Interview by Nicole Dahlstrom @nicoledahlstrom
Nuala Murphy is a multi-award winning femtech entrepreneur based in Belfast. She is the CEO and founder of Moment Health, a technology company with a groundbreaking digital solution for the prevention and treatment of women’s mental health illnesses. Nuala launched the Moment Health app in November 2017, which became the #1 app in the Health and Fitness category in its first week. It is currently available in the UK, Ireland, the US and Australia, with plans to continue rolling out to further markets in the coming months.
Described by The Irish Times as “one of the next generation of female business leaders”, Nuala is also a regional leader and the founder of Lean In Ireland, while recent awards and accolades include Digital DNA Entrepreneur of the Year 2018, The Sunday Times Maserati 100 2018, and Top 100 Startup UK 2018.
What is the idea behind your startup Moment Health and what inspired you to start this company?
Moment Health is a technology company with a mission to prioritise women’s mental health. We launched the Moment Health app in late 2017, a tool women – and men – can use to help keep track of their emotions that helps pave the way for early diagnosis and intervention for perinatal depression and associated anxieties.
The idea for Moment Health came to me about three years ago, at a pivotal time in my own life when I was working full time and starting my own family. With a background as a marketing director, my career up to that point had seen me working in the healthcare and technology sectors for many years. During pregnancy I became very much aware of a lack of support and services for women in Northern Ireland when it comes to maternal mental healthcare – very few women here have access to those services, and it all very much depends on a woman’s location.
The Maternal Mental Health Alliance recently released their latest figures on what has been dubbed a ‘postcode lottery’: 24 per cent of women in the UK have no access to specialist perinatal mental health services; in Northern Ireland, there is no provision of these services for 80 per cent of the population.
This is at a time when as much as 20 percent of women suffer perinatal depression or anxiety, and almost a quarter of women who die between six weeks and one year after pregnancy, die due to mental health-related causes.
I was determined to find a solution to improve these statistics for women; to give women the world over the opportunity to access much-needed support; and to improve the rates of early intervention, which is proven to significantly increase the rates of successful recovery.
In order to do this, I knew I had to develop a product that could overcome traditional barriers, such as location. Recent figures show almost 40 percent of the world’s population use a smartphone, with a forecasted growth rate of 2.1 billion people in 2016 to 2.5 billion in 2019, and smartphone penetration rates are also on the rise - so it made perfect sense to create a tech-based solution.
The app was developed with the help of clinicians and world-class medical advisors to ensure its accuracy and efficacy, and has four key tools: 1. A Checker that houses a quick survey medical professionals use to detect signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety; 2. A Tracker and emotion diary that allows the user to keep track of her moods and watch for potential triggers; 3. A Locator tool that helps the user find key resources and services based on her location; and 4. Access to an online Community where people can find connectedness, peer support, advice and companionship.
As well as the app being available to the consumer via Google Play and the App Store, we have also recently launched our corporate packages, which allow employers to offer the app to their staff either as a standalone tool, or as an item tied into an existing health package framework.
When did it all start and do you have other members in your team?
I started Moment Health in 2015 with the help and support of our chairman Noel Brady, who has extensive experience and expertise in healthcare and business in both the public and private sectors.
Our CTO, Gavin Rooney, was next to come on board. With a successful track record working for some of Ireland’s most successful tech companies, including Ding and Intercom, Gavin has also hugely backed the Moment Health mission from the get-go. I can’t imagine finding a more reliable or skilled person to develop and evolve the Moment Health app – Gavin does so with top priorities of privacy, security, user experience and ease of use always at the forefront.
Over the last couple of years, our core team has continued to expand and grow, and currently includes our creative director Andy Henry, a web developer, community lead, and a head of content.
We have a number of business advisors on board, including Square Inc’s CFO Sarah Friar, AquaQ Analytics’ director Ivy McFarlane, and Convergys’ Paula Kennedy. And we are so fortunate to have incredible medical minds working with us, including Dr. Richard Bunn and Dr Samina Dornan, to ensure our products are effective and can, essentially, really make a positive difference to people’s lives.
What was the biggest obstacle?
I’m not sure it was the biggest obstacle, however certainly one of the biggest milestones for us to date has been securing Early Stage Investment, which we were successful in doing just over a year ago now. That vote of confidence in our offering and our potential, from Techstart NI, gave us the space to finesse our app and launch our consumer offering, as well as build our team and essentially get Moment Health out there into the world.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
I think gathering a team I’m proud to be surrounded by has been one of my biggest achievements for Moment Health to date. Not only do we have great people all applying their expertise in their various fields, I also know they are all as passionate about the Moment Health mission as I am.
My entrepreneurial journey has been just like any other – the start-up path is a rollercoaster ride, and we’ve had many ups and downs, but a hugely proud day for us was launching our app into the market last year, and then seeing it become the #1 app in the Health and Fitness category in its first week.
Feedback from consumers has also been greatly rewarding. I created Moment Health because I wanted to make a difference and improve early intervention and access to treatment for maternal mental health services. Hearing from women and men who’ve found our app to be a helpful companion tool; who’ve enjoyed using it and found it has helped them brings joy beyond measure. I’m also absolutely determined to ensure we’re always offering something truly useful, so I’m incredibly proud that we work alongside Ulster University, where our app has undergone research to prove and improve its efficacy.
Our team has also received some accolades and recognition for our efforts and innovations over the past 12 months, including being included in the Sunday Times Maserati 100 2018, and UK Startups 100 2018, which we’re all incredibly proud of.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
What I find really interesting about the femtech category is the idea that it is in any way ‘niche’. This really couldn’t be further from the truth – I think femtech is rapidly expanding, and major organisations and investors are really listening and start to recognise this now (and if not, they’re being left behind).
I think the challenges I’ve faced are the same ones all founders face, and I think they are just part and parcel of the whole entrepreneur experience – you take the good with the bad, you learn and gain takeaways from both, and you grow from there.
Both Forbes and VentureBeat reported on the growth of the Femtech category earlier this year, and have highlighted just what enormous potential it has. Forbes noted Femtech is ‘set to be the next big disruptor in the global healthcare market’, while VentureBeat highlighted the Frost&Sullivan report which forecasts that Femtech could become a $50 billion market by 2025.
It’s an exciting time to be a Femtech entrepreneur and innovator – that I know for sure.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
The #WomenInTech movement is incredibly important to me. As well as being CEO and founder of Moment Health, I’m also the founder and a regional leader for Lean In Ireland. Four years ago, I organised the first Lean In meeting at a coffee shop in Belfast. There might have been just four of us present then, but I’d worked in the tech sector long enough to know there was a huge need for women to come together, support each other in tech and grow the numbers of women working in the sector.
Lean In Belfast quickly grew to more than 1000 members, and in 2017 we launched Lean In Ireland – it started with 20 regional Circles (or groups) and that number has been rapidly growing over the past 15 months.
Women deserve to be seated at the table, and at the head of the table. I love spreading the message of the power of peer support, and the importance of women coming together to connect, learn and share. Together we are better.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
I think it’s important to take each day at a time, and to learn from every experience – some days will be great, and there will be plenty of tough moments too. Stay true to your goal and focussed on your mission.
I think it’s also really important to pause for a moment and celebrate the successes when they do come. And celebrate the success of your contemporaries too – there is room for all of us.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in tech?
I love questions like this for affording us the opportunity to pause and shine a light on the great work of great women who absolutely deserve recognition for what they do, and how they’re so often paving the way for more women in tech.
However, in order to answer as honestly as I can, I have to say that I’m equally inspired by those who go unnoticed. My work with Lean In allows me to see how much effort so many talented, courageous women put into raising their peers up, and how generously they give their time and attention on a voluntary basis – often in tandem with maintaining a full-time job and balancing a variety of family commitments too.
If I may I’d like to shout out to two of the many trailblazing women in tech who inspire me.
1. Ida Tin, the co-founder and CEO of Clue. Seems fitting as it was her who coined the term #FemTech Her determination to empower women when it comes to their health really resonates with me – that really aligns with my mission with Moment Health to make maternal mental health mainstream. And I admire her drive and insight to bring femtech to the forefront. She is also a busy mother to two young kids, like myself, and I am sure in so many ways she has given other women the confidence to follow a path in femtech, and to gain courage to stand up, lean in, innovate, and create within this space.
2. Sarah Friar, CFO at Square Inc and an independent director of the board for Walmart. I first met Sarah during a trip to San Francisco last year, where I was taking part in the Lean In Regional Leadership Conference. Sarah is based in San Francisco now, originally from Tyrone, and in recent years I’d been inspired by her tenacity and the mark she was making in the tech world. She has no doubt put Northern Ireland on the map when it comes to leadership in equality and diversity across tech; she is a trailblazer and a champion of others wanting and working hard to do the same. I increasingly admire and am inspired by Sarah’s ambition, talents and expertise, and am beyond pleased she is a part of the Moment Health journey as both a mentor and advisor. She is also the co-founder of a non profit called Ladies Who Launch were the focus is to build community, inspiration and create opportunity.
LinkedIn: Moment Health
This interview was conducted by Nicole Dahlstrom, Women of Wearables Ambassador in San Francisco, USA. She has been providing marketing and project management services to non profits for the past six years. Passionate about women's health and fem tech, Nicole decided to leverage her network of established feminine health companies, industry professionals, and leaders in the women's health space to develop a network of support for founders of female health focused tech startups called FemTech Collective. Their mission is to shape the future of healthcare through technology that meets the needs of women. Connect with Nicole via Twitter: @nicoledahlstrom or LinkedIn: Nicole Dahlstrom