Interview by Nicole Dahlstrom @nicoledahlstrom
Amy and Kerranna are cofounders of Jessie, a Techstars and Cedars-Sinai backed company. The two co-founders are experts in healthcare marketing, having worked in healthcare commercialization and cancer advocacy for over 10 years. Amy and Kerranna met at a co-working space in Charleston, SC while both running their own businesses and consulting for healthcare startups with a focus in genetic testing. In 2016, Amy and Kerranna leveraged their networks to launch a women’s health genetic marketplace.
After two years of operations, Amy and Kerranna relocated to Los Angeles to expand the business to include a full range of digital health services for women. Today, Jessie has grown into one of the largest networks of online women's health services.
What is the idea behind your project / product and how did you come up with it?
The driving force behind Jessie is our goal to address some of the root causes of gender disparities in health - cost and accessibility. We’re delivering on this mission by equipping and empowering women to make informed and confident decisions about their overall wellness. Our platform provides unparalleled tools to navigate women to affordable, convenient, and vetted digital health services designed for women. In addition, we provide tools to help women manage health risk factors, goals, and personal medical information. The result is a highly personalized, satisfying, and—above all—empowering health experience that caters to women’s unique needs.
My co-founder, Kerranna Williamson, and I launched a women’s health genetic testing marketplace in 2016. In growing this business, we recognized both the opportunities and benefits of connecting partners across the healthcare ecosystem, including vendors, providers, health systems, and patients. During the Fall of 2018, while participating in the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator powered by Techstars, we worked with industry leaders, potential partners, and women to develop Jessie as a platform to streamline access to digital health services across multiple women’s health categories.
When did it all start and do you have other members on your team?
Jessie was established August 2018. Within thirty days of its inception, we grew Jessie’s network of digital health services into one of the most comprehensive platforms focused on women’s health and wellness by partnering with companies such as Betterhelp, Everlywell, YoDerm, SimpleHealth, B-Wom, HeyDoctor, and more.
The Jessie team is made up of the founding team and five experts who specialize in health technology, product design, user experience, content development and digital strategy.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
It has taken our team five months to grow Jessie from concept to beta. During this time, we have built our initial network of digital health services, secured a sales pipeline with self-insured employers, formed relationships with our channel partners, and built the initial version of the Jessie digital assistant. We are currently undergoing testing of Jessie with a private beta user group and continuing to grow our beta user wait-list. Sign up to try Jessie at hellojessie.com.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Our biggest obstacle was deciding our initial path to commercialization. We have a clear vision for Jessie and determining how to best enter the market and manage our budget was important to us. The founding team dedicated weeks to designing and conducting stakeholder interviews and analyzing results. Ultimately, the time we dedicated to research paid off. Our interviews resulted in the development of our initial sales pipeline including large employers interested in recruiting and retaining top female talent and financially motivated to save on their health plan. It became clear that large employers will be our target customer. This process also revealed that it makes strategic sense for us to introduce Jessie to consumers directly during our testing phase while we gear up to launch with employers.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Gaining acceptance into the Cedars-Sinai/Techstars accelerator program and building version one of our beta are two of our biggest achievements. These accomplishments signal that we have an idea worth investing in and that we have the technical capability and strategic mindset to adapt and quickly move forward during these initial phases.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
As entrepreneurs in healthcare, we face the same daily challenges as every other company in our space, including HIPAA compliance, rapidly changing technologies, and gaps in research. That being said, being female entrepreneurs in healthcare has created new and interesting opportunities for us. As the industry comes to recognize and appreciate the linkage between diverse leadership and the quality of care delivery, a greater priority has been placed on seeking out women, like ourselves, to find new ways of addressing these challenges and driving better outcomes.
Is the #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
The #WomenInTech movement is incredibly important to us and the development of our company. Outcomes are not only influenced by leadership but also by the workforce. Without a doubt, gaps in women's care are best remedied by input from those primarily affected. What better way to close the gap than by encouraging more women to build solutions to address today’s most pressing healthcare challenges facing women, including heart disease and cancer?
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Don’t hold back just because you haven’t seen it done before. As women, we approach business and challenges in a completely different way from many of our male counterparts and that’s ok. Instead of conforming to the norm, don’t be afraid to test out new ways of negotiating, designing, building, and presenting your ideas – it often results in better outcomes.
What will be the key trends in the health tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
In the next five years, we’re going to see digital health play a larger role in the delivery and personalization of care. We believe that as utilization increases additional innovation and demand for interoperability (standardization of health data), personalized therapeutics, and patient-owned medical data will grow.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in health tech?
We are inspired by the work of Halle Tecco (Founder of Rock Health and femtech investor), Katherine Ryder (Founder of Maven Clinic and women’s health advocate), and Aashima Gupta Director of Global Healthcare Solutions at Google and healthcare technologist). All three women have shown incredible tenacity and are making a large impact on healthcare.
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