Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Ravid and Sharon hold deep understanding of breastfeeding and human milk bioanalytics, alongside unique market insights as a devoted breastfeeding mother.
MyMilk was founded by Dr. Ravid Shechter and Dr. Sharon Haramati, with the goal of providing science backed, personalized tools to the mother for promoting breastfeeding and mother's & infant health.
Ravid and Sharon also co-founded a non-for-profit organization for advancing the establishment of the first human milk bank in Israel that is currently being established by MDA, the Israeli red cross, supported by the Israeli Ministry of Health.
Ravid received her B.Sc in Biochemistry from the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology and her direct track Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute of Science. Ravid's scientific expertise includes immunology, developmental neurobiology, stem cell research and central nervous system repair. Ravid is a mother of two, both of which she proudly breastfed for a total of over 5 years while persisting with her successful full time scientific career. Ravid received many honors and prizes, including the prestigious John. F. Kennedy prize, in recognition of academic excellence and scientific accomplishments.
Sharon received her B.Sc. in the joint program for medicine and life sciences From TAU, and her M.Sc. and Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute of science. Sharon's valued scientific research focused on molecular genetics of behavior, psychiatric disorders, neuroendocrinology, as well as neuropsychology of human memory. During her research, Sharon also completed a program in economics, business, finance and intellectual properties. Sharon overcame many breastfeeding difficulties, during which she envisioned mymilk concept. Since then she became the mother of another baby boy, who she proudly breasted over two years, with extended knowledge.
What is the idea behind your project / product and how did you come up with it?
As breastfeeding mothers, we realized that while we were strictly monitored all through our pregnancies, when it comes to breastfeeding, there are no objective tools to assess individual breastfeeding. And as a Life science PhD, we realized that breast milk is a body fluid that is neglected from clinical practice, and can reflect on the mother’s health, the baby’s health and on the breastfeeding process itself.
So in MyMilk we take personal information from breast milk, to generate personalized breastfeeding guidance for improving breastfeeding experience and success.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
We, Dr. Sharon Haramati, and Dr. Ravid Shechter, envisioned MyMilk in 2012, MyMilk was corporated in 2014, with the establishment of the first human milk dedicated laboratory. Mymilk team includes software developer and clinical laboratory professionals, all women that thrive to improve women’s health and generation to come.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
What was the biggest obstacle? What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
Being the first is always challenging, even more so when dealing with a sensitive subject, such as breastfeeding. We have the challenge of proving breastfeeding is not a niche, and this is on top of the general difficulties when it comes to funding female led femtech companies. And the normal product-market-fit challenges with a product that involves both hardware and software while working extremely lean. We do however see the actual abilities of our technology every day, so we really believe this can eventually become a must have product for all new mothers.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
One very recent one, is being presenting the MyLee on the main stage of TC Disrupt SF 2019, as a startup Battlefield and being selected as Top picks in healthtech & Biotech. You can read about it at TechCrunch. We have established the first human milk dedicated clinical laboratory, and established breast milk laboratory tests that already help mothers with their breastfeeding challenges, such as breastfeeding pain, low milk supply and personal nutrition based on breast milk nutritional profiling. We get amazing feedback, like "you saved my breastfeeding", so it really makes it all worthwhile. Bringing the Mylee device to reality, and working with lactation consultants that call it "science fiction" and use it routinely, is very exciting.
We have also co-founded a non for profit organization for driving the establishment of the first human milk bank in Israel, as Israel was the last OECD country without milk bank. Donor milk is really life saving for premature babies, and this national milk bank will start distribution milk to hospitals soon, so this is also a great achievement by all parties involved.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
We develop The mylee device, a hand held device and mobile health app, that enables a mother, for the first time ever, to get immediate feedback about her breastfeeding process and breastmilk production, starting from the first days after delivery, by scanning of just a few drops of her own milk.
The mylee app is all about personal feedback - education – and communication, for empower breastfeeding mothers to become proactive about their breastfeeding, from the first day.
The mother is basically making daily milk scans with the mylee device, and receive immediate feedback reassurance, tips and alarms for improving breastfeeding experience. By performing daily tasks and quizzes, the app generate actionable insights to the mother, for improving breastfeeding experience and success.
So far we have had a successful beta with lactation consultants that have used the device to scan over 400 mothers on-the-spot and they say it has become an integral tool in their tool box, and we are now launching our pre-order, and expected to ship the first devices to mothers by the end of the year.
The main value proposition of the current version of the device is focused on mothers in the first days and weeks after birth but We see the mylee becoming a must have product supporting every new mother throughout her full breastfeeding journey and beyond.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Take a partner to the journey.
Second, understand what is your minimum viable product, and iterate it hand in hand with your customer. This is challenging to balance creating enough value and keeping it minimal.
What will be the key trends in the health tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Healthcare personalization, telemedicine and remote monitoring, and adoption of patient centered solutions. Patient will become more involved in their health management.
Social media: @mymilklabs
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic.