In our “Starter Story” series we invite femtech founders to share their stories of how it all began. How did they come up with the idea? Where did they meet their cofounders and what was the hardest part of going from 0 to 1?

In today’s Starter Story we get to share HyIvy‘s founding story as told my founder Rachel Bartholomew. HyIvy Health creates a pelvic rehabilitation device with trackable data for women who have pelvic cancers and diseases to help alleviate pelvic health symptoms after a devastating diagnosis, treatment or surgery.

When did the idea for your startup first come up? 

I had sold my last company and was planning on what I was going to do next. 2 weeks later, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. After my surgery, I had connected with these Facebook groups of women who had went through Gynecological Cancers and saw this common theme in the area of pelvic health after care with cancer patients. I dove in an found that the standard of care options we were given with for our symptoms management hadn’t been upgraded since 1938! After some problem validation, I started my radiation treatments and got the chance to be in the hospital everyday surrounded by doctors. It was the perfect place to pitch a potential solution and get the medical validation on a product. We got promising and encouraging feedback on our solution and the rest is history!

When and how did you take the decision to take the plunge and turn your idea into a business? How did you meet your co-founder?

After the problem and medical validation I completed October 2019 after my cancer treatments, I tapped the shoulder of a engineering friend of mine who wanted to catch up and see how I was doing. Next thing you know, we are spending 7.5 hours in a restaurant conceptualizing how to create our hardware product. We spent the next couple of months putting together drawings, bill of materials and understanding the research landscape to put together a medically valid product, all while continuing to interview patients and any doctor who can come in contact with the pelvic floor. After working through the economic possibilities of our product, I flew on a whirlwind 24 hour trip to New York where I did my first pitch to a hardware audience and won! From there, I knew that I not only understood the problem and how to potentially solve it, but also had a viable business to pursue.

What were the biggest challenges for you personally and your company going from 0 to 1? 

For me personally, one of the biggest challenges is managing self care and being an entrepreneur. As a patient still in recovery from my cancer treatments, sometimes the long hours and push for success can be challenging – I always say that I am the queen of “in-between Zoom call” naps! Some days, you just need to walk away and tell yourself, “the challenges and opportunities will be here tomorrow but for today, it’s time to give some love back to my body and mind and relax”. For my company, growth within the past year with a large team, complex product and demanding industry has just been trying to navigate it all, leverage opportunities, understanding where to focus your time and what will drive you best towards to goals you are trying to achieve. There are 10000 different things, programs, people pulling you in every direction so it can be hard to navigate what will be beneficial and what will take up your time.

Do you have any advice for others, who are just getting started?

Where do I even begin! I am going to outline this is bite sized pieces:

  • Be patient – nothing happens overnight, growth is a compounding effort that requires a lot of failure and learning from that!
  • Be gentle with yourself – as an entrepreneur, you are taking huge risks and opening your ideas to the world to be criticized. Take everything with a grain of salt and be critical about that advice you get as much as others will be critical of your business
  • Network – it is so important! You never know who will be in a room and able to open one more doorway for you. Put yourself out there!
  • Join the Femtech Revolution – we need more innovators! Even though the space is booming, we have a HUGE challenge to overcome in gender equity in healthcare and many other industries. Take the leap, ask questions, challenge status quo and never think anything is impossible.

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