Interview by Nicole Dahlstrom @nicoledahlstrom
Dr. Lyndsey Harper is the Founder and CEO of Rosy, a women’s health company created to connect women who have decreased sexual desire with evidence-based resources to improve libido. Dr. Harper created Rosy out of frustration when she couldn't find a modern and accessible resource to help her many patients with this problem.
Dr. Harper completed Ob/Gyn residency in 2011 at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, and was in private practice there until 2018. She now works as a Hospitalist at Baylor Scott and White in Dallas. Dr. Harper is Associate Professor of Ob/Gyn for Texas A&M College of Medicine, a Fellow of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and a Fellow of the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health.
For more information on Dr. Harper and why she created Rosy - click here.
Lyndsey, you’re an active professional in your community of fellow obstetricians and gynecologists. You’re a professor, you’re among the top healthcare providers in your field, and you’re an advocate in the international research space for female sexual wellness. When it comes to developing a product for female sexual wellness, you’re certainly up to the task. That being said, when we spoke, you mentioned having an “aha” moment yourself. Can you share about the moment when you realized that solutions for female bodied people suffering from low libido were lacking?
Low sexual desire in women is something that kept coming up with my patients more and more. At first, I just tried to muddle my way through it, thinking I must have had a gap in my training (maybe I missed that day in residency???). But I came to realize, by asking other ob/gyns, that none of us felt that we had adequate resources, neither the time, nor the education, to deal with this extremely common problem. I set out to learn more about women’s sexual dysfunction and found that there actually were things that could help improve desire, the problem was, neither doctors nor their patients knew about them. That is the role of Rosy...the bridge between the problem and the solution.
How long has it taken you to go from recognizing this problem to launching your first product and did you have other members on your team?
It has taken about a year to get from concept to product. I stayed full-time in private practice while working with a team a few hours each week until September of 2018 and then made the leap from full time doctor to full time founder. I still continue to work as a hospitalist delivering babies and doing emergency surgery a couple of times per month. I have worked very closely with many extremely talented people from my husband’s company, Dialexa, to get to the point where we are today. I am currently fundraising so that I can hire the core Rosy team and we can move forward, full steam ahead!
Can you tell us a little bit about your product and why it’s so important?
Rosy’s mission is to open up lines of communication about women’s sexual health in order to eliminate shame and isolation. I feel so passionately about this mission because I have seen its impact right before my eyes. If I even bring up a conversation about low sexual desire and how common it really is, women feel so much better about themselves. No one wants to feel broken, and a little conversation can go a long way. Another extremely important part of Rosy is that all components that are part of the app are based on some evidence that the intervention actually works to improve desire. Rosy is a brand created by doctors and psychologists specifically for women and the sexual issues we face. There is nothing like it in the world. That is really special to me.
What have been your biggest challenges to date?
My biggest challenges have all been related to coming out of medicine and into the business/product world. I am definitely learning on the job every day. I am doing a ton of personal and professional development, which was never part of my medical career. In medicine, you train for years before you are able to make any real decisions. In a startup, you make hundreds of decisions every day without a lot of data to inform you. That is a big shift. I definitely have days where I don’t feel as confident as I used to, but I am compelled by the problem I am solving to push past that discomfort and continue to grow and trust myself. The work is empowering and energizing, and I’m loving it!
What about your biggest achievements?
I’ve delivered 2000 babies :) Also, I left a practice and patients I love to make something bigger; something that I truly feel can make an impact on a global scale. Even if it fails, the fact that I took the leap and bet on myself is a big accomplishment to me (but I really don’t want it to fail).
How have your ideas around female sexual wellness changed since starting your company?
At first, I approached achieving female sexual wellness as a task, but I quickly learned that it is more of a journey. Sexual wellness is something that, like fitness, we have to commit ourselves to. There will definitely be things in our life that change our level of sexual wellness (trauma, infertility, pregnancy, postpartum, menopause) and we need tools and resources to navigate each of those changes. Our sexual wellness continues to change and evolve over time just like we do. It is a lifelong journey.
Have you had any trouble convincing investors and other early supporters that female low libido is a problem worth solving?
I have really had the best time talking about Rosy to investors and early supporters. There is this intangible momentum in the startup world, and I am feeling it for sure. We, as a society, have had so many positive changes for women in the past 2 years, and open and honest communication about sexual issues is on my list of goals for 2019. Most men and women acknowledge that this is a big issue and are excited to see something being done about it. I will occasionally interact with someone who is extremely shut-down about the topic and unwilling to approach it. I totally respect that. We are here when/if you need us.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female pleasure innovators out there?
My most important advice would be to figure out what you can make that you can prove will be meaningful with evidence and that your users will want to interact with? To me, that is where the magic is...something that you know works and that your user actually wants.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to female bodied people in general about their sexual health?
You are not alone. Whatever sexual problem you are facing, there are millions of other women facing the same issues. Because sexual health is shrouded in secrecy, we often feel that we are the only ones suffering. This idea magnifies our shame and isolation. Sexual dysfunction is extremely common and we need to open up the lines of communication.
Do you feel like female sexual wellness is adequately addressed in medical school?
Absolutely not. Even as an ob/gyn in my residency it was not adequately addressed. I could tell you a lot about STIs and contraception, but that’s where it ended.
What about amongst your peers and other healthcare providers?
The same is true for my peers. I attended subsequent training through a society called ISSWSH in order to be able to help my patients better. I would love to see this training trickle down to residency and medical school as well so that we can give this issue the attention it deserves.
What do you think can be done to continue to improve the addressing of these topics among students, peers, and healthcare providers?
I have been traveling to residency programs around the US to try to increase this education and share with residents what a unique opportunity we have with our patients to help them in such a deep and meaningful way. I hope that as women demand more evidence and answers, ACOG will devote more emphasis to this topic and we can see more research and development as a result.
What will be the key trends in the female sexual wellness industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Women are going to start taking more ownership their sexual health and pleasure. I know that women feel that they deserve more, and they are right. I want women to have options to access scientifically sound information in a convenient, private, and modern (and maybe even fun) way that they would expect. As women’s expectations raise, so will our responsibility as a society and a medical community to provide those resources.
What events, celebrities, or companies (besides yours) do you feel are really paving the way for more female sexual wellness awareness?
There are so many companies making splashes right now...I really feel like we are all working towards the same goal. I absolutely love omgyes.com and the groundbreaking work that they are doing. I was super sad to miss Dame’s Nuance conference, I would have loved to attend. I’m also a hugely data-driven person, so I also love products like Lioness and Elvie. I also LOVE Unbound’s branding and message...no apologies and gorgeous!
Who are the top 3 people who inspire you in the female sexual wellness space?
The top 3 people who I have learned the most from in the last couple of years are definitely Laurie Mintz, Emily Nagoski, and Esther Perel. Each of these women have their own perspectives that I have found to be so interesting and formational in the way that I view women’s sexuality and wellness.
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 female 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 the female consumer. Connect with Nicole via Twitter: @nicoledahlstrom or LinkedIn: Nicole Dahlstrom