Women control 80 percent of healthcare decisions in the U.S. and spend 29 percent more per capita on healthcare compared to men — yet solutions focused on women's health received only 3.3 percent of total digital health funding in 2019 and 1.5 percent in the first half of 2020.
In a virtual conversation led by investor and serial entrepreneur Pamela York, co-founder and managing partner of Capita3, three MATTER startup members — Embr Labs CEO Elizabeth Gazda, Marani Health Founder and CEO Ann Holder and Univfy Co-founder and CEO Mylene Yao — discuss unmet needs in women's health, investment trends and how we can increase investment in women-led startups.
Learn more about MATTER events here.
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Speaker 1: (00:09)
Hello everyone and welcome to funding women's health. My name is Steven Collins. I'm the CEO of matter today's program will be a conversation about unmet needs in women's health financing of women led startups and the role women play in making healthcare decisions. Uh, women control 80% of healthcare decisions in the us, and they spend 29% more per capita on healthcare compared to men, but solutions focused on women's health receive only a small fraction of the total funding that's allocated to, uh, digital health, uh, for example, and gaps in solutions for women's health are very well documented. Uh, and today we have a great group to help us the end of these issues, starting with three CEOs of matter member companies mile is co-founder and CEO of unify, which combines healthcare, AI scientific validation and FinTech to power access to the most effective and safest fertility treatments for women in couples.
Speaker 1: (01:15)
Uh, and holder is founder and CEO of Morani health, which commercializes wearable digital products that empower women to understand their health and improve fetal and maternal outcomes. And Liz GATA is CEO of Ember labs, maker of the Ember waves, which is a thermal wellness wearable improves sleep relieves anxiety and helps with hot flashes. Leading today's conversation is Pamela York. Pam is co-founder and managing partner of capita three ventures and early stage firm that invests in women led healthcare startups over her career. She's been involved in more than 50 new company starts so far resulting in a dozen acquisitions or IPOs her career long passion for supporting women founders, uh, will be a great perspective to add to today's conversation. If you have questions you'd like to ask our panelists, please use the Q and a function of zoom and Pam will weave them into the conversation as appropriate. So with that, I will turn it over to Pam.
Speaker 2: (02:24)
Great. Thank you Steven. Very much. Uh, good afternoon, everybody. We're really delighted, uh, to be here with you to talk about the financing and growth of companies and women's health. Um, as Steve said, my name is Pam York and my firm invests in early stage companies in health led by women. So this is a topic that we're very passionate about and, and we live every day, literally. Um, so as context for our discussion, Steve set it up a little bit, but we, we wanna have a really holistic conversation, um, around both the opportunities of women's as well as some of the realities of manifesting those opportunities. So on the opportunity side, many of these sectors that you're gonna hear about are, you know, billions or multi-billion dollar market opportunities. Um, and, but the reality is Steve mentioned is that the, the amount of capital flowing into these market sectors and companies, um, is very, very small, relatively speaking.
Speaker 2: (03:25)
Um, and just as an example, the investment in women's health over the last couple of years has just been a couple of percentage points of the overall investment in digital health. And so that's not really tracking with the, the, the market opportunities that are, that are out there and then another piece of data, which you're probably familiar with. Um, but that we'll share with you is that if we broaden out beyond women's health and just look at women, led companies in general, those companies as well are only receiving a couple percentage points of the overall, you know, many, many billions and billions and billions of dollars invested in venture capital financing. And I think what we wanna mention is that there's a perception that, that this is all really changing. And I think there's a lot of phenomenal changes that are taking place. Um, but if we look at the 10 year history of capital flowing into women, led companies, it really has been hovering around that 3% for 10 years.
Speaker 2: (04:27)
So I think that just tells us that there's, there's a lot more work to do to really, um, to, to really make changes there. So what we wanna do in this conversation is really talk about the strategies for women. And these three entrepreneurs have just done a fantastic job of really building their companies and financing their companies. And we wanna hear from them, you know, how they are navigating the environment as it is to be successful in raising financing and growing their companies. So with that, uh, uh, as we mentioned earlier, I'd like each of you to just briefly, you know, remind us top line of the space that you're in and then tell us, um, where you are in the spectrum of financing your company and what stage you're at and whatever else you think is relative relevant to that, you know, to, to, um, that perspective. So Anne, why don't we start with you?
Speaker 3: (05:24)
Sure. So I'm Anne holder, I'm the CEO of Morani. Um, we are in the prenatal and postpartum care space, bringing some technology to really improve outcomes, um, for use in the home hospitals and clinics. Um, I've raised right now, um, and as we get ready to close our next round, it's going to be just over 9 million, um, in our second seed round. Um, and the hope for this round is to actually get us through, um, uh, two to three product launches, um, prior to actually going out for an a round.
Speaker 2: (06:05)
Great, thank you, Ann Mylene.
Speaker 4: (06:08)
Hi, I'm mien I'm co-founder and CEO of unify. Um, thanks Pam, uh, for introducing me and, uh, unify uses AI and machine learning to improve, uh, the accessibility of fertility care to make it more predictable, more affordable so that more women and couples can succeed with their treatment. Um, we're at, uh, we're a series a company, so we've gone through seed and series a rounds, and we have commercialized AI platform in the us Canada, and we're just launching an EU, um, this year, um, we've started the rollout and, uh, we're looking at expanding the company in the payers market, um, with he working with health plans and also, um, developing next, uh, genomics tools. Um, so we're raising 10 million right now to start that plan. Thank you.
Speaker 2: (07:03)
Great. Thank you, Liz. Hi everyone. Meet yourself.
Speaker 5: (07:12)
Thank you for having me. Um, my name is Elizabeth Gaza. I'm the CEO of Ember labs and we produce this beautiful wrist worn device here that delivers temperature sensations to your body to balance your autonomic nervous system. And we are out to, uh, treat some of the deleterious symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, stress and insomnia. Um, this is a massive market. There will be 1.1 billion women in menopause by 2025, and they suffer for a full decade from those symptoms impacting every aspect of their life. Um, we are a series B company we've been on the market for three years. We've sold well over 75,000 devices that have made their way into 170 countries. Despite the fact that we only sell in the United States, uh, we are currently raising a B one round, so we can really take this product global. Thank you.
Speaker 2: (08:14)
Great. Thank you, Liz. And could you like each of you starting with you, Liz, just, and you might have said it, but just remind us what, what is the overall market opportunity for, for what you're building?
Speaker 5: (08:26)
Well, um, what we're doing with the device is balancing the autonomic nervous system. And so that is just a massive market of all types of, uh, wellness and even health issues, but we're really focused on our beach head market, um, which is still a massive market. So again, to go through those statistics again, um, 16% of the global population, or 1.1 billion women will be in menopause by 2025. Um, these symptoms will last 10 years and this is a natural transformation in a woman's lifetime. And so this is kind of an, an endless supply of women, uh, going into menopause. So that market alone is four times the addressable market, then many male conditions put together. So if you combine, um, male pattern, baldness, low testosterone, uh, and, uh, several other conditions that men suffer from, and you multiplied that by four, you get our addressable market.
Speaker 5: (09:36)
Now we also know that the device is very impactful on sleep. That's a massive market. Um, we also help with treatment induced hot flashes. So if you are a woman going through, uh, treatment for breast cancer or a man going through treatment for prostate cancer, and you're on some of these androgen and estrogen suppressing drugs for five to seven years, you will also suffer from, uh, many hot flashes a day. And so that's an additional market that we, we help with. Lastly, we've discovered in the, uh, the last year with COVID that many of the COVID long haulers, people who suffer from the symptoms of COVID long after they recover, um, are affected by a condition called dysautonomia is what it sounds like. Uh, you have difficulty balancing your autonomic nervous system. And so your temperature is constantly in flux in flu. So as we put the device on the bodies of people and ask them why they're using, uh, the device we find through gathering real world evidence, that there are many applications for this technology.
Speaker 2: (10:55)
Yeah. Well said, Liz, and that's often the case, right? It's you start in one, one place, and then you expand to others. And, and I, many of you in the audience will recognize the term beach head market, but just in case those of you who don't, you know, Liz is talking about massive markets here and in the beachhead market is the, and it's a segment where there's the greatest pain points and the most likelihood of being able to sell into those markets, which is often where an early stage startup is, is really gonna begin their, their journey of sales. So thank you, Liz, uh, and step in with your, with anything around market sizing you wanna share.
Speaker 3: (11:33)
Yeah. So it's really interesting. So our company really got off the ground in conjunction with the Mayo clinic, and we were really looking at trying to figure out how do we change fetal monitoring and how do we give doctors and physicians more information about the status of a fetus. And we were really focused on labor and delivery, um, to try and help determine, you know, when C-sections are necessary and really try and improve outcomes. And so we were looking at that market, um, knowing that this device that we were, and this is going back a few years ago, knowing the device was gonna be great for use in the home. Um, the market was very significant. The technology was incredibly antiquated. Um, uh, fetal monitoring that's used today is Doppler technology that was developed in world war I, um, mechanical diaphragms for measuring contractions. It's crazy.
Speaker 3: (12:28)
There has not been any advancement in technology in this area. And I came from the cardiology area, so I was blown away. So again, beachhead market for labor and delivery, but as I took my device and I was showing it to physicians, a lot of them that were really managing high risk patients in the home were asking me, you know, can we use this in the home? And I said, of course, so it was certainly on our product strategy and then COVID hit. And then all of a sudden everybody was looking for this solution. So when I actually look at the addressable market and really started doing my homework, um, I knew what the addressable market was for fetal monitoring and, and globally it's, it's right around a billion dollars. Um, but where it gets really interesting is when you start looking at prenatal and postpartum care, um, in the us alone, again, this is another beachhead market. There's a few companies that are, are, um, getting into the space, 5 billion market in the us. And you look at it globally at 50 billion. Um, and it's really untapped. There really has not been any advancement in technology. And, and there's a big focus on improving outcomes now, um, for both, um, mothers and babies. So that's why we're really excited about it. We're seeing a lot more effort, um, that is being put in the advancement of technology and more investment being put into this area.
Speaker 2: (14:01)
Yeah, that's amazing. And, um, and my lane, before you jump in, I mean, I think you can see these, these people are pioneering new markets. I mean, and not that the needs are new, but really the opportunity to build and sell products. And these markets is new. So you're all really pioneers in your own. Right. And it's really pretty amazing what you've accomplished. And Anne and Liz, just be thinking about, I wanna ask you to start to think about how you figured out how much money to raise and sort of how to navigate those early stages. So go back in your minds and start thinking about that while Mylene is sharing with us, the market sizing that she's, um, she's addressing.
Speaker 4: (14:43)
Yeah. Um, thanks. So is the fertility market is really exciting right now. Um, a lot of people have heard that is, um, expanding rapidly and there are all kinds of projections, but, um, the ballpark is around, um, a projection to expand to about 40 billion by 2030. Um, and maybe it's just some numbers to put into context. Um, in the us, you know, there are about 7 million, uh, women and couples with clinical infertility that need medical care in order to have a baby. But, um, fertility care is actually needed by way more people than just the traditional patients that have clinical infertility. For example, there's an expanding community of LGBTQ individuals and couples that are looking to have their own biological family and more and more health plan and employers actually supporting that family building, which is great. Um, and that's what fertility care and IVF is really great for.
Speaker 4: (15:43)
Um, and also as people, um, learn about, uh, you know, genetic mutations that, um, you know, that they might have and want to avoid passing them onto their children, um, fertility care, especially IVF is again a way to have healthier children for those families. And then you think about women and men that are, um, have to take on medical treatments, such as breast cancer, um, that might impact their fertility. And then they have opportunities now to, um, preserve their fertility in advance of having those invasive treatment. So we're looking at a very, um, rapidly expanding, um, you know, now from, it went from 7 million women couples to over 10 million and worldwide that number around one 50 million and above. But the really, uh, the great opportunity is also, you know, the, the kind of we're starting at a real low baseline, um, which is unfortunate. But's also a way, you know, there's a great opportunity for us to really change that.
Speaker 4: (16:48)
Um, so right now IVF is the most effective and safest treatment for many of these couples. Um, and only, um, you know, a hundred to 200,000 treatments are being done in the us. This is pre COVID levels. And, you know, if patients and couples could actually get the right counseling to learn about the benefits and limitations of these treatments, and if they can get better coverage or have better financial counseling to learn, even without a pocket cost, how they could better use their own money, um, to minimize their financial risk, to get these treatments, that number should instead of 100 to 200,000, should be over a million, like immediately within a few years. Um, so what we are focusing on is really doing that and providing that, um, support to counseling. So providing transparency and providing accuracy and personalization so that patients actually know, um, what are their chances of having a baby? That's the number one question that everyone wants to know? And, um, that's what our technology is bringing to these couples. Um, so, so far, you know, patients are really happy to have these, oh yes, Pam. Sorry, we couldn't hear
Speaker 2: (18:10)
Mm-hmm I know I have a latency, so we'll some of those details later, so thank you so much for sharing mm-hmm so, um, Anne or Liz, which, uh, so I asked you to think about back in the beginning when you were starting about raising financing. Can you just talk us through that a little bit?
Speaker 3: (18:32)
Yeah, I can start. So, um, for me, what I needed was, um, I needed some seed money. I actually started with the bridge note just to help cover the cost of some initial prototyping. Um, for me it was all about how do I capture, um, a clean, fetal ECG so that we can utilize, um, machine learning, uh, to detect any changes, um, with that fetus. So as you can imagine, trying to do the prototyping that we needed to do took some money. So we started with a bridge note, um, and we got to the point where, um, it got a little bit more sophisticated. I needed more money, we needed to do prototype iteration. Um, and then we also needed to start putting the software platform, um, around that. So what I did was I, you know, basically built a plan, um, looking at what do I need to do?
Speaker 3: (19:27)
What are my milestones? And if I'm going to do this, how long is it going to take me, how much money am I going to need to do this? Um, who needs to be on the team who are going to be my partners, um, both, you know, who am, am I going to have employees to help me do this, um, or consultants and, and firms that are going to be working with me. So I really looked at my milestones to, um, to really have a good picture of what do I need to do in six months, 12 months, 18 months, and then started building that. So I actually went out, um, and did my initial seed round and, and quite honestly, that's, that was the hardest part for me. Um, just because I didn't have the, the network, um, for fundraising. Um, and, and I can get into more details around that later, but that's really how I, um, I put the plan together. So at least I knew what I needed to raise for that first seed round. Um, and it's pretty much the same process as you go forward.
Speaker 5: (20:37)
And we ever last, yeah, sorry, sorry, Pam. Um, we've, we've had a really unique journey, I think primarily because we are a consumer first company. So the origin of the company, the, the company started at MIT and the founders entered a, uh, Intel sponsored wearables competition that they won. So, uh, the company was really, uh, started with the prize money, um, and that prize money was used to develop the product over the course of a number of years because it's a pretty difficult technology to develop. And then the product was launched on Kickstarter. And, um, the company was remarkable in, in the sense that they, the founder set a goal of trying to reach $100,000 in revenue. And I believe that that was reached by nine o'clock in the morning. And they went on to make $635,000 off of that initial Kickstarter launch, um, that really, uh, funded the production of the hardware and the commercial launch of the product.
Speaker 5: (21:46)
Um, it was at that time that we looked around and said, okay, what do we need from a, a real, uh, series a round? And we were able to scoop up that capital, and then we really run the business incredib in an incredibly lean way, uh, as entrepreneurs, I think it's because several of us come from bootstrapped companies where we had no capital infusion. And so, um, we've been able to do, uh, everything up to this point with only 15 million raised, which is quite remarkable for not only a consumer first hardware company, um, but for one that really has to, um, produce a hard, good and ship it. Um, what we've been doing over the course of the last raise, our series B is, um, we focus on value inflection points. So with every raise, we, um, lay out what are the major achievements that we need to reach in order to dramatically increase the valuation of the company. And so, um, thinking about we, we proved out the consumer market and the traction with, um, primetime women. The next set of questions that we got from investors was really focused around, um, clinical validation. And so we shifted our investments towards, uh, clinic clinical validation and partnerships. So always looking at what will it take to convince the next set of investors that we are worth their time and money.
Speaker 2: (23:21)
So Liz and Anne, if you were to summarize, you know, how you figured out, I mean, how you figured out how much to raise and what that was gonna allow you to do, would you say that it was, it was a combination and you're getting customer feedback, whether it's an investor, whether it's a customer, whether it's a strategic partner, um, you're getting feedback from them and they're telling you, here's what we need to see in order to put money in. Is that a fair statement?
Speaker 3: (23:53)
Yeah, it's very fair. And I would say for me it was strategic partners and investors, uh, that really, um, we're helping kind of set that, that stage for what do we need to achieve going back to exactly what Liz just said. It's all about those significant valuation inflections mm-hmm , um, and how quickly we can get there, because you do wanna have those as you move through your, your subsequent rounds.
Speaker 5: (24:19)
Yeah, exactly. It's about deciding what is really going to move the knob, return the knob on your value, um, in the next 12 to 18 months, and then ensuring that you've, uh, captured enough capital to get you there.
Speaker 3: (24:33)
Speaker 5: (24:36)
Always with buffer, right. Anne,
Speaker 2: (24:42)
Speaker 4: (24:43)
Say, yeah, I can share a bit of, um, how we went about this. So, um, it's a bit different. We're a B2B business. Um, so, uh, when we first started out, the biggest proof point that we had to make was, um, to, uh, gain the trust of providers because this is a tool that they're gonna have to use with their patients. So they must, um, you know, be able to trust it or E even trust us with the data, trust us with the model predictions. So we, um, establish some large collaborative research projects with, um, not just us providers, but globally as well, because IVF is such a global community, um, on the, at the professional level. And, uh, it was really important for us to publish research papers, um, which we did to make it very transparent. So doctors know what methodology we use and can trust our validation approach.
Speaker 4: (25:37)
And in fact, through that process, we really, you know, established ourselves as the group, the only group that has this highly scalable platform. And we actually developed a lot of the, uh, motto Val validation metrics specifically for IVF. And then in our next step, in, in those early, um, stages we had, uh, raised, um, seed round and, you know, a mix of, um, like you guys mix of seed round, convertible notes and seed. And then, uh, we actually had to obviously do our clinical proof points. Um, so what is the impact when this counseling tool is being used in, in actual practice? So, um, there, we, uh, actually sold to our initial, um, clients, um, in the us and gained a lot of, um, business analytics and also clinical outcomes and established that patients benefited had good, um, you know, response to this tool. And also the most important thing for us was that the counseling helped more patients to move forward with treatment.
Speaker 4: (26:43)
And it also helped them save money. Um, when we help the doctors to offer pricing program that is, you know, truly value based. And as a result, um, we have established some commercial, um, really good commercial milestones with business, um, metrics and also clinical metrics. And in this next step now in our fundraise, we're talking with, um, VCs and potential strategic partners as well. And looking to really scale this, um, as we have already helped consumers reduce cost by about a third, that mechanism can be translated to health plans and payers, um, to really help them, um, better pay for IVF treatment and other fertility costs. So that more health plan members can actually succeed and have a family, um, and while reducing the cost as well. So all those mechanisms and metrics are in place and, you know, the next step is that we're looking to really scale that with, uh, larger partners.
Speaker 2: (27:51)
Great. So would you, anything else that any of you would add about? So you're hearing there's a lot of work to understand here's what I need to do in order to raise the money. And then in order to get to the next round of financing, that's what these three are talking about. I mean, anything else you would say about that other than this is a skill that one must acquire, right.
Speaker 3: (28:17)
Um, you know, I will add and I started to allude to it. So for me, you know, my background when, um, when Mayo asked me to come into their organization and help them build the technology and then commercialize this, I, um, I was totally fine with it, completely comfortable with it from a perspective of a, you know, building a business and I've gotten operations in engineering and sales background. So I was thinking, okay, I can do this. I've got the skill sets to do this. I knew nothing about fundraising. Um, and the, um, doing my first note was fairly easy cuz you go to close friends and family and that really helped us get started. But that first round for me was very difficult. Um, I did not have the network into the investor and angel community at all. Um, and I, I did struggle with it.
Speaker 3: (29:17)
Um, and I had some organizations that really helped me, but it wasn't until I actually found my partner co-founder in the company, um, Kathy tune, um, who lived in that world. And she was really that catalyst for me because she's so highly respected in medical technology as an, an investor. And it really was when she came forward and said, I'm leading this round, um, and this is going to be a price round and this is what we're going to do. And just having somebody like her at the table with me was that catalyst that started the whole thing because I was frustrated. And there were a lot of things that were said in, in, you know, meetings about, um, you know, just questioning the need for, for new technology in this area. And it was, um, it sounded a little old school and I was frustrated, but I needed to have the doors open for me. And so having that mentor in an area that I just wasn't familiar with was really, really critical and it completely changed the, the trajectory for the company.
Speaker 5: (30:35)
Yeah. That really speaks to, I think, um, finding the right first investor and the right second investor. Um, we also were incredibly lucky to get our series B lead investor. Um, Digex out of, um, Silicon valley, um, and Dave Kim, who, who leads that, um, fund is just a, a really forward looking person when it comes to digital health. And that gave us a lot of credibility as a digital therapeutic and not just a gadget. So I couldn't agree more that finding the right investor to lead rounds is absolutely critical. Mm-hmm,
Speaker 2: (31:20)
You've all raised significant capital now. And so you're ways from those those beginning days. But, uh, what we always tell founders is that in the early stages, it's all about the founders and the CEO, because there's no operating history really, to look at. So it's really about the person. So I'd love to hear each of you share, what is it about you that is so compelling that these in these early investors stepped to support you? And I know we, we often don't like to talk about those kinds of things ourselves, but I, I think it would be very valuable for the audience to hear, you know, how you were, how you were compelling and compelled others to invest in you. What's your leadership persona, you know, how did you approach it? Um, and, uh, whatever else you think would be important to say,
Speaker 4: (32:16)
Um, maybe I'll start. Um, so I think, uh, you know, really fertility is something that can be complex. Um, and we're our goal is to make it easy for the patients, but on the kind of the back end, uh, you really wanna do things right, both clinically, scientifically, and also, um, linking that to how to help people reduce costs. So these are all really important, um, you know, elements to, uh, having a successful product in the fertility space and also having that empathy, that provider empathy, because this is a B2B tool is a tool that's gonna be used by providers. So having that really deep understanding of what do the providers worry about, what are the concerns, what ma what matters to them, what makes a difference in that counseling? I think those are, you know, all within the realm of expertise that I have from my prior, you know, um, work. Um, so I started out as an OB GYN, um, did my fertility specialty training and scientific research. So I think putting all of those hats together in one as a co-founder and CEO really helped to, um, you know, get investors to feel confident about the company.
Speaker 3: (33:41)
And, uh, so, um, for me, I think it was about, um, my background and in some of the work that I had done in the past. Um, and I just really had a, a different career path, um, where I, I actually had engineering experience operations experience wanted to get into a role where I would drive revenue. So I actually transitioned and was lucky enough to transition into a sales role where I could use my engineering skills and then ended up in med tech, um, where, um, and that's been the majority of the, the back half, half of my career where I could really focus on, um, technologies that gave me a lot of passion. Um, and in those roles, I was in, um, sales and strategic partnerships and finance and business development at all different levels of a large company. Um, and I think, um, and actually even building, um, business segments within the large company, and I believe it's, it's that, that well rounded background, you know, when you're talking to investors, it's like, okay, um, you know, she understands this space, um, and then can communicate the need, um, because when you really understand the need for what we are doing, um, and how old the technology is, uh, I, I think that's probably what really helped get a lot of things over the finish line for us.
Speaker 5: (35:17)
And I really agree with you about, um, having a skill set that is, um, say, uh, generalist and having exposure to many different aspects of an organization. So that is also my background. I have worked, um, at large, uh, multinational companies. I've also been a founder myself. Um, I've bootstrapped a company to exit, um, and have, um, a lot of cross functional experience. So I think that's very attractive to investors. I know how to talk to big corporations. I know how to operate in a small organization. Um, also I, I come from a background of highly competitive sports. And the one thing you learn from being an athlete is, um, just to be tenacious and never give up that's one aspect, but also to understand that it really takes a high performing team. It's not one individual, it's a collection of people who are there and share a vision. And so one of the things that I'm proud of is, um, the team that we've been able to build that is diverse. Um, it looks like our customer base, it represents our customer base. It, it represents, um, the, the type of, of team that our customer would wanna see.
Speaker 2: (36:46)
What I think is really interesting and listening to you all speak is that you're incredibly compelling people and, uh, who, who have done amazing things, but there's also, uh, I think a degree of humility and, um, really being focused on solving these really, really hard problems. And I would say what we always tell founders who are starting on this journey that, you know, sort of finding your own place to stand in a sea of people who maybe don't always look like you, or act like you finding your own place to stand that's in integrity with who you are as a leader, but also allows you to navigate, you know, the world as it is. And I think your three tremendous examples of that, and, uh, the confidence that you exude is, is really, um, it's, it's delightful to see. And I would just say that we're always telling founders, there is no, these people have accomplished track records, no doubt about it, but there's no substitute for confidence being that really confident, compelling person, because in the beginning of your journey, there's no operating history and it's just you. And so you have to be passionate as necessary, but not sufficient, very competent, very compelling, and able to tell the story. Um, so with that, I think it's worth kind of stepping into the space of, of what strategies did you deploy, or did you not have to make any changes as a woman entering the venture capital environment in women's health? You know, lot, lots of challenges there, anything that you would wanna share about that, or maybe you just were yourself and, and, uh, and things went well for you. Anybody jump in.
Speaker 3: (38:40)
Well, I can, um, you wanna go ahead? Okay. Sure. Um, my just a really brief, um, story for me. Um, I was really new in this. Um, I was still working as an EER in EER capacity at Mayo, and I did, um, get selected for an incubator. And, um, there was an older gentleman there and, um, and I was, you know, I was really frustrated because I, I know how to sell I'm, you know, great salesperson and have been. And I was like, okay, I can tell a story I can sell. And I was really, something is basic, um, that I just didn't think about because I was so passionate about the technology and what we were doing. I sat down with this, this guy in this incubator, um, and he's got a track record of multiple exits. Um, he was one of the early guys back in apple, just a wonderful gentleman. And, um, he listened to my pitch and he said, Anne, there's no emotion. Um, and it was a really interesting aha moment for me. And I was like, okay, help me out here. And he went through one of his, his pitch decks for me, and it, you know, um, it was just kind of stepping back and understanding how to create emotion, um, in, in what you're doing in those early stages. When you're trying to get some funding
Speaker 5: (40:15)
I'll, uh, riff off of you again, Anne, about emotion
Speaker 3: (40:19)
Speaker 5: (40:20)
You know, our product is very effective for menopause. Menopause is not a sizzle or sexy subject. And when you are sitting in front of male investors, they probably don't wanna think about menopause and will never think about menopause. And that was a challenge for me to create a tat understanding of how serious this issue was for women. And so I finally discovered a way to communicate that, which has been a major breakthrough for me. I decided to put menopause, describe menopause in terms for men. And so what we do know about a menopausal hot flash is it's not a temperature problem. It's an overactivation of your sympathetic nervous system. What is your sympathetic nervous system? It's your fight or flight response? So I asked all the men in the room to think about the last moment that they were in their automobile and went through an intersection and had a near miss accident.
Speaker 5: (41:25)
And I asked them to imagine what was the sensation in their body that they felt. And, um, they start to describe to me this feeling of heat coming up in their body, up into their torso, to their head tingling in their extremities and the hair standing up on the back of their neck. And I said, great. That's what a menopausal hot flash feels like. Most women will experience 10 to 20 a day. And through the night for 10 years, while they're at work, giving presentations, you know, while they're taking care of their family, do you think this is a problem? And then you get the, the nods around the table. And so for me, it was really thinking about how do find that metaphor that everybody could relate to.
Speaker 2: (42:16)
That that is, um, amazing. Liz you've obviously mastered a, uh, what could otherwise be a really difficult question. So that's really just tremendous to hear. Um, I, I noticed that you, you, you pointed out some questions in the chat, so we'll get to those, but, um, anything more that you wanna add to that?
Speaker 4: (42:38)
Um, yeah, I think maybe when, you know, one thing and related to some of the questions is, you know, how did, uh, I become a CEO? How do I gain these skills if my background was not in business? And I think that's very important because I think many entrepreneurs don't come from a background where they might have had it a business organization. Um, and I think there's so many ways to, um, just like quickly ramp up. And for me it was just network, network network. I TA network work network. I met with a lot of very successful, um, CEOs that had their own successful exits in many different areas, not just in women's health or not even just in healthcare. I think it's important to, there are just always like there's bits of wisdom. You can learn from different people from their different experiences. Um, cuz going into this, you may not anticipate all of the challenges that you will see and it's great to have that network of people to be able to, you know, um, talk with and brainstorm. And so I think that really is the most important thing. And also when it comes to your company, you will ramp up really fast. your knowledge base will just dramatically increase and you know, and I think the rest will just be natural from there.
Speaker 2: (43:57)
Great. Yeah. Thanks for taking that question, Eileen. Um, I think in a minute we're gonna kind of go into making sure we answer all the questions and please do post your questions if you have any. Um, but I just wanted to offer each of you the opportunity to, what else would you want people to know whether it's about women's health or whether it's about female founders raising funding? Um, what, what else might you like to leave the audience with Anne, if you wanna start what you on spot
Speaker 3: (44:30)
And I, and I already just, I, I, I did talk about it. I think the most important thing for me was again, finding that mentor, um, who could really help me on the fundraising side. Um, and it was pretty critical. Um, you know, because I, I, I feel like I had the other things that I needed. It was just, it's really about identifying what you know, um, and really having an understanding and appreciation for what you don't know and do not be afraid to go out and network and really find the people that can fill that void that can help you.
Speaker 5: (45:14)
I, I would like to just say that I'm so pleased to see all these emerging fem tech funds, um, that are, uh, investing in the space and also funds that are specifically focused on, um, gender parity when it comes to raising capital. I would say what I'm finding as I'm raising a growth round is that we're missing that next stage. So I can capture the interest of, uh, the seed in series a funds, but finding the bigger check for a company of our size has been very difficult. Um, and then to beat my more, um, societal drum, um, I'd really like anybody on the, um, on the, on the webinar to think about what's happening as a society. If we don't address menopause, uh, for women and this, you know, really one third of their life affected by this condition, we're essentially putting women in a position that they are leaving the workforce and organizations and institutions when they finally reach the top of their game, when they're finally at their highest earning potential and they don't have the responsibilities of raising a family anymore, they're really thrown into this, um, situation that's very difficult to deal with and menopause is still considered a disease state and is coded as a, um, kind of an Inco in the same category, uh, by doctors as, you know, incontinence.
Speaker 5: (46:45)
And so we have a long way to go here. And so I, I just wanna beat that, that drum a little harder Milan.
Speaker 4: (47:00)
Yeah, it's good to, um, really see, I think there's so many, uh, new companies now in fem tech, fem tech women's health, and I think is I see a lot of creativity. Um, you know, a while back as a clinician, I saw all of these problems that have not been solved and I see a lot of creative solutions. Um, I think together we will be successful. And I think, um, hopefully, um, I think will be successful in time for us ourselves to benefit from those health solutions and also I think for, you know, for our children. So I think I'm really excited about that.
Speaker 2: (47:43)
Great. Thank you, Marlene. I see someone's post of the question. Have you ever been asked to step down from a CEO role and uh, how have you been able to convince people that you're the right one? So if you haven't been asked to step down any, any, any thoughts or comments on that?
Speaker 4: (48:03)
So I have not been asked to step down. Um, so, but I do know, I think one thing, if, you know, you obviously wanna have relationship with your board and investors to avoid that situation. And I think just communications just communicate and communicate. So nobody, no, none of your shareholders should be surprised by anything that's happening, whether it's good or bad. Um, and that's and get comments early on, um, get this good sense of what everyone's thinking. Um, clarify anything as soon, you know, early on, I think that would go a long way.
Speaker 5: (48:42)
Um, I've I have not been asked to step down, but I always prepare myself for that because organizations go through a natural evolution and actually as I run a company, I'm always thinking about who should succeed me. And, um, because that's a very important thing. My first obligation is to my shareholders and if there's a better person to lead the company, I need to think about that and be open to that. So that's just my philosophy. Personal philosophy.
Speaker 2: (49:20)
Any comments Anne?
Speaker 3: (49:21)
Um, no, I actually, I, um, I'm relatively new, um, in this position. Um, and I would actually agree with both of them. I think the relationships that you have with your key investors and, um, and the board are very, very critical. Um, but I'm also one of these people for me, it's always about bringing in people under me that are smarter than me, um, that can really focus in one area, um, that could possibly take my, my spot. I mean, that's really what I wanna do is just make sure that I'm building just an amazing team. So if the op you know, if something happened, there is somebody, you know, and there is a transition plan.
Speaker 2: (50:12)
Yeah. That's all really, really great advice. And I, I think a couple of key messages there, one of them is getting way out in front of this. I mean, this is, you would not wanna be surprised by this. So it's a, it's understanding the expectations of you, um, and making sure that you're always in alignment with your board. Um, and then the other thing that we could recommend is my firm capita three runs, um, a startup CEO accelerator for women. And one of the things that we teach is, is really, um, what we call a track record exercise. When you look at here's the result I wanna produce, and here's the skills and abilities, um, leadership persona that's required to produce that result. And here's where I am and is the gap too large for me to bridge in the time that I have. And if it is, then you have to pivot or add more time, and if it's not, then you just close the gap in the ways that you can.
Speaker 2: (51:05)
So always, and these three women clearly are articulating a kind of a ongoing process of really understanding who am I for the task at hand and making sure that they're prepared for that. So I think that's, that's a really great strategy to prevent, um, getting in a situation where you're a CEO and you're being asked to, uh, to step down. I think another question was, um, uh, I think it was in this, in this vein of what have you invested in early on that really paid off. And I'm assuming that's a broader question than an actual venture capital investment. So, um, any examples of, of someone or something that you invested in or kind of took place, you know, kind of placed a bet on that really paid off for you?
Speaker 3: (51:54)
Uh, I think from my perspective, um, one of our strategic partners, um, that we, and, and, and quite honestly, I made a mistake very early on and spent a lot of time with a, a partner and it just didn't work out. Um, but then, you know, really learning from that experience and then going out and finding a, a different strategic partner that could get us to the next milestone. Um, I, I think that was pretty critical for us, um, in, in taking that risk and, and quite honestly, um, I, I was very hesitant because I did have a bad experience and working with someone and investing a lot of time with someone in their company to try and help us. And it, it did not work out at all and I was frustrated, but I have to say it was a significant learning, um, experience for me to make sure that I was taking the right partner the next time. Um, and it's been pretty amazing quite honestly, just it's an amazing organization that is very well connected that has, um, significantly increased our speed to market.
Speaker 5: (53:19)
Um, we, we had an experience, um, where we were in desperate need of investment because of where the company was, but it was very clear that this particular investor, um, was behaving in a way that was not aligned with our culture and our values. And it was very hard to say no to the money because we needed it, but it just felt like a coercive and, um, unbalanced, um, situation. And so we, we said, no, thank you. And we moved on and not knowing that it would all work out in the end. That was a, a big risk, but one that paid off,
Speaker 4: (54:03)
I think early on, we invested in, um, having a global IP portfolio. And at the time, you know, um, many people said, are you sure healthcare companies don't usually start with that? They usually focus on the us. Um, but just knowing the IVF space and knowing how at the professional level, how global it was and how techniques are just shared around the globe. Um, I think that turned out to be something really valuable to us. Um, you know, as you know, we're having customers now around the world that are interested in using our platform. Um, and we also invested in, you know, the, um, R and D that we conducted early on, and that really helped us actually see much more than, and see how valuable the data can be. And what's the best way to use the machine learning. And through that, we developed the scalability that is needed, um, you know, for our profitability now. So we're very, um, I'm very happy I did that. Um, but you know, at the time, um, it seemed like it was rather ambitious for a lot of people.
Speaker 2: (55:19)
Yeah. All , yeah. All three of these companies are well on their path to, um, you know, building their companies. And so it might look like in retrospect, things lined up for them, but I'm sure every single day they're living these decisions where it's unclear, what is the right thing to do. And so I think we can all agree that, you know, that ability to fail fast, that ability to say no, when it's really painful to say no, when you don't have an alternative and you just have to have faith that a better alternative is gonna show up, that's, that's equally important as, you know, making, you know, placing the right, you know, the right bets when, when there's not sufficient information, we can all agree to that, right?
Speaker 5: (55:58)
Speaker 2: (56:01)
Yes. Yes. So, well, wonderful. I think we're, um, coming up on the end of our time, I think we've answered most of the questions. So, um, so we'll just say, you know, thank you Casey, at matter for hosting this and thank you, Steve, as well for supporting, um, supporting this initiative. And thank you, Anne Mylene and Liz, you guys are incredible role models doing really, really important things here. And it was just my honor to be here with you. So with that, thank you all very much. Um, this is the end of our session and, uh, you know, all the best to you and we'll see you next time. Thank you,
Speaker 6: (56:41)
Pam. Thank you, Pam. Thank you. Thanks. Thanks Casey.