Interview by Nicole Dahlstrom @nicoledahlstrom
Jill Angelo, former executive at Microsoft, is the CEO and co-founder of genneve, a digital health platform for women in midlife. She has a background in launching products from the ground-up and scaling brands in thrifty and creative ways. Jill is combining her passion for women’s health with her 20 plus years of business-building experience in the tech industry to build the go-to solution for women in midlife and menopause.
Jill, you are the co-founder and CEO of genneve, a digital health platform for women in midlife. How did you become interested in innovating in the women's health space and where did the idea for genneve originate?
I’ve always had a passion for women’s health. Whether it’s my own health or how our health shapes our personal image and overall self-confidence. When I met longtime women’s health expert and former Neutrogena executive, Jacqui Brandwynne, sparks flew, and we knew we needed to do something around women’s health in midlife. With my background in tech and her background in women’s health, we knew there was a better way to help women in midlife manage the hormone-related symptoms that can rock their world.
In your most recent role before leaving Microsoft, you led the multi-million-dollar consumer media strategy there. How did that experience prepare you for launching genneve? What surprised you most about marketing to genneve's target audience?
Working in tech is energizing. You get to see all the ways that technology improves people’s lives, foster connection and entertain their every day. Marketing to consumers and businesses who have technology needs is the same no matter if you’re targeting them from a large company or small. They have a need that technology can serve, and you need to connect those two so they can see the value they’ll receive. What’s different in targeting genneve’s audience is there is a higher bar of trust and human-touch that needs to be present in our marketing. We’re talking about women’s health. Even more, we’re talking about intimate, menopausal health, which has a stigma all its own. It’s a part of a woman’s life that women rarely discuss, so our marketing needs to invite them in, earn their trust, and demonstrate that our engagement is on their terms, not ours.
In your experience, are women properly prepared for the changes that midlife brings?
No. That’s why genneve exists. Our early research reached out to 1500 women in the U.S. and the resounding truth was that women had no idea that their health in midlife would shift so much. Again, midlife and menopause are not phases of life we openly talk about, so the mystery exists, and catches women off-guard. The women who come to us at genneve often comment, “So I’m not crazy? Thank god!”
What types of products and services does genneve offer and how are they specifically designed to support women in their midlife?
genneve’s bold vision is to be the digital health platform for women in midlife where they can personally manage their health based on data, education and access to expert menopause physicians. Initially, we launched the education part of the solution, providing women free access to content and community for learning and sharing. We also launched a line of feminine-care products that my co-founder, former executive from Neutrogena, developed in tandem with securing FDA approval. The feminine-care products address vaginal dryness and pH changes that are common as estrogen declines. We will continue to carry a strong marketplace of products that support the digital health services we’re offering, as it serves as a great go-to- market for acquiring new customers and converting them.
A quick google search of menopause and midlife topics will turn up highly academic resources as well as questionable peer to peer forums. How is genneve uniquely positioned as an online resource for women seeking guidance in their midlife?
Early on, we did some research on the search activity around midlife and menopause health topics. We found that there are 4 million monthly searches associated with menopause, so we’ve designed our content strategy to align closely to search so that genneve increasingly has thought leadership authority when women take to google, bing or yahoo. What sets our content apart from the peer to peer forums is that every piece we publish either has a health provider – physician or licensed provided – factually check the piece, or they are the feature of the piece in terms of interview. We also have tailored our content to be modern and speak like a woman 40+ would speak – which separates us from the overly academic content. A little humor mixed with credible sources is how we mix facts with real-life scenarios that can easily be consumed on-the-go.
Genneve is launching an online health concierge service this year, how are you preparing for this launch and what are some of the challenges?
We’re excited to improve access to physicians who are experts in menopause. Often, we hear from our subscribers that they don’t know who to go to if they have a new symptom that has popped up in their daily routine – the inability to sleep past 3 p.m., menstrual periods that last for 3 weeks, painful sex, or rage and anger that comes out of nowhere. Booking an appointment with your traditional physician to be told, “you just have to deal with it” isn’t what our community has in mind. Instead, the genneve health concierge will bring the convenience of telehealth appointments to women based on the symptoms their experiencing. Should they speak with an OBGYN? A specialist in endocrinology? Or, how about a physician that has a specialty in vaginal atrophy? We’re all about matching women to the most knowledgeable physician for what they’re experiencing...from the convenience of their own home or wherever they may be.
What is your greatest achievement thus far with genneve?
We’re pretty proud of our audience growth and engagement, because it affirms we have an audience that needs us and is willing to pay for what we offer. In the past 18 months, we’ve grown our base to 12,000 engaged subscribers and customers, and yet we have work to do in terms of converting the 27,000 monthly users that come to genneve.com to consume our content. As we launch the health concierge and our menopause assessment (which is the intake for symptom data), we believe that conversion rate will increase, because our value proposition is richer and more meaningful. We rely on our audience for user feedback and insight as we continue to invest in the technology and physicians we bring to our customers.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
I think the typical capital challenges that many of us in the Femtech Collective face are all-to-common for me too: a woman developing a solution for women. Many investors just don’t get my space. But, fortunately, some do, and it's those knowledgeable and empathetic women and men I need to reach. The more I try to “sell” someone on genneve from an investment perspective, the more I know they’re not a fit for me, and me not for them. I’m also a first-time entrepreneur, which adds an element for pause, but then, I can’t help that, and I just have to keep forging ahead in tackling every step of work we have ahead of us to deliver our full vision for women’s midlife and menopausal health.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Be yourself. Don’t look at others that appear to be “making it”. Stay true to your vision and how you achieve that vision. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be a learner, because that’s my second piece of advice. The moments I’ve veered off of who I am to mimic another pitch or negotiation style, I can see the reaction in others’ faces that they don’t believe me. Authenticity and an ability to adjust to the wisdom we receive through time and experience is the stuff that helps us be successful in the long-game. And for me, the long-game is where it’s at.
Is the #WomenInTech movement important to you and if so, why?
Yes, it’s important. It shines a light on women as tech thinkers, tech innovators and tech leaders. When I look at solutions to problems, technology most always plays some sort of role in my mind. Whether its shopping, transacting or managing my health, I’m relying on tech in my daily life – so why wouldn’t I as a professional embed it into everything I do? I can’t wait for the day where we no longer need #WomenInTech to create powerful alliances that propel us all forward. Until then, it’s a powerful tool for binding we tech-minded women together, in addition to shining a light on our work.
Who are your top 3 inspirational women in tech?
You may not know these women, but, I’m drawn to them for their leadership and application of technology... besides, they’re very cool and have made a mark on me as a leader and/or on the genneve solution we’re bringing to market:
Sophia Valestegui – I met her briefly at the Women’s Startup Lab Accelerator last year in Palo Alto. Beyond her recognition as Business Insider’s “The Most Powerful Female Engineer in 2017”, she embodies some real leadership traits we all need in tech: building and nurturing your network, speaking up and finding your voice, and taking on big bold challenges.
Kristina Omari – I also met her briefly at the Women’s Startup Lab Accelerator. At the time, she was the VP of Corp Development at Fitbit, and now she holds a similar role at Lyft. I love her vision to see the application of technology in very practical, everyday terms – where it’s an integral and useful part of consumers’ lives.
Virginia McFerran -Virginia is a Partner at Optum Ventures. I admire her desire and vision for data analytics and their role in drastically improving healthcare. Her ability to see tech innovation and back that with investment and support through her role at Partner at Optum Ventures is the kind of leadership we need in health tech and venture. Her energy is unmatched, and I have been on the receiving end of her quick ability to dream, problem solve and move things forward.
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