Meet Ara Katz
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ON her entrepreneurial roots
I grew up in NY and went to a private high school in the Bronx with a lot of kids much wealthier than me. Growing up, I wanted to be an architect and, into high school and college, a film director. And while I have had a creator mind my whole life, it was always paired with the hustle. I loved nature and animals and was always fascinated by what it meant to control the destiny of something you created — not waiting for someone else to do it for you. Both of my parents were psychologists and I wasn’t around anyone with business or money savvy so I kind of figured it out as I went. I created Seed because of alignment, and because I knew with the right group of people and new approach we could nudge the world forward a little bit each day.
on getting her start in film
I started working in film when I was in college and skipped my graduation to continue working on an indie film that was shooting that summer. Through that experience, I had pitched a concept that went into development later that year. When I was in NYC for a development meeting, I was introduced to a young Bolivian filmmaker, Rodrigo Bellot, and I agreed to produce his film. And so my journey as a producer began.
on her transition to startups
I have always loved science and technology. I had taught myself graphic design and to code HTML at the end of high school to make websites for extra money, and later had a couple opportunities to drop out of school to join startups during the first bubble, but I knew I wanted to pursue film at the time. After I had finished producing The People Speak, I was introduced to part of the founding team of MySpace, who were spinning out of Newscorp to start something new. Looking back, it was their hustle that I recognized and the rush of building and learning that was so compelling. It was an extraordinary learning experience and one I am grateful for.
on founding — and leaving — her company, spring
It was exciting because it was at the beginning of buying things on our phones. I got to meet the humans behind hundreds of brands and learn a lot, but ultimately I came to realize the things that garner external praise aren’t always what aligns with your internal compass. I was commuting between NYC to LA to build the company and neglecting many parts of my life I should have been prioritizing. I had a miscarriage and resigned the night of my procedure. It just locked everything into focus—it wasn’t the sadness you might assume (in fact, I’m grateful our biology knows what to do when a life isn’t viable), but the inviability of the life I was leading—it wasn’t aligned, it wasn’t fulfilling and it wasn’t the right conditions for meaning and depth.
on seed’s environmental work
To us, human health and planetary health are one. We founded SeedLabs, our environmental R+D arm, to develop and accelerate novel applications of bacteria to solve some of the biggest ecological challenges facing our planet. Our first project is a probiotic for honey bees. As pollinators, honey bees are critical to approximately a third of our global food crops. But widespread pesticide use, along with climate change, disease, and habitat loss, has reduced honey bee populations at an alarming rate. We have identified probiotic strains that increase immune resilience through a pathway that insects use to adapt to infection, heat, and other stresses. Delivery via our probiotic BioPattiy™ shows immense potential in tempering the effects of insecticides, improving survival rates and restoring honey bee populations around the world. We’re also filing all IP around the BioPatty™ open-source, so farmers and beekeepers worldwide will be able to access it for free.
the incredible science facts she learned while creating seed
One third of the carbohydrates in breast milk aren’t for an infant, but for the bacteria inside of an infant; the mass of all microbes weighs more than all matter on Earth; and 50% of us by cell count are non-human, so 3-5 pounds of microorganisms live in and on you!
As for other wild things—being in a small ecosystem of building a company, you learn so much about humans: what drives them, what moves them, what doesn’t, what I need to improve, where I can be better. Those insights are incredibly vulnerable, but deepening in the best ways.
on how her perspective shifted after motherhood
Creating a human, in some ways, made me more creative—it has offered an entirely new lens through which to see the world. The ever-present curiosity of a child is infectious and I find myself walking around asking, “why?” way more often—which in turn is a catalyst for always demanding the “why” and never accepting the status quo. This first principles approach is our mantra at Seed, a way of seeing and unseeing that has evolved how I work.
What’s your beauty routine (skincare/makeup)? Do you have any beauty secrets or tips? What products do you swear by, and why do you love them?
My best beauty routine is my diet, which there is no substitute for. My philosophy is that of experimentation as we really don’t know enough about the skin microbiome yet and how the long-term use of products like retinoids may impact us, though they certainly have short term benefits. I read and try to break down what’s being marketed to me and just experiment. Right now I’m experimenting with a simple, non-foaming gel cleanser from Rejuvi, Seed’s Daily Synbiotic, Rejuvi’s Flavonoid Complex, Diego Dalla Palma Astaxanthin Complex 1.5%, and sunscreens: elta MD Broad spectrum and Skinceuticals UV Defense.
ara's favorite books
A People’s History of the United States left a lasting imprint since my junior year of high school—it offered another (and more true) narrative of our history and was a beautiful reminder of the fighting voices that earned us the civil liberties and freedom we enjoy today. The tile of The Art of Looking Sideways says it all: tilt your head and everything is different. The Singularity is vigilant reminder that there is a moment where AI will surpass us—a moment that is currently outpacing Moore’s Law and may be sooner than we think. The Immortalist is a powerful re-thinking of the thing we fear most. And Understanding Media holds one of the most meaningful ideas I carry with me; the medium is the message.
ara's favorite movies
ara's favorite places IN la
Parks: Topanga State Park, Santa Monica Mountains
With her son, Pax: the skate park at Venice Beach, Oakwood Community Park, Tongva Park (he runs through the water sprinkler), Santa Monica Farmer’s Market (especially to see the man who makes big bubbles and crazy machines), and Leo Carillo State Beach to look for sea urchins in the tide pools.