Move over Gwyneth Paltrow, there’s a new wellness guru in town. Actor Halle Berry made an appearance at the Bloomberg Technology Conference in San Francisco Thursday. While ChatGPT creator Sam Altman was terrifying his audience by saying OpenAI shouldn’t be trusted, Berry’s presentation was somewhat lighter in tone.
Joined by Pendulum Therapeutics co-founder Dr. Colleen Cutcliffe, a biotech entrepreneur and scientist, Berry closed out the daylong tech conference by promoting the probiotics company she now serves as chief communications officer for.
“I got diagnosed with diabetes when I was 19 years old,” Berry said. “I was young, and I was trying to understand what that meant for my life.” In the years that followed, Berry experimented with dozens of probiotics and insulin, before finding the magic pills at Pendulum.
Berry, 56, joined Pendulum in February, also becoming an equity holder and investor in the 11-year-old probiotics company. Founded in 2012, the SF-based, Sequoia-backed Pendulum markets itself as a disruptor in the multibillion-dollar industry. The company claims that there has not been a new, evidence-based probiotic in decades.
“I gave [Pendulum probiotics] a try, and I saw results pretty quickly: It helped with brain fog, and being in menopause. That was good for me,” Berry said at the conference. “I started to see real, tangible results.”
In recent years, Berry has invested heavily in wellness ventures as she quietly pulls back from the blockbuster films that made her famous. The Oscar winner founded online hub “rē•spin” in 2020, inspired by her own experiences with diabetes and a “desire to connect with others through health, wellness, and spirituality.”
But what does a probiotic company have to do with technology? And why was an A-list celeb speaking to an audience largely filled with venture capitalists?
“If you’ve ever been in a grocery store confused by all the probiotics, you’re not alone,” Cutcliffe said. “To understand how to metabolically map the microbiome and then understand what impact that has on human health becomes a tech problem, and an engineering problem applied into the field of probiotics.
“The microbiome, we are now learning, is linked to so many other systems of the body,” Cutcliffe added at the conference.
Berry says she primarily uses Pendulum’s “Akkermansia” formula, and claims her diet and these substances helped her maintain her health—and transition off of insulin for diabetes, a course of treatment that contradicts long-established medical science and which Berry stated was against her own physician’s advice.
The company lists three other available probiotics, which it says can help reduce gut discomfort or bolster the metabolism. Some probiotics claim to inadvertently help with weight loss—a hot topic in recent months after weight-loss drug Ozempic started trending among celebrities.
“I have always managed my diet through food and exercise. I’m probably the most boring eater on the planet—some protein and low-carb veggies,” Berry said. “I eat to live. I don’t live to eat.”
The probiotics industry is largely unregulated, and health professionals have raised warning flags about their potential harms. Some studies show that taking probiotic supplements can alter the composition of your microbiome, potentially reducing your gut’s microbial diversity.
Asked whether she will continue her foray into the startup and tech industries outside of Pendulum, Berry gave a resounding no, saying she would work with only that one company.
“This is very much my second act, and I feel it’s incumbent upon me to use any influence I have for good,” Berry said at the event.
The Bloomberg Technology Summit was a one-day conference bringing together major names in the tech industry. Panels included top execs and public figures such as OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Mayor London Breed, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and top venture capitalists like Reid Hoffman. The event was largely attended by tech industry insiders, with tickets costing upward of $2,000 each.
Liz Lindqwister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org