In 2017, the percentage of startups who have a female founder is barely reaching 17%. According to a study published by TechCrunch, this number has remained substantially the same for the last 5 years.
Junomedical’s CEO & Founder, Dr. Sophie Chung, has taken on the challenge to revolutionize how patients experience healthcare worldwide. In a bid to prove low figures wrong, Dr. Chung and Junomedical celebrate here other women- founded healthcare startups to acknowledge how women are changing and challenging the future of healthcare.
We interviewed 5 women founders and asked them what it means to found and/or lead a healthcare company today. Here is the overview:
Selfapy - CEO & Co-Founders: Katrin Bermbach, Nora Blum, Farina Schurzfeld
Clue - CEO & Co-Founder: Ida Tin
MMJLabs - CEO & Founder: Amy Baxter
Zencare - CEO & Founder: Yuri Tomikawa
iamYiam - CEO & Founder: Lorean Puica
Closing Notes by Dr. Sophie Chung
Selfapy was founded by Katrin Bermbach, Nora Blum, and Farina Schurzfeld in 2016. The Berlin startup offers online therapy for people with depression, anxiety, stress, burnout and eating disorders.
All of the 9-week-long courses are based on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy and were developed under the careful supervision of experienced psychotherapists. In weekly phone or chat conversations, clients are supported by trained psychologists. An online forum serves to connect clients amongst each other, building a strong community for extra support.
An independent study by the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) assessed Selfapy’s course against depression and found that users showed a 35% reduction in their symptoms. As is typical for cognitive behaviour therapy, a main focus of the courses is the restructuring of clients’ thoughts - changing negative thought patterns into positive ones.
The holistic approach of Selfapy also includes topics such as mindfulness and relaxation, physical exercise, and healthy eating habits.
Farina, Katrin, and Nora, what difficulties have you encountered in the German healthcare system?
When we started Selfapy, we were super optimistic and excited and thought we could make quick progress.
But we realized how difficult and slow the German healthcare system can be, or rather, how resistant against change. Despite countless studies showing the efficiency of online therapy, a lot of people are still sceptical about it. However, we believe in our product and luckily, we are meeting more and more people who agree. Hopefully, in a few years mental healthcare will be available to everyone who needs it, not just to those who manage to get an appointment with a therapist. The healthcare industry definitely has quite a slow pace. Things always take way longer than expected but we’ve learned to be patient and also to plan far ahead.
The three of you founded and are now leading Selfapy. How do you manage your life-work balance?
The three of us are not just co-founders and co-workers - we are also friends. This has a huge impact on the atmosphere in the office and also makes it possible to combine work and life. Also we try to bring in some leisure time during the day: Farina uses her lunch breaks to exercise, whilst Nora packs in her workouts in the mornings. Kati often takes a break in the afternoon when she goes for a walk with her dog. We offer online therapy courses against stress and burnout, so we know just how important it is for our mental and physical well being to keep a good life-work balance.
Clue is a Berlin-based digital female health startup, with over 5 million users worldwide, and was recently named the top “menstrual cycle tracking app” by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
This free-to-use, free-to-download app allows women to track their period, and uses their own unique data to identify patterns, enabling them to better understand their bodies.
With active users across 190 countries, Clue offers users the option to track things such as their energy levels, mood, exercise, cravings, and contraception alongside their cycle, with each of the individual tracking categories supported by scientific research that illustrates a definitive link between the category and the menstrual cycle.
In addition, Clue’s recently launched smart pill tracking technology allows users to track their pill, and offers tailored advice (according to which pill you are taking) on what to do should you miss one.
Marketing itself as confident, scientific – not pink, Clue is intentionally gender-neutral in design. Ida Tin is Clue’s CEO & co-founder.
Ida, what tips would you give to someone who wants to pursue your same career path?
Start! Don't wait till you have ‘more experience’. You will learn nowhere faster than working on the thing you really want to do. At the same time make sure to accelerate your learning by asking people for help and advice. This is paramount. Don't assume you can do everything yourself. Find people that are smarter and more experienced than yourself. That's how you learn.
What do you wish you had known when you started your career?
It's a gift not to know everything from the get-go. It would be far too overwhelming. There is nothing I wish I had known really. Every step and mishap is part of the journey.
MMJ Labs is on a mission to eliminate unnecessary pain. Amy Baxter, CEO & Founder, started MMJ Labs to eliminate the pain of needles using the body's own nerve pathways: cold and motion block pain.
Emergency pediatrician and pain researcher, Dr. Baxter combined vibration and ice into a device (Buzzy®) that controls sharp pain by physiologically overwhelming pain nerves. Buzzy® can be used for injections, shots, muscle soreness, and more.
Over a quarter million people have used Buzzy® for needle pain; it has been proven equivalent to anesthetic creams in 1/10th the time. The new VibraCool® reduces tendinitis and injury inflammation and speeds repair using ice and high frequency vibration. By giving people power over pain, MMj Labs products promote adherence to medical treatment and take the focus from pills to physiology.
Through advocacy and outreach, the company is trying to teach the medical community that the best pain options aren't from a prescription.
Amy, what is the best lesson you've learned as a founder?
No one will do your great idea for you.
If you are truly innovative, it will take time to convince the world that your solution is worthy.
When is it time to give an idea a go and what should you keep in mind?
If you have an idea that is worth giving a decade of your life to fulfilling, make the commitment and go for it! Having said that, entrepreneur's paths are rarely reproducible. From my experience, I can honestly say that I have no regrets and I cannot imagine the early me steering in a different direction. Once you are in the game, focus on making strong memories with people you love, and be tenacious in doing work that matters.
Yuri Tomikawa, CEO & Founder, started Zencare after she herself experienced difficulties finding a therapist in her area.
Understanding what it means to not find the right person to talk to after weeks of research, she decided she would simplify other people’s lives by creating a platform where the right therapist might just be one click away. As Yuri points out, “It takes courage to seek support, and finding a therapist can be hassle-free and life changing.”
With Zencare, users can check availability, browse therapist videos, and book a free phone consult to find a great fit. All clinicians need to pass Zencare’s rigorous qualification process to join the network. This vetting process makes sure that only high- quality professionals are available to patients.
Visitors can currently look for therapists in Rhode Island and Boston. The ultimate question the Zencare’s team asks itself when selecting clinicians is, “Would I recommend this clinician to family and friends?”.
Yuri, what moments do you go back to as a founder and what have you learned from them?
There are so many exhilarating wins and headache-inducing hurdles when starting a company, and while the intensity of the ups and downs may change over time (either in smaller doses more frequently, or in greater intensity less frequently), they will almost always be there.
Anytime you hit a new milestone, new challenges and goals will arise, and it can make it easy to forget how far you've come.
You should always enjoy the process, believe in what you're doing, be open to learning, and remember what an awesome experience you're having in this moment! I still remind myself of this daily :)
What do you do when you’re not working?
I practice yoga and meditate daily. It helps me find calm, approach challenging situations with a positive mindset, and stay physically healthy.
Because I work on my own most of the day, I also make it a point to schedule dinners with friends on the weekends and plan monthly date days with my boyfriend. I turn off my phone and avoid checking email during these quality time occasions I've carved out for myself.
Traveling the journey to better health can be challenging. iamYiam allows users to discover their inside track to achieve their true well-being potential.
By taking simple ‘micro-steps’ that include psychodynamic questionnaire, goal setting, genetic insights and scientific research, users can follow their very own health plan of activities and nutritional recommendations.
Each personal plan is developed based on an algorithm iamYiam has built following a large number of research papers and genetic markers that helps create the best health plan for each individual. Private and secure, with tailored support from iamYiam’s partner practitioners along the way, and with an online organic supplement store, users can join like-minded iamYiam health conscious travellers and fast-track their journey towards a healthier lifestyle.
iamYiam has also developed a platform specifically dedicated to companies to help employees improve their mental and physical wellbeing on the workplace.
Lorena Puica is iamYiam’s CEO & founder.
Lorena, what should a new startup founder take into consideration from the early start?
You should be clear about why you want to walk down this path and commit 200%. Don’t question or doubt it thereafter. Always persevere in your goals - focus and grit are the higgle factors of sustainable performance and success.
Road to success: What are your key takeaways?
People are about progress and performance, and performance and progress are about people. The biggest decisions that contributed to our successes and failures to date have been around choosing the people we bring on board and when. As a founder, I feel that it truly is all in my hands. Knowledge is only the beginning - action is genius!
Dr. Sophie Chung founded Junomedical in 2015 on a mission to make high-quality healthcare accessible to everyone - whether it be at home or halfway across the globe.
Selected via a rigorous vetting process, clinics and doctors available on the site are all top rated, highly specialized, and accredited. Based on a patient-centered approach, Junomedical reserves personalized and dedicated care to all its patients.
“Healthcare is one of the biggest challenges to tackle globally as the world population continues to grow and age”, says Dr. Chung. “Startups are a great opportunity for the healthcare ecosystem. They bring new approaches into the game, fresh thoughts and are often patient-centric. They can lead the way and show how technology and digitalization can alleviate large pain points within healthcare.”
With longer life expectancy and greater amount of people globally, society will play a major role. “As healthcare spendings are rising, politicians and society will have no other choice than turning to new, innovative solutions helping to manage healthcare efficiently and effectively. It’s on insurers, providers and politics to foster an environment where startups have a chance to contribute to a healthier healthcare system.”
Talking women and connecting, Dr. Sophie says, “Generally, women have a different style of communication. They are more open, humble and vulnerable in the way they describe themselves or issues they face. While I don’t like to gender- discriminate and enjoy networking independent of whether a Y-chromosome is present, I do think that sometimes it is easier to connect among female founders, especially when it comes to exchanging ideas and experiences.”