The Upstart: Jeff B. Smith, co-founder of Paragon Vitamins, wants to send you a custom pack of vitamins every month

The Upstart: Jeff B. Smith, co-founder of Paragon Vitamins, wants to send you a custom pack of vitamins every month

Paragon Vitamins

Company HQ: The Junction
Founded: 2019
Employees: 7

How it works: “Customers submit a hair sample. Paragon then uses lab analysis to determine which nutrients each user needs. Then Paragon’s unique vitamin formula is delivered once a month to the customer’s doorstep.”

Eureka moment: “One of our founders used to be an Olympic bobsledder, back when performance-enhancing drugs were prevalent in the sport. He studied ways to enhance his performance without doping and eventually trained a handful of high-level athletes. But we thought, Why can’t everyday people who live busy, challenging lives get the same benefits?”

How much you spent initially: “We invested $300,000 to get the initial supply of vitamins and to build the algorithm and website.”

Your turning point: “When we ran the first 300 people through the program—mostly friends and family—the feedback was really positive. A lot of them said the product improved their quality of life. At that point, we realized we were making something that could change people’s lives.”

Your big-time backers: “We raised about $2 million from 11 investors. No money came from private equity or venture capital firms. It was people we knew personally who believed in the program.”

The best advice you’ve received: “Focus on what you’re doing, not what your competitors are doing.”

The worst advice you’ve received: “ ‘You’re too old to become an entrepreneur.’ It’s never too late. Take your experiences—whether you’re in your 20s or 50s—and start grinding it out.”

Tech jargon you use too much: “ ‘Algorithm.’ Everybody’s talking about algorithms.”

Tech jargon you hate: “ ‘Consumer lifetime value.’ Just make great products and you don’t have to worry.”

Your tech role model: “VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk. I’ve partnered with him in the past. He’s a really caring person.”

Past life: “I was a chairman at Johnson and Johnson, overseeing brands like Tylenol, Neutrogena and Listerine.”

Coolest thing in your office: “My old-school record player. I mostly listen to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.”

App you can’t live without: “I can’t believe how much I use Slack.”

If you weren’t running a start-up: “I’d be at the beach, dreaming up a new company.”