SV Angel Founder Profile Series: Tara Viswanathan and Rosa Hamalainen — Rupa Health

15 min readJan 12, 2024


We are ecstatic to feature Tara Viswanathan and Rosa Hamalainen, Co-Founders of Rupa Health for the January 2024 SV Angel Founder Profile Series.

Rupa Health is on a mission to bring root cause medicine to every person on the planet. Since SV Angel partnered with the Rupa Health team in 2020, the company has helped hundreds of thousands of people with their health. We hope you’ll enjoy learning about the founding and scaling story of Rupa Health and lessons learned along the way.

Rupa Health Co-Founders Tara Viswanathan (left) and Rosa Hamalainen (right)

Name: Tara Viswanathan + Rosa Hamalainen

Hometown: Lubbock, Texas + Helsinki, Finland

Company Name & Brief Description Blurb: Rupa Health brings all lab tests in one place for doctors.

Year Founded: 2018 (Product launched in 2020)


Q: What was the impetus for starting Rupa Health? Tell us about the moment you decided to start the company.

A: Tara - There was no “moment” per se. It was more a decade of obsession that culminated in a deep inner conviction that “I had to do this”.

I got sick in college after trying to do too many things and burning myself out. No doctor could help me at the time because it wasn’t a “real illness” — I was exhausted, depressed, had chronic inflammation, and just felt low all the time. This kickstarted a journey of learning why we feel sick — getting to the root cause of why I felt bad all the time. I started with learning what a calorie was (I had never even eaten a salad up until that point in life — Texan roots, yee haw! 🙈🤠), which quickly spiraled into studying nutrition, and spending all my free time learning about health, wellness, and using my body as an N of 1 science experiment.

At that time, I realized this was what I wanted to do with my life. I wrote down my mission — “Improve the standard of LIVING — what it truly means to feel ALIVE — for every person on the planet.” I didn’t know how I’d get there — but I knew that’s where I was going.

This obsession led me to Stanford, where I studied “product design for better health”. It wasn’t a real major — I made it up. (Thank you Stanford for supporting students in creating their own future!) I got to work with chronically ill patients at Stanford through the & studied psychology, study meditation through the Stanford Med School, and so much more. I actually even dropped out of Stanford and started a healthy chocolate company for a year. (I came back because I realized my calling is not food — there are people 100x better than me at this and they should do it!)

Long story short — optimal health was my obsession. Everything I did revolved around this. A couple years after I graduated from Stanford I was working at another health tech company at the time, helping it get off the ground, and my mom got sick.

Looking back, this was probably the pivotal moment for me. There was a new wave of medicine coming, and I couldn’t sit back while people like my mom were sick and unable to find true care to solve the root cause of their issues and feel alive again. “Not dead” and “managing symptoms” was not good enough.

So I quit my job and started Rupa, with zero idea of WHAT we’d build, but complete conviction in where the future was headed. :)

Q: How did you meet your cofounder and how did you know you wanted to start a company together? What advice do you have for other founders making that decision?

A: Tara - In 2018, I had just left my job and was building the first version of the product by myself. I was sitting alone in my apartment, with zero funding, and had no idea what to do. So I just started emailing people. 🙈

One of those people was my Stanford professor from the, Dennis Boyle. I told him I was starting a company and he invited me to come speak to the class.

I went down to Stanford, gave a talk, and jokingly said I was hiring (I was not, we had zero money and no real product built yet). 😂

And that’s how I met Rosa.

She was in the class, stayed after to talk, and we met up again a few days later (a lot more hilarious, serendipitous details — full story another time!). Something in my gut said, “Just do it!”.

We both went with our gut. She said yes! It just felt right.

She came on board full-time a few months later in September when she came back from presenting her research around the world (she’s a badass).

And that was the start of this crazy journey together. 💙

So, advice for finding cofounders? Honestly, I’m not sure. It’s really hard. You spend more time with this person than you do with anyone else. Ultimately, I think in a lot of ways we just got lucky.

But you can create opportunities for luck to show up.

The whole story of how we got together is just serendipitous.

Creating serendipity is one of the most powerful skills for early-stage founders. Maybe that’s the advice. :)

Celebrating Rupa Health’s recognition on the Nasdaq tower as an SMB50 top tech company

Q: When you were young, did you both envision becoming entrepreneurs? What led you down that path?

A: Rosa - I’m pretty sure I wanted to be a circus performer, a doctor, and an artist all at the same time.😂 I’ve always loved building and have been passionate about helping people live healthier and happier lives. I realized during my time at Stanford that I could get the best of both worlds — I didn’t have to be a doctor to help people. I could instead build things to help doctors and patients both achieve better outcomes. It then felt like serendipity that I then met Tara at the right time and right place for us to start Rupa!

Tara - When I was 7, I wanted to be president of the United States but then learned I couldn’t because I was not born in America. I figured I’d change the law first, then become President. 😅 But then I learned about law school and decided it was too boring. So I set my sights on building companies and haven’t looked back. I had my first business in 7th Grade, selling duct tape purses.

Q: What’s a really difficult part about being a founder that no one talks about?

A: Tara - Most of the struggles are well documented! 😅 It’s a relentless 24/7 job, it’s incredibly lonely, you never have all the answers but everyone expects you to have all the answers, the growing pains rip you open every week, there’s always something going wrong, etc. etc.

Maybe one that people don’t talk about is the tension between being friends with your teammates and being their employer.

You hire these incredible humans, you are in the trenches 24/7 with them, and you know everything about their life & vice versa. You spend more time with them than anyone else on the planet. They become your family.

But…at the end of the day, you’re still their boss and employer. And at some point, you’ll get screwed over by someone you considered family, someone will sue you, another will spread rumors, etc. People can be very hurtful. When you feel like you’re giving your life to something — tiny things can feel like dumping cheap vodka on an open wound. It’s tough.

It’s a really weird tension (and an evolution that every founder I know has gone through).

Q: Being a founder is not easy. What’s kept you sticking to Rupa through it all?

A: Rosa - For me, it comes down to people & purpose — it’s hard to beat the feeling of reading stories from our customers where people are finally getting answers to their health after years (or decades) of suffering. I also get to work with people who inspire me & make me laugh!

Q: Given the many demands you’ve had as founders, how do you allocate and prioritize your time daily? Any tips you’d give to other founders?

A: Rosa - If anyone has the key to success here, please let me know! 😂

A couple of simple things that have helped me:

- Have 3 clear outcomes you want to hit for the week.

- Check your calendar and to-do list every morning — does it line up to those 3 outcomes?

- Write down the 2 most valuable things you can accomplish every day, and do the hardest thing first.

Tara - This is a never-ending battle! The biggest advice I have is — how and what you prioritize will change a LOT as you grow the company. Just when you think you have it figured out, you’ll need a new process. If you’re growing fast, every few months you’ll look up and you’re running a very different company with different demands. So be okay with throwing out old processes & coming up with new ones. Do weekly, quarterly, and annual reflections. Become a researcher of your time. What worked? What didn’t? What did you do that was actually valuable? What was a waste of time? No external time management system will be the “right” one for you. You’ll have to develop your own, so become a master at this. Use other people’s as inspiration and a starting point, but craft your own.

The one thing that hasn’t changed much is my weekly process I’ve been doing for almost the last decade!

Q: What were you seeing in the market that made this the right time to build Rupa Health?

A: Tara - It felt crazy early when we started. But to hit the right time, you have to be early. You have to be there when the market hits, and you can’t predict when it’s going to hit. When we started, everyone thought we were doing “woo-woo medicine” and “alternative medicine”. The market really only took off in the last couple years. And when it hit, we were here and further along than almost everyone in the space. So start before it’s “trendy”! That’s how you’ll know it’s the right time.

Another thing — it did feel like it was not too early, because of what we were seeing from the grassroots movement. What people were saying about health & wellness on social media, the growth Google search terms, and just ways it was popping up in the zeitgeist.

There were no industry reports on functional or personalized medicine when we started, so we built our own. It helped create confidence in the market. We heard of large companies using it in their board meetings!

Q: What do most people not understand about the space you’re building in?

A: Tara - Many, many things! This has been the most difficult piece to explain to someone who has not lived the experience of “I need help with my health and I’m not getting it from the traditional system.” Most people think of healthcare as just the medical industry that sits within the realm of a hospital & the insurance system. Most people don’t understand the root cause medicine space. It’s very fragmented and just being created right now.


Q: Did/do you have a mentor or mentors? How did you find them and how have they been most helpful?

A: Rosa - Yes! I’ve been lucky to have really great and different mentors throughout the founder journey — I’ve had the best luck finding people I admire and reaching out through cold emails & LinkedIn messages. The biggest positive outcome has been realizing that most of our problems are universal, and are things others have been through.

I also believe in having “micro mentors” — I ask almost every person I meet for career and life wisdom (whether it’s my eye doctor, the person next to me on the plane, etc). I think you can learn something from everyone.

Tara - I don’t have a mentor in the traditional sense: one person you go to for advice over multiple years and with whom you build a deep relationship. I’ve always thought that would be amazing, but I’ve never found that one person (other than my husband & my brother — who both have companies and I talk to on a daily basis!). Instead, I read a ton. I’m always reading. I don’t just read, actually — I study books. I’ll make worksheets & experiments from books I read and then go implement them to actually incorporate the advice in my life. Every book I read has an apple note with a “to-do” list in it & I’m running experiments on myself weekly.

I also have a bunch of investors, advisors, and friends I message whenever I need help with a specific thing. The difficult thing about mentors & advisors is that the business is always changing & the problem is never the same — so the best person to help and support is usually different each time.

Q: Was there an unexpected piece of advice, or something you heard or read that has stuck with you or reframed your thinking as you’ve grown as an entrepreneur?

A: Tara - So much. Here’s one from Todd Jackson:

Burnout doesn’t come from moving really fast. Burnout comes from moving really fast with no end in sight.

Q: Rosa, you two started Rupa when you were right out of college — that’s a very steep learning curve! What advice do you have for people who need to learn quickly on the job?

A: Rosa - I’ve always believed in learning by doing — and startups & entrepreneurship is the best way to do that, and usually imposed by a deadline and high stakes 😂

I think the biggest superpower you can have is the ability to have hunger for knowledge — read books, attend talks, interview really smart people, hire great people around you. Having the ability to not take yourself too seriously all the time helps too!


Q: How should founders think about choosing which investors to work with?

A: Tara - This is SUPER important. They are the teammates you can never fire.

They’ll be with you forever. Especially the major investors who have a say in how the company is being built — pick these people REALLY thoughtfully! I feel very, very lucky with who we ended up with. At the end of the day — I went with my gut. At every stage, we had term sheets for higher valuations that we turned down. Make sure you know the people you end up bringing on before you run a tight process. We knew almost everyone for years before we brought them on our board.

Another thing — if investors are not treating you well during a fundraising process (this is when everyone should be on their best behavior) — run in the other direction!!! This is a sign. People will show you who they are.

Q: How did you convince your early investors to partner with Rupa Health during the company’s early days?

A: Tara - It was so hard. 😂 No one understood the market. I scrapped together $10K checks from a motley crew for our pre-seed. I’d hear, “I don’t really understand what you’re going after, but Tara you’re tenacious and will figure it out.” Ultimately, people invested in ME versus what Rupa was at that time. I’ll forever be in gratitude to those first few checks. Every founder remembers those people who believed when there was no reason to believe. 🥹

Q: Why did you choose to partner with SV Angel? What is it like to work with the SV Angel team?

A: Tara - It’s because of Beth!! SV Angel invested in our seed round. I remember where I was when we met — at my parents' home in Texas during Covid! Beth was one of the few who understood the market and got what we were doing. She also is just such a loyal supporter and such a positive human being. She was incredibly helpful during our later rounds as well.

SV Angel is an incredible team — they are connected to everyone.

Q: How are you both thinking of this fundraising environment?

A: We’re not. 😂 We’re focused on building a great company that’s worthy of whatever comes next.

Team & Culture

Q: How do you divide responsibilities? Anything you know now you wish you knew at founding?

A: Tara is CEO and Rosa leads Product. It’s so obvious, but splitting responsibilities is the best way to do it. When you both are kind of responsible for the same thing (vs. each 100% responsible for different things), it gets messy.

Q: Can you share any valuable lessons about recruiting and scaling a world-class team?

A: Tara - We’re still figuring it out! All the cliches are true for a reason. “Even the best of the best get it right only 50% of the time.” “Bs hire Cs.” “One bad apple can spoil the lot.”

My biggest advice is simply: reps.

Get your reps in. Meet as many people as you can. Study the greats. Calibrate on what someone truly exceptional in a role looks like before you go out and hire for that role. I’m hiring for a VP of Engineering right now, and I talked to ~25 of the top VP Eng & CTOs in Silicon Valley. It was massively helpful to train my gut on what “great” looks like before going out and finding it.

And then — build your values intentionally. You need a shared language to talk about who deserves a seat at the table and who does not.

Q: How would you describe the culture at Rupa Health to a prospective hire?

A: 😂 Let’s just share what new hires have said about their first day at Rupa…’s what to expect during all hands at Rupa…

Q: Your team seems to organize awesome offsites — why has this become important as a company? What do you accomplish there?

A: At the end of the day, everything is about people. It should be obvious but sometimes people forget. Without our team, Rupa doesn’t exist.

We are mostly a fully remote company (moving some of the team to the Bay Area now) and we have a LOT of fun doing it.

Our offsites started on a whim (like most startup things 😂) because we just wanted to meet each other. So we booked a trip to Zion when we were 8 people and ended up having a hilarious time accidentally hiking one of the most dangerous hikes in America — Angel’s Landing. 😂

There’s magic in coming together and creating a “holy sh*t” once-in-a-lifetime experience for people. Creating moments they’ll remember forever. That’s why we do it.

Here’s a video recap of our Costa Rica offsite & our Sayulita offsite!

Team Rupa Health in Egypt!

Q: What will Rupa Health look like ten years from now?

A: The largest health brand in the world. 😎

Q: What does “success” mean to you and the company?

A: Tara - I grew up in a town where everyone hated work. They complained about their jobs and couldn’t wait till 5 PM. “Happy Hour”. I thought it was crazy that we let society choose which hour of the day we’re allowed to be “happy”. 🙃

We spend the best hours of the best days of the best years of our lives working. Why should it not be fun?

I’ve wanted to build a company that inspires people to be their best, healthiest, fullest, most capable, and vibrant selves. Heck, I want this for myself.

How we build Rupa is just as important as the mission we’re on.

The two legacies I want Rupa to leave on the world:

What we did for human health: significantly improve the level of aliveness on the planet.

How we built Rupa: create a new model for what it means to work super hard, laugh along the way, and live life at 100%.


Q: What are you reading, listening to, or watching for inspiration right now?

A: Tara - It changes weekly. 😂 But right now I’m reading The ONE Thing. My one word for this year is “simplicity” — and we’re implementing this in the company too. Keep the main thing the main thing. So I’m obsessed with reading and learning as much as I can about how to implement this in my life and in Rupa. Simplicity and focus become harder as you scale, as life gets more complicated. So I want to figure out how we actually keep this at our core as we grow. It’s been a GREAT book so far!

Rosa - Build by Tony Faddell, High Output Management, and basically anything I can get my hands on about the healthcare industry in the US.

Q: Quotes you live by?

A: Tara - Live life at 100%.

Rosa - Life is either a daring adventure or nothing!