Katerina Markov Schneider is a health tech entrepreneur. Among others, she is a startup founder, a Forbes contributor, and an information seeker. As the Chief Executive Officer of Ritual, Katerina has been making waves in the tech sector. She gained inspiration for her clean label vitamin products by happenstance. While she was 4 months pregnant, she read the ingredients on the bottle of vitamins her doctor had prescribed to her. They included titanium dioxide and aluminum. These are common ingredients in kitchen cleaning products. Katerina is a vegan, and many of the vitamins in stores contain gelatin. This is typically derived from animal matter. She drew inspiration for her disruptive business concept from everything she found wrong with the vitamins she was consuming. Her goal was clear: reengineer vitamins to exclude gelatin, titanium dioxide, aluminum, and other unwanted elements. Along the way, she generated $1.3 million in venture capital from Troy Carter and Upfront Ventures, among others.
‘Free of’ products trending across the United States
The clean label vitamins and products that Ritual is producing are already influencing the mass market. Major US brands such as Nestlé, Campbell Soup and General Mills are now starting to remove artificial colors, high fructose corn syrup, and carrageenan from many of their products. The vitamin industry is worth an estimated $80 billion per annum in the United States alone. The ‘free of’ vitamin industry has attracted many competitors into the mix. These include SmartyPants Vitamins, Olly and others. Unfortunately for consumers, the vitamin supply industry is not subject to full transparency.
Many of the vendors in the supply chain do not subscribe to the non-GMO practices required by certifying agencies. It is difficult to certify certain vitamins such as beta-carotene, ascorbic acid, vitamin A and vitamin B12, since the products that create these vitamins are produced around the world. Many of them come from genetically modified crops. Purists of the non-GMO doctrine are quick to point out that it is virtually impossible at this point to create a 100% pure non-GMO vitamin. Nonetheless, Katerina Markov Schneider is pushing for transparency in the supply chains that create vitamins. Ritual began shipping its products in July 2016.
How being pregnant affected Katerina Markov Schneider’s entrepreneurial flair?
Katerina recounts the story of her budding business venture while she was pregnant. Her husband is also an entrepreneur, but he went to work the day after the baby was born. Katerina decided to raise money from Rivet Ventures, FF Angel, Troy Carter, and Upfront Ventures. During her travails, she was met with strong resistance from numerous venture capitalists. She recalls the story of one of the Angel investors telling her that he was reluctant to fund her project since his wife stopped working when she gave birth. To make matters worse, it was a venture capitalist whom she admired. She remembers being a finalist at the TechCrunch Disrupt in New York City. During the conference, she had to feed her newborn, and it took several hours for her to find a room. On another occasion, her milk came under scrutiny at the airport and she missed her flight. Katerina subsequently lost the competition to an 18-year-old contestant.
Katerina Markov Schneider’s Rise to the Top
Katerina was a venture partner at Atom Factory Inc. for 1.5 years between December 2013 and May 2015. The company won two prestigious awards including the Forbes 30 under 30 and the World Economic Forum Global Shaper award. She served as the Head of Global Innovation at Atom Factory Inc. between June 2012 and May 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Her other roles include:
- Global Lead of Digital Innovation at Universal Music Group in 2012
- Senior Biz Development Advisor to Chairman and CEO at Universal Music Group
- Business Development at Shine Group Americas, Reveille Studios (2010 – 2011)
- Strategy & Operations at Fox Interactive Media (2008 – 2010)
- Investment Banking, Gaming & Lodging at Lehman Brothers (2007 – 2008)
- Business Activity, Debt Technology at Merrill Lynch (2006)
In 2015, Katerina Markov Schneider was part of the Forbes Summit Group list of participants as a venture partner in AF Square. The event took place between June 9-10 in New York City, and was attended by notable celebrities such as Nancy Pelosi, Jessica Alba, Chelsea Handler and Gayle King. The Forbes Women’s Summit: Transforming the Rules of Engagement featured 250 leaders from all over the world, and across multiple industries. The pre-stated objective is to harness the intellect and power of the gathering so that the most pressing concerns in society can be addressed. The Forbes Summit Group was hosted at the Park Hyatt Hotel in New York and the conference took place at Pier 60 – Chelsea Piers in New York City.
What Ingredients Do Ritual Products Include?
Ritual prides itself on a limited number of ingredients. These include Vitamin K2, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B-12, Boron, Iron, Omega-3, Folate, Magnesium and Vitamin E. The oil in the capsules is derived from vegan algal oil. It is produced by fermenting microalgae and has zero environmental contamination. The pills are taken 2 at a time in the morning and the evening. The vitamins have been developed to bypass the stomach with no ill effects. Katerina Markov Schneider insists that the vitamins can be taken with or without food. The FDA is not in the business of approving dietary supplements, it merely regulates the dietary ingredients and dietary supplements accordingly.
The company does not derive any of its ingredients from GMOs and the vitamins are fully organic. Each bottle of vitamins is filled with vegan beadlets and oil, by a US-based manufacturer. All vitamins produced by Ritual are soy free, dairy free, nut free, and gluten-free. The first vitamin produced by the company is Essential for Women. It contains 9 essential ingredients needed for women to compensate for dietary inefficiency. The difference between Ritual and other vitamin manufacturers is that the former has a close working relationship with its suppliers. Transparency, non-GMO produce, and high standards form the backbone of the partnership in the supply chain. The company markets its products at $30 per month for a dietary supplement of 60 capsules.