Inside the HealthTech Venture Conference

— Karen Pantinas, WE 

Here in the Boston office we are always exploring new and exciting companies to watch — particularly those focusing on healthcare technology. So, to get a pulse on some of these new innovators, I attended the 2017 HealthTech Venture Network annual conference in Boston focusing on female entrepreneurship.

It was the perfect opportunity to network and learn about the current state and future innovations of the healthtech industry — particularly for women’s health. What did I learn? Let’s review.

Event Takeaways:

  • Bringing women’s healthcare solutions to market has a unique set of challenges. I attended the panel discussion “Implementing Technology Solutions in Women’s Health,” and the big question was “what are some of the biggest challenges for companies focusing on women’s healthcare?” The overwhelming answer was that both women and men are very tentative to talk about women’s health issues, making it harder for these companies to communicate the value of their products and to obtain funding. That was a very interesting point for someone who knows the importance of developing and imparting the right message to reach a given audience, and how we as communicators can use our skills and experience to help companies that are facing these types of challenges.   
  • Women’s health isn’t niche! Gina Nebesar, co-founder and chief product officer of Ovia Health, noted that she has walked into boardrooms where her products were labeled niche. “Women’s health is niche!?” Nebesar joked. That theme was echoed by others such as Holly Rockweiler, founder and CEO of Madorra, who pointed out that there is an interesting division between “health in general” and this category called “women’s health” when women are half of the population! This really points to the necessity of talking about the value of new technologies and the unmet needs they are finally solving. At WE, one of the biggest values we can deliver to clients is helping to change attitudes — whether it’s behaviors toward women’s health issues or raising awareness about products that may be difficult or embarrassing to talk about, but in the end can improve quality of life.

Gina Nebesar

Gina Nebesar, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Ovia Health

  • The founders of these companies are passionate about their missions. Dr. Alisa Niksch, chief medical officer of Genetesis, is wearing multiple hats — doing rounds at the hospital — and then fitting in time throughout the day and evening to juggle dueling responsibilities of running a company and being a physician. Keizia Fitzgerald, co-founder of CareAline, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while pregnant with her first child. She then found out a few months after her daughter Saoirse was born that she had severe Stage 4 neuroblastoma. This led her to develop a simple cloth sleeve and wrap that prevents children with implanted intravenous lines from pulling and tearing them off. When she is having a bad day she thinks, “Is it worth it?” But knowing all the kids the company is helping drives her forward with a resounding “yes.” That sentiment was echoed over and over. There are difficult days, but the founders of these companies keep going because they know they are making a difference.  

HealthTech Venture Conference

Dr. Alisa Niksch of Genetesis, Tiffany Kelly, PhD., of Nightingale Apps, Keizia Fitzgerald of CareAline,
and Dr. Yiding Yu of Twiage during the Behind the Grind with Successful Female HealthTech Entrepreneurs panel


Final Takeaway:

These inspired leaders helped me to think about communicating from the inside out — taking the time to establish the “why behind the company.” WE’s Brands in Motion research points to this as well — if you establish a rational and emotional connection, you are more likely to appeal to the audience you are trying to reach.  

These learnings are something to keep top of mind when we start to engage with new clients and as we head into planning cycles in 2018 with our current clients.


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