Bootstrapping in Action: The DNAlysis Biotechnology Story

Bootstrapping in Action: The DNAlysis Biotechnology Story


Vital Stats

  • Company: DNAlysis Biotechnology
  • Player: Danny Meyersfeld and Yael Joffe
  • Launched: 2009
  • Break-even: 2014
  • Investment: R5 million
  • Biggest achievement: From loss to profit in one year
  • Visit:

What DNAlysis does

Founded by a molecular biologist and a dietician specialising in nutrigenomics, DNAlysis combines health and wellness with science.

With three products in its stable, DNA Diet, DNA Health and DNA Fit, DNAlysis is an essential tool for practitioners in the business of keeping individuals fit and healthy. “DNA profiling has come a long way in the last decade,” explains founder Danny Meyersfeld.

“Today we don’t think twice about the fact that Angelina Jolie was able to test for the BRCA gene that causes breast cancer, for example. We wanted to create a business that wasn’t based on diseases though, but rather on healthy lifestyle.

“Society today is far more concerned about health and wellness, and we wanted to develop products that would help them do that. It’s easy and accessible to everyone.”

The three products are able to measure what foods a person reacts to, what they need to do to be healthy and lose weight, and how their body responds to different training methods. Each result is uniquely tailored to you.

Savvy marketing moves that don’t break the budget.

The challenge

The start-up investment is large. Meyersfeld has bootstrapped the business, and so he’s had to be extremely tactical in the way he’s built the brand. First, he found a lab in the US that had similar tests to what he was looking for.

He could offer them to local consumers, and send them overseas. This meant he didn’t need a lab. As he grew however, he was able to make contact with Yael Joffe, a dietician who had been consulting in the US.

Once Joffe agreed to come on board, the business could start developing its own tests based on peer reviewed research. Meyersfeld then tapped into his network to build up a lab — Roche agreed to rent him the equipment he needed at a good rate, knowing it was supporting the growth of a future client.

But how could the business tap into its own client base? That was the question, and it’s where DNAlysis has been particularly creative and innovative.

Getting the marketing right

1. Target the right audience

Unless you pitch to the right audience, all the marketing efforts and spend in the world won’t sell your product. When Meyersfeld first launched DNAlysis, he focused on GPs.

“It took me eight months to realise that I was putting all of my energy into the wrong market,” he says. “GPs focus on patients once they’re sick. They don’t focus on preventative lifestyle health and wellness.”

But Meyersfeld didn’t want to encroach on the nutritionalist and dietician industry. “When Yael came on board she had great contacts in the industry, and we hit on the idea of partnering with them, instead of competing.”

This changed the company’s focus. Up until this point, Meyersfeld had planned on GPs and consumers being the target market. Today, consumers via the e-commerce site make up only 5% of the company’s sales, the rest comes from their partners.

2. Work with the right partners

“Once we knew we wanted to focus on partners, we created a system that works for all of us. Each partner goes through a short training course, enabling them to read the detailed results and use them as a tool in assisting their own clients by creating a tailor-made plan for them.

“This makes each of our partners a marketing ally. They recommend our tests because it enables them to give a more holistic plan. In return, we constantly update our products and ensure they match the top and most up-to-date research, and we list all our partner practitioners on our website.

“Many people come to our website, realise they can go through a dietician or nutritionalist, and choose that route instead. It’s a win-win for all of us.”

3. Stay up to date and relevant

A major factor that many businesses dismiss is the power of networking. “We make sure we’re at all of our major industry conferences, locally and globally. It’s worked incredibly well, because it enables us to ensure we’re on the cutting edge in this field, and it puts us in contact with the biggest players in the industry.”

One such contact is Nordic Laboratories, an international provider of laboratory tests for functional medicine.

Related: Mongezi Mtati on How Wordstart Proved the Power of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

“Nordic currently offers 200 tests to practitioners around the world. They have a huge network, and were interested in expanding their offering into the area we occupy. We have an excellent lab and good credentials, and they have now partnered exclusively with us to offer our tests to their network. It’s a huge deal for us and means significant growth over the next few years.”

And where did they meet? At a conference in Cape Town. “Our exhibitor stand was next to Nordic’s. It pays to showcase your brand, show what you can do and be willing
and open to develop new relationships.”

Nadine Todd
Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.