Interview by Nicole Dahlstrom @nicoledahlstrom
Sylvia Kang is the co-founder and CEO of Quanovate. She has built the US operation and is responsible for the commercialization of the Quanovate product.
Sylvia is committed to bringing point-of-care technology to improve consumers’ health. At Quanovate, Sylvia and the team have created an FDA and CE registered IoT smart home health test platform, Mira, for high accuracy women’s health testing, empowered by AI. Quanovate has a team of 30 employees, and a 11,000 ft2 of GMP, which meets ISO 13485. The product is clinically validated. The team has filed 18 intellectual properties. Sylvia has significant P&L general management experiences. She has taken business and product director roles in a Fortune 500 life science company, running a $100M global business.
Sylvia holds an MBA from Cornell University, and a MS in Biomedical Engineering from Columbia
University. Sylvia is also a Concert Pianist. She has won multiple international piano competitions in France, China and Hong Kong.
Why did you decide to start your company Quanovate and what is the idea behind your first product, Mira?
Quanovate, based in Pleasanton, California, has developed MiraTM, a highly expandable family health monitoring platform with a significant recurring revenue stream. Our first products are fertility and pregnancy tests. Our pipeline also includes home testing of infectious diseases, Thyroid hormone, allergies, and dietary health.
Due to advancing maternal age, many families face trouble getting pregnant. In the US, 32% of trying-to-conceive (TTC) couples took >3 months to conceive. Most fertility products offer low accuracy lifestyle solutions that are based on hard-to-read test strips and are inconvenient to use. Mira provides quantitative hormone test results with hospital-level accuracy using a palm-sized device at home. The AI learns personalized cycle variability which generates precise cycle prediction. Automatic data syncing with Mira App eliminates manual cycle charting. Optional remote doctors answer users’ questions trustworthily and quickly.
I believe home testing is a highly needed but very lacking area due to technology limitation. Women’s hormones change daily and need to follow certain patterns every month, which makes daily testing very necessary at home. We lack women’s health education in general. With advanced career development and delayed maternal age, many women go directly from avoiding pregnancy to discovering their infertility. All women should have a better understanding and control of their own health and life planning. That’s why I decided to start Quanovate and build Mira.
When did it all start and how many other members are on your team?
We started in late-2015. There was a 4-cofounder team. The cofounders are all my schoolmates or friends who I have known for many years. We realized that there is no convenient way to perform
advanced home health testing. The market either saturates at basic vital tracking, or you will have to go to the hospital to get your blood work. We are a group of scientists, engineers, ob&gyn doctors, and business managers. We have the right expertise to make this idea happen. In two and half years, we have gone from a team of 4 to 30.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
It took us 2.5 years to get where we are now. Today we are FDA and CE registered, have offices in the San Francisco Bay Area and China with 30 employees. We built 11,000 sqft of GMP, which is ISO 13495 certified. We have demonstrated equivalent hormone measurement performance vs. lab equipment in the clinical trial. We own 18 IP’s and have won the Best Startup of CES 2018 by Tom’s Guide. We are launching the product very soon, so stay tuned and pre-order at www.miracare.com
What was the biggest obstacle?
How to figure out the best path to go when you have never done it before was a big challenge. There are many areas to take care of when building and running a company, especially if it is an IoT product, which has software and hardware, under medical regulation, high tech and scientific, with self-owned R&D and manufacturing, and has a global team and market access. It is impossible ti have experience on everything. The ability to quickly figure out the best path and leverage the right resource is a must-have capability for entrepreneurs.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Our speed of execution, and ability to get things done. We went from nothing to our current scale within the past 2.5 years. Different from many other companies, we completely own our IP’s, R&D,
manufacturing, and market access. When we know how to pull the right team together, and strategically leverage the global presence, the level of operation is at a much higher level. Our ability to see outside the box creatively and not be limited by standard opinion has propelled our success greatly.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female entrepreneur?
There are three things that are required to be an entrepreneur: strategy, execution, and gut. It is very rare for a person who has all of them and it is always a challenge. We need to be strategic when deciding things from big to small daily. Executing effectively is a must-have for startups as we have limited time. There are many uncertainties that we must face and bet big decisions on. This is where it is very helpful to have co-founders who can complement each other's strengths.
Being a female, I feel sometimes we tend to be less confident, or setting overly high standards for
ourselves. This might keep our work quality high in the short term, but it may let us lose opportunities as we don’t have strong confidence to ask for what we need and deserve. As an entrepreneur, uncertainties are in our daily life and things will never be perfect. If we don’t ask, we won’t get the opportunity. If we don’t promote ourselves, our business won’t move forward.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
It is an important movement as we have too few women in tech today. Scientific studies have shown there is no difference in terms of the ability that women and men’s brains handle science and tech skills. But many girls are trained by their society or culture, that tech is not a field that women have strength in. We must change this. We must generate the awareness to this problem and encourage more women to participate and show their ability in tech. If we don’t believe we can make it, we will never make it. And we need a movement like this to lead the change.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female
entrepreneurs out there?
Just do it. Entrepreneurship is hard to learn by taking a class or looking at others doing it. You will have to do it by yourself, so you can figure out a specific path that works for you, and whether you can reach it. Just like everyone has their different personality, your specific industry, team, business, strength and weakness, will all come into play when you are running a company. And each business is very different, so many details and takeaways are not exactly transferrable. Rather than spending time to dream or listen to others, the most effective way is to do it by yourself. When you hit a wall, seek help and advice, and keep going again.
What will be the key trends in the health tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
We see more medical diagnosis and treatment will move from doctors to consumers’ end, and AI will play a significant role on giving medical advice. Big health data will generate huge value. Continuous health tracking will give doctors insights that they have never had access to before, but AI will have to help them to make analysis and extract insights. Health tech is moving to digital. It is only partly true that “software is eating healthcare”, it is more like healthcare is digitizing, and consumers will have much more control of their health.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in health tech?
There are so many of them. It is hard to name three. If there is a woman who takes extra steps to
proactively pursue her dream, rather than following traditional the status quo, she is inspirational to me.
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