Women's Health Innovators: Hyivy
By Esther Popovitz
As a previous ambassador for HITLAB’s Women’s Health Tech Challenge in 2019, Hyivy Health has committed to fighting for better healthcare and lifestyle for women, among many of the amazing femtech entrepreneurs who have participated. Hyivy creates holistic and intelligent pelvic rehabilitation devices for women with pelvic based cancers and diseases, allowing to track and improve recovery and symptoms upon diagnosis, surgery, or treatment.
A two-time entrepreneur with a passion for making change happen, Founder and CEO, Rachel Bartholomew, sparked inspiration to start the company upon her cervical cancer diagnosis in June 2019.
“I came up with the idea after surgery, in between bed rest and being on the radiation table. I was connecting with these Facebook groups of women who go through gynecological cancers, and we’d give each other support…I saw this constant theme of follow up with pelvic health and how we’re just kind of left to fend for ourselves” she said. Having had pelvic health issues 15 years prior, Rachel started doing some of her own secondary research and “realized that the treatment standards of care for these types of conditions hasn’t innovated.”
Seeing this lack of research and safe, effective treatment options for women dealing with severe pelvic health and related complications, Rachel was able to gain the medical validation she needed from her radiologists and oncologist at the hospital to start pitching her idea.
Launching the company in February 2020, she sought to create products that focus on treating these symptoms holistically and are sensitive to every step of the diagnosis and everything in between. “This ranges from women who are dealing with issues with menopause to postpartum complications, to severe situations such as pelvic organ prolapse, to directly impacting trans women and women who went through gender reassignment surgeries.”
More recently, in an effort to move beyond just providing therapeutic devices, Hyivy saw a crucial opportunity to delve into the data side of health. Doing so would help see how severe the situation is, and effectively track and improve treatment plans accordingly, in real time. “We wanted to tie device therapy in with sensor elements so we’re actually able to track data on that therapy as well. What we’re trying to do beyond just therapy is provide the first quantifiable data set on pelvic health,” she said.
The global market for Women’s Health products is expected to surpass $51B by 2025. However, 80% of professional venture capital firms have never invested in the Women’s Health market. A major part of the challenge women face in the health tech industry, Rachel notes, is a gap in female investors that most likely won’t change.
Despite stigma being alive and well today, she has been able to turn a hurdle into a gain by resonating with investors whose wives and partners go through these pelvic health complications.
“That directly hits home to them and it impacts relationships,” she said. “I’ve actually gotten a lot of great support from men. The industry is changing for the better, and I think they’re starting to see that Women’s Health is everyone’s health. Especially when we’re half the world’s population! 1 in 3 women are going to deal with pelvic health related illnesses, so it’s something that is very prevalent and if it hasn’t touched you in some way, it’s indirectly touched you and I think they’re starting to see that.”
How can investors begin recognizing the significant power in Women’s Health? Rachel emphasizes the key in not being afraid to ask questions if they don’t understand something. “Even the biggest researchers in this area don’t know as much as we thought they do. Having more women in the area makes it even easier.”
In 2019, Hyivy participated as an Impact Partner for HITLAB’s Women’s Health Tech Initiative focused on expanding the women’s health tech industry. The challenge provides just the platform needed to empower and amplify the voices of talented female health entrepreneurs, looking to kickstart their business and make a significant impact on the future of women’s health.
This year, HITLAB’s WHT will be focusing more exclusively on FemTech solutions, which has been taking off now more than ever. According to Rachel, the more women that take on the risk of diving into the hardware of healthcare, the better—to finally close the gender gap in data.
Additionally, giving more options and solutions for the LGBTQ+ community is especially needed now and the company is passionate to deliver. “Working with a Trans woman on my team and the significance of her medical conditions is crucial—what she is going through is lifelong. If she doesn’t do the things she needs to do it can be very detrimental to her health.”
She also finds it important to steer focus away from just menstruation and fertility. There are other areas of women’s health that call for more attention and research, something she applauds HITLAB for acknowledging in selecting companies for last year’s challenge. “We are giving women medications that potentially could harm them more than men because they just didn’t have women in their clinical studies,” she said.
To extend beyond just pitch day, a virtual happy hour for the WHT will take place on November 6, to provide applicants, sponsors, judges, and speakers with a chance to network and ultimately build a strong community—something that has become all the more prevalent in light of COVID-19.
As a part of the CTA program for the HITLAB’s Innovators Showcase Summit this December as well, Rachel is most excited for being actively involved and the ability to network. She finds that COVID-19 has been a blessing in disguise with respect to creating ease in connecting and reaching out to people virtually, rather than combing through crowds and trying to find people to connect with in person.
In regards to pitching Hyivy at the upcoming HITLAB events, she sees this as the perfect opportunity to collaborate with fellow talented entrepreneurs looking to pave the path for change towards the future of health, rather than competition. With the amount of work needed towards pelvic health issues alone, choosing to get competitive over working together towards a common goal for the greater good will only set us back.
Collaboration is especially crucial when it comes to women innovators looking to start out in the FemTech industry. Rachel’s biggest piece of advice is to take risks, no matter how scary it can feel. “Starting a business is risky, but we need women especially in this area to take the risks to make a change. There is support out there for you. Get good mentors, be a part of programs, reach out to people,” she said.
It’s important to remember that there is always someone one step behind you in the process who can look up to and learn from you, she notes. This powerful synergy between collaboration, professional and personal nurturing is key to brand-building and needed innovation.
COVID-19 has certainly been an added shake-up for health start-ups and the shifts we are seeing in the health industry as a whole. In the midst of opening a Hyivy office in New York when COVID-19 hit, Rachel had no choice but to fly back home to Canada instead.
Despite the challenges she’s had to face, she views the pandemic as a blessing in disguise, as there is much more support and funding for startups to survive. “I was able to get a lot of really talented engineers who had lost their jobs on my team, which was fantastic. I think the biggest push now is for digital and remote health, and COVID-19 supports that.”
There is now a shift seen in people embracing telehealth and meeting remotely with doctors, something she is glad to see especially helping to make the lives of busy women easier. Having to juggle work, taking care of children, and still finding time to focus on personal care can now be much easier to manage in the face of telehealth options.
In the near future, Hyivy is excited to launch user testing for their devices. Women dealing with any sort of pelvic floor complications will be able to sign up on their website to participate in interviews, surveys, and lastly, user testing. As a startup, they are also currently looking to raise a seed funding and are eager to connect with anyone who would be interested.
Rachel’s takeaway for participating in this year’s Women’s Health Tech Initiative and Innovator’s Summit? “It’s always inspiring to hear about the future of medical and technology and get motivated from that side of things.”