final before we go, because I've got to, I've got to ask you this. What is the big next step for your organization? What gets you super excited right now is we're recording in February of 2023. So what's the next big thing that gets you jazzed?  

I mean, we're heads down focusing on launch. So that's our big milestone coming up. And we're really, really excited to get our products in the hands of people who are interested. It's really cool that we've gotten emails from people who have said I've gone to three dermatologists, and I still can't find a solution. Or, you know, I've tried everything I can. I don't know what's going on with my skin. I can't wait for this product. So, I'm so excited to deliver this product to them and give them some answers.  

You are going to give a lot of people a lot of great answers and I love the work that you all are doing. I think it is…. I think it's unique. I think it's differentiated. I think the world needs it. There's a problem and you have a solution for it which is really cool. So, thank you for doing this great work. I know it's not an easy path to take but I appreciate the work that you're doing for everybody.

Thank you.  

So, Natalie, there are people listening to this show that are going to say, OK, how do I get in touch with her? How do I find out about her company? What do I do to get involved? Help us figure out a great path to get in touch.  

Yeah, absolutely. So, first thing, you can go to parallelhealth.IO if you want to sign up for the wait list and be able to pre-order, you can go to parallelhealth.IO/parallel-survey and that will take you directly to that wait list form to sign up. If you want to reach out to me with any feedback, you can find me on LinkedIn. So, Natalise Kalea Robinson on LinkedIn.  

Well, thank you again for joining the Talent Empowerment Podcast, my friend.  

Thank you for having me.  

I am so excited about this launch. For those of you that are wondering, yes, I am going to go to the website and sign up on the waitlist. Because I've got to get my hands on this thing just to see how everything goes. So, thank you again.  

Thank you, Tom.  

And thank you for joining the Talent Empowerment podcast. I hope you transform your business by placing people at the center, leveraging technology at speed, and enabling innovation at scale. Let's get back to people and culture together. We'll see you on the next episode.

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