A panelist’s perspective by Dr Isabel Van De Keere
Seven weeks after starting my own company Immersive Rehab that focuses on using Virtual Reality to improve Physical Rehabilitation, I was invited to join the panel of female entrepreneurs at the #HowSheDidIt Event: Designing The Next Generation Of Wearables, organised by Women Of Wearables and Blooming Founders at the Digital Catapult Centre London.
My journey so far as Founder/CEO of Immersive Rehab has been incredibly exciting. After joining the new startup cohort on the Tech For Good Bethnal Green Ventures accelerator programme in September 2016, it has been a steep learning curve for me in terms of dealing with the business, legal and IP aspects of setting up a business from scratch. As a technical founder being an engineer and former scientist, I was very interested in the experiences and the advice of the two other panel members Marija Butkovic from Kisha Smart Umbrella and Kirstin Hancock from Blue Maestro, who are both non-technical founders of successful wearables companies.
The event started of with opening speeches from Michelle Hua, co-founder of Women of Wearables and Lu Li, Founder of Blooming Founders. Michelle talked about the importance of creating a strong wearable community in order to take the wearable industry to the next level, and introduced the Women of Wearables initiative to give support in particular to women working in the wearables industry. Lu went on to talk about the importance of creating networks such as Blooming Founders that support female entrepreneurs and their projects.
Marija from Kisha talked about her experiences as a former lawyer and as one of the founders of Kisha, a startup developing smart & connected umbrellas. She also shared her experiences as a non-technical founder, the challenges to find a technical co-founder/team and in setting up a team and finding people that you fully trust. She mentioned that the company has mostly been bootstrapping since the start and that this approach has worked well for their startup. One of the reasons behind this approach, Marija said, is also the lack of really good hardware development support and investment in the UK/Europe. Marija also talked about Kisha’s digital marketing campaigns and the need to have a good marketing strategy in place. Her advice on defining that strategy:
“It's better to have a niche group who love your product than lots who like it.”
Kirstin introduced Blue Maestro and their brilliant temperature reader for babies, and shared her challenges as a non-technical founder. She stressed that entrepreneurs should keep learning new things, build on what knowledge they have in place already and to stay focused and determined. Kirstin talked about how important it is to pursue your idea with the strongest conviction possible as this will help you grow your business in the one you would like it to be. She also discussed the importance of a digital marketing strategy and that little but constant genuine attention for your brand is often better than one large exposure.
I shared my own experiences as a technical founder being an engineer and my incredible journey so far as the founder of Immersive Rehab since last September. Collaboration has been key throughout my career and has led me to where I am today. I live and breathe tech everyday, so learning from the experiences of Marija and Kirstin as non-technical founders has been very valuable, especially regarding their business and marketing views. My main advice for the stage I am at is to know who your main customers are and their need when developing a product.
After the panel discussions, the floor was opened up for a Q&A with the pink catch box microphone! The audience asked questions about when to quit your job to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams, who to trust to do your digital marketing and how to organise collaborations across fields of expertise. The panel’s advice was to not be afraid to take a risk when the time feels right, to have confidence in yourself and to collaborate with people you fully trust.
A great evening ended with a showcase and special give away quiz from Octagon Studio. The Chief Marketing Officer Stella Setyiadi and Head of 4D Design, Anita Yustisia, demonstrated their educational Augmented Reality app products with live demos. Octagon Studio’s goal is to make learning more interesting, fun and engaging. A great showcase by two very inspirational women in technology! It was time to mingle with the audience and continue the interesting conversations.
That was the end of an amazing evening showcasing the work of inspirational female entrepreneurs. Thank you so much for letting me be part of it!
I will leave you with these final words:
Be Brave, Be Strong, Be Passionate.
If you missed the #HowSheDidIt event, Women of Wearables created a Wakelet board capturing all the twitter feeds from the event here.
If you would like to become part of the WoW community and be notified of further events and wearable tech workshops, sign up here!
This blog was written by Isabel Van De Keere. Based in London, Isabel is the CEO and Founder of Immersive Rehab, a VR health tech start-up that focuses on the creation and development of interactive rehab environments & games in Virtual Reality that will improve the effectiveness of physical rehabilitation.
With a background in Electro-Mechanical Engineering and a former Biomedical Engineering Scientist, Isabel is passionate about healthcare technologies, digital health, immersive technologies (VR/AR) and its applications in healthcare, using tech for good, social entrepreneurship, and promoting women in tech.
Read our interview with Isabel here.