OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | PeopleWise: Brittany Barreto
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PeopleWise: Brittany Barreto

When you think of a stereotypical entrepreneur, what do you think of? Someone with a degree in business? Brittany Barreto is unconventional. She jumped into the entrepreneurship world with a science-centered background—bachelor’s in biology and a doctorate in human genetics—and a crazy idea from college. As she worked tirelessly to finish the doctorate, Brittany devoted the little time she had to her startup, Pheramor, the nation’s first DNA-based dating app. More recently, Brittany was recruited as a venture associate in Capitol Factory and is working to fund Houston startups.

What inspired you to start your first company, Pheramor?

I had this crazy idea back in college, one of the ones that you don’t think much about because you think it’s crazy. However, while I was pursuing my PhD at Baylor College of Medicine, I took entrepreneurship classes and discovered that entrepreneurs were my tribe—I love the networking and the autonomy in creating my own rules.

What was the most important thing you learned building your first startup?

I realized that I am more capable than I realize, and that passion is more important than qualifications. I had (and still have) the passion and that’s really all you need. I don’t have an MBA, so that could be seen as lacking qualifications, but people still funded me and my idea. The funded me because I had that drive and excitement about my idea.

What drove you to start WeHaveChemistry?

I realized there was another market that could use my technology, measuring compatibility using DNA. It was really a move of opportunity: there was a market and I went for it. On top of that, websites are WAY easier to create than apps!

What is your current position and what does a typical day look like for you, if you have one?

My typical day as a venture associate at Capital Factory is a lot of meeting with startups, measuring their traction and fundraising needs. My job is to scout for companies and encourage them apply for Capital Factory’s accelerator program. I then become their coach and help them through this process of building a startup.

What motivates you, and has that changed since you first started?

My motivation has not changed—I am motivated by empowering people. I love helping people and giving them that assurance and that they can do it. I feel like I can do it more effectively now as a venture associate than as a founder. I used to empower people by telling them my story as a founder, but my title as a venture associate gives my story and words a little bit more strength. There’s a field that just started called femtech, technologies and ideas that focus on women, and I am super excited about it. My motivation, empowering people, has been a little bit more refined to the field of femtech.

What are your passions outside of your business?

I love rescue dogs! I actually have two rescue dogs currently. I love fostering and volunteering with dogs. I am also passionate about mental wellness awareness, more specifically, PTSD. I am involved with HAWC, which offers free group counseling and have a women’s center and have founded a nonprofit called Cooper’s Crossroad with my godmother. Cooper’s Crossroad raises awareness about PTSD, offering seminars, workshops, lectures, and retreats for people to learn more about the impact of PTSD. Along with these topics, I also enjoy yoga, nature, and gardening.

What advice do you have for startup entrepreneurs?

Make friends with other entrepreneurs so that you are always getting advice and always pitching ideas to each other. Find someone who has done something similar to what you have done in the last five years, and someone who is older and more experienced in the startup world. This person may not be able to give you day-to-day advice related to your startup but can give you more overarching advice.

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