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Startup Superstar Nominee: Dr. Brittany Barreto
November 1st, 2018
By Tess Cook

Tired of “swiping right” on a dating app?  So is everybody else,  and a team of young scientists in Houston have a solution for you. Meet Pheramor, a new dating app that takes a peek at your genes before you enter the digital dating pool. The co-founder of Pheramor Dr. Brittany Barreto believes love is a science and that analyzing your genetic makeup will better match you to a potential partner. The science behind attraction is mostly undefined, but Pheramor’s method hones in on one element the scientific community agrees on: attraction is based on the diversity of one’s genes. What’s even cooler is the technology was founded right here in the life sciences community of Houston. 

I see you are from the Northeast. How did you arrive in Houston? What has been most surprising to you about living in H-town

After my undergraduate career at Drew University in New Jersey, I was accepted to Baylor College of Medicine’s Molecular and Human Genetics doctoral program. I really love science, but I always knew I had too much personality to work in a laboratory for the rest of my career. I came to that self-awareness in Houston and the city has continued to open my eyes in so many ways since. The vibrant entrepreneurial, tech, and medical community here has welcomed the exuberant scientist that I am, and it has been a great source of business camaraderie for myself and my business partner, Bin Huang. 

Who has inspired you most in your life and why?

This question itself has been a source of great inspiration for me. One of the drivers behind my mentoring, speaking, and work at Pheramor is wanting to pull from an inclusive list of inspiration every time I am called to answer this question. 

Today, an endless list of women, LGBT, and minority scientists may not be the norm, but we are working hard to change that and pay it forward like Sara Faivre has. She worked on the first ever human genome sequencing project at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and pioneered careers in genetics for women like me. 

How do you like to get your day started? Any consistent rituals?

Listening to my instincts is my consistent ritual. It’s a really exciting time for us at Pheramor, which means I am traveling internationally and running a company here in Houston. Keeping a regular schedule is next to impossible but following my instincts during this momentous time allows me to sustain my health, clarity and creativity.

I will add that my best days start when I take 30 minutes to practice yoga and meditation. I like to call it “Mind control practice.” The more I practice quieting my mind and being still, the better a leader I can be. 

How do you approach leadership? Would you rather be liked or respected?

Many years before becoming a leader I learned that being liked follows being respected. I respect the work that I do - it is a privilege to have my daily efforts centered around the essence of who we are as humans and what makes life worth living = DNA + LOVE. 

The respect I have for this work transcends any textbook leadership approach, and I am able to lead a team of varied individuals of all genders and generations to have the same buy-in.  I think most women at this level of success or power think they need to choose between being liked or respected. You’re either a b**** that gets things done or your communal-based and don’t step on the toes of others. I am thrilled and inspired to be a woman who’s changing the face of female leadership. I can be someone who is liked AND respected because I get the job done. My employees have told me that I have very high expectations and am a tough leader but I work in the ‘trenches’ with them. My positive and encouraging attitude shows them that I know we can meet these hard deadlines if we work together and I’ll be working alongside them every step of the way. 

Tell us about your experience as a young professional in the Houston Life Science community. Any tips you have for young doctors or researchers?

Stay curious about your own ideas. Your instincts as a scientist are your secret weapon. When Pheramor was just a concept, I shared the idea with a seasoned scientist who shot down my idea.  There will always be naysayers, use your curious nature to have your voice heard - in your own way. 

Where is Pheramor today? How many matches have you made? Any standout success stories you’d like to share?

Pheramor has been downloaded in every state in the U.S.! You can imagine how busy our team is gathering first date stories to highlight on #PheramorPhridays! The most unexpected success stories have been the hundreds of requests from existing couples who’ve heard about our genetic-matching model and want to swab to see if they are connected on a cellular level! More to come very soon for couples who are already deeply in love!

How has working in Houston set you up for success?

Coming from the sciences and venturing into the tech world has been a dichotomy I’ve enjoyed, and Houston’s rich resources (incubators, mentors, access to VC’s) has attributed to that greatly.  Houston is home to the Texas Medical Center (TMC), the largest medical center in the world. Moreover, Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) has the #1 genetics program in the world. So coming from the academic strength of the TMC and BCM, I was set up for a strong career in genetics. I am very blessed to have been finishing my PhD during a time when innovation initiatives were skyrocketing in Houston. Between TMCx, Station Houston, enventure, and many more startup incubators, I had a plethora of resources to begin my startup.  

I’m rubbing elbows with great minds AND hearts here in Clutch City. The diversity of our city is something I personally enjoy, and it also serves as a tremendous value-add to exploring DNA from a worldly point of view. Right in our own backyard is a representation of our vibrant world - it’s like a DNA goldmine! 

What are your Houston top three? 

Running along Buffalo Bayou Park with my rescue dog Trypsin to see the Waugh Bridge Bats. Eating authentic Chinese food and singing karaoke in Chinatown with my diverse business team. Using my ClassPass to push myself out of my comfort zone through working out. Hip-hop dance lessons and indoor rock climbing are two experiences I recently tried and really enjoyed!

You can find Brittany on social media here @Pheramor @DrBrittanyBarreto

The 2018 HYPE Impact Awards will be held Nov. 8. Click here for information and tickets. 

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