Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
We at WoW are very excited to announce another amazing project of our two WoW Women - Jasmine and Brigitte - Women in Health Tech Supperclub. Find out more about it in our interview with its co-founders below and keep your eyes peeled on our newsletter for updates on our fem tech and health tech events and activities! :)
Jasmine and Brigitte, what is the idea behind your project and how did you come up with it?
It all started when we met at a friend’s birthday dinner with other phenomenal women - most of them working in health technology. We immediately bonded over our passion for technology, good food and women’s health. At the time, we were completely oblivious that we would later be working together to create exactly the same scenario for other women. We immediately knew that we wanted to work together though and during subsequent dinners and drinks, we brainstormed a few ideas of what we could do. In the end, we ended up coming full-circle and decided to recreate other supper clubs that could enable women to connect, collaborate and inspire each other in the same way that we had met!
Tell us about your projects and backgrounds in this space.
We both have a background in technology and have specialised in health tech over the last few years. Brigitte founded a Beauty Tech start-up (Beauty by the Geeks), before moving into the health tech space, building and growing digital health products at WellVine (maternal and children’s health) and is now Innovation Lead at Asthma UK. Jasmine started her tech career at Quantum Black and now works at Collider Health, working with companies such as AXA to set up their Health Tech Awards and working with NHS to implement their latest AI Initiative within the NHS.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
We only met four months ago, so the supper club has really picked up pace far quicker than we could have imagined. At the moment we’re hosting around 2 themed dinners a month, each with c. 15-20 incredible women. A key challenge currently is scaling the dinners but keeping the close-knit community feel. Right now, we curate the dinners and bring women together to discuss certain topics but in the future we want to make it easy for anyone to host. We are in the process of creating an easy formula for others to be able to set up their own supper clubs too. We’re also working on some exciting partnerships with key players in the space - Women of Wearables being one of them, which we’re really thrilled about!
What was the biggest obstacle?
At the moment there are only two of us doing this alongside our full-time jobs and other side projects, so time is our biggest obstacle! Another challenge (linked to lack of time) is scaling up the supper clubs to meet the demand, whilst building a sustainable business model that allows stick to our founding values. We’re a not-for profit organisation and we want to make sure this is accessible to all. With each exciting discussion with partners and our upcoming suppers that we are running and planning, we see more opportunities than obstacles and this is what excites us so much about the future!
What are your biggest achievements to date?
We feel that our biggest achievement is how far we have come in just 4 months since meeting each other. We have run an incredibly successful first supper club featuring an inspiring speaker from Babylon and we now have upcoming speakers from Thriva and One Health Tech, talking about product design and the need for more diversity in health tech. We are massively excited by the fact that we have a growing waiting list for the dinners and it is hugely promising to see how engaged other organisations are to attend, talk and get involved.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur/female founder in the niche you are in?
We think one of the biggest challenges faced by any female entrepreneur at the moment is investment. Last year, male-run companies raised $83.1 billion in VC funds, whereas female-run companies raised only $1.9 billion. This is increasingly infuriating given the success of female-run companies as demonstrated in a recent study by BCG, where it was proven that while startups founded or co-founded by women garner less investment, they actually generate more revenue. We’re planning a founder-investor roundtable event in the near future to discuss how to best provide support to brilliant female founders and women-led health tech companies!
Another is the lack of diversity in leadership positions. Fewer women and people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are running NHS trusts (almost half of the 240 NHS trusts do not have even a single BME board member) and women make up only 11% of partners in health tech companies. Plus only 9% percent of health tech startups are founded by women. We’re hosting a dinner on this next month.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
Jasmine - At the moment, I am working with NHSx on their latest AI Initiative where we are looking into how we could digitalise the NHS in the UK. At the moment a main project of mine is also growing the supper club and focusing on how to collaborate with other key organisations such as WoW and One Health Tech, which we are already doing. Also, I am very interested in the fem tech space and I am hugely excited to run more events alongside WoW team! A further passion project of mine is writing and producing music, and I have recently recorded an EP in San Francisco which I aim to use to promote causes that I am passionate about.
Brigitte - I’ve spent the last 6 months re-designing Asthma UK’s innovation consultancy service for digital health innovators. We advise on digital health products and offer UX services for start-ups - to help ensure the biggest areas of unmet need in asthma are being tackled. I’m now starting a project looking at new models of research and innovation funding to drive the development of new tech to help us stop asthma attacks (3 people die from an asthma attack in the UK every day). Outside of work, I’m working on the supper club - focussing on building partnerships and a sustainable, scalable model that has a measurable impact.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Of course! It is hugely important to us because tech is still very much dominated by men. For example, according to PwC, in the UK only 15% of employees working in STEM roles are female and this number drops to an appalling 5% for leadership roles. This needs to change and that is why it is invaluable that we get women together to support, educate and open the doors for women of the future to enter the industry. We also need the involvement of men, as it is key that men support their female colleagues and for us all to work together to make it a more equal sector - as opposed to this being a fight only ‘for women, by women’.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
We have 3 pieces of advice to share:
Never underestimate your own value - know that your time and energy is valuable and should always be treated with respect by all those around you.
Find a good mentor - someone with experience in your industry that you also click with on a personal level.
See every challenge that you face as a learning curve - nothing you do will smoothly increase, it will in fact ebb and flow and often it is in these moments of decline that you learn the most about yourself and the work you are doing.
What will be the key trends in the health tech and fem tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Using Big Data to Predict, Diagnosis and Personalise Treatment: We’re seeing an exponential increase in health data and AI will be key to synthesising it into actionable information that can be used to improve people’s health. The use of AI in health tech is predicted to grow rapidly at a rate of 40% through to 2021 and the applications are broad - From drug discovery to remote patient monitoring and purpose-built digital assistants, AI will also impact every aspect of health care.
Blockchain: The use of blockchain within health is growing and has the potential to ensure that digital health records can be shared without compromising security and integrity and the transactions are transparent.
The Power of the Voice: Voice user interfaces are becoming increasingly popular with 1 in 6 owning a smart speaker and 40% of mobile users using voice search each day. Voice interfaces will be used increasingly in healthcare - from helping doctors input data to electronic health records, to helping the elderly live more independent lives to supporting people with the day-to-day management of long-term conditions. Again, the applications will be wide-reaching and this will be a key user interface of the digital health products of the future.
Virtual Reality in Healthcare: With the VR industry predicted to become a $4 billion industry and healthcare applications are growing. From assisting junior doctors with training, to delivering cognitive behavioural therapy to providing entertainment to children sat in hospital wards, we think the possibilities of VR in health tech are far-reaching.
Who are your 3 inspirational women or businesses in health tech and fem tech?
Dr Indra Joshi - Indra is spearheading some incredible NHS digital health and data initiatives and is someone that we both find hugely inspirational. She is clinical Lead for NHS England’s Empower the Person Portfolio and is driving much needed evidence standards for digital health and policy for AI. She is also the Clinical Director of One HealthTech – a network which campaigns for the need and importance of better inclusion of all backgrounds, skill sets and disciplines in health technology.
Tina Woods - Tina is the Founder & CEO of Collider Health, a health innovation catalyst working with organisations in both private and public sectors to accelerate innovation. Tina also founded two social enterprises: Longevity International, that manages the APPG for Longevity and also Collider Science, that aims to inspire young people in science and technology and equip them with the skills for the future.
Hina Zaman - Hina is at the forefront of cutting-edge product development within one of the leading health tech companies in the world, Babylon Health, tasked with creating great consumer-facing products to improve Women’s health across all life stages that a woman faces. Prior to joining Babylon, Hina founded an award winning tech start-up, WellVine, the first on-demand telehealth solution for maternal and children's health - Brigitte had the pleasure of working alongside her at WellVine and she’s been an inspiration and role model ever since.
Get Involved with us:
If you are interested and want to get involved in any future supper clubs, let us know your name and interests here and we will be sure to include you in our up and coming events!
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This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic.