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Is Genetic Health the Key to Rebooting the Online Genealogy Industry?

Is Genetic Health the Key to Rebooting the Online Genealogy Industry?
The Siliconreview
13 January, 2020

It’s almost a quarter of a century since Ancestry.com, the world’s largest genealogy company, was founded, and over 20 years since the company found a firm foothold online. Since then, the company has swelled its number of historical records to over 10 billion, has acquired millions of subscribers and swabbed the DNA of many more millions around the globe.

Ancestry.com is undoubtedly not alone in this field, and many competitors have sprung up to challenge its role as top dog in the industry. In fact, there are some incredibly innovative options out there if you want to compare between tools that help you learn more about your family’s history. Indeed, the market is evolving to go beyond the satisfaction of knowing where we came from, instead looking at what we are madefrom; that is to say, it’s about screening our health.

Fear of an exhaustion among early adopters

Taking a step back for a moment, there is a fear among the CEOs of the big players in the genealogy business that they have hit a brick wall in the number of people who desire to learn about their family history for the pleasure of it. Or, in other words, there is a limited pool of people who want to do this, and many of those were ‘early adopters’. Direct sales have been down, but we should add that talk of market saturation is coming from the media rather than genealogy companies themselves.

As hinted though, help may be at hand by taking DNA-testing in another direction – health. The selling point is quite easy to understand: You might not care if your great-grandfather fought in the Civil War, but you might be curious if he had died from something that can be passed down the generations like Huntington’s disease. In short, genealogy companies are moving into the area of genetic health, and they are making a bet that customers will climb on board to kickstart their business.

Genealogy companies moving swiftly into health

It must be said that genealogy companies are rapidly moving into this marketplace, and already there is evidence of differentiation among competitors, many of whom have skipped the history part to instead focus on the now. Companies like Orig3n and Nutrisystem are using DNA-testing to focus solely on your current and future health, and not really bothering to ask the question of where and when the issues might have originated.

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And yet, the big players like 23andMe, Ancestry and MyHeritage are betting on interest in the complete package – your history + your health. Is that a good bet to make? Can it create a new pool of early adopters eager to learn how their family history might weigh upon their current state of health?

As ever, it’s difficult to say. But these genealogy companies well be buoyed by the fact that our knowledge of hereditary diseases, as well as how DNA can impact other non-physical traits, seems to be growing exponentially. Essentially, that means the product that they offer can also evolve. Indeed, the current offering from the top genealogy providers goes well beyond a simple swab with and a readout of some possible hereditary diseases. They offer consultations with a doctor, link in immediate family medical history and the testing for dozens of conditions.

In short, it’s a health check-up through your genealogy. And we could see that taking hold regardless if you care where you came from or not.