How to build a digital health company: learnings from female founders

Rock Health female founders

Only 6% of funded digital health companies have a female founder. #wecandobetter

Last week we released our State of Women in Healthcare report and today we’re hosting our sixth XX in Health Retreat with 200 women across the industry. To celebrate the occasion, we wanted to share wisdom from our own incredible female founders on what they’ve learned working in the trenches building digital health companies.

What keeps you motivated each day?

  • “We have thousands of parents on Kinsights who have children with rare and complex conditions. They rely on our community for advice and support. When you see parents, who had been isolated and anxious, connect with someone else who has actually been in their shoes, it’s incredibly motivating.”
    -Jennifer Chung, Co-founder and CEO, Kinsights

  • “The satisfaction of turning innovations into tangible products and seeing them being enjoyed by many people. In addition, I’m most excited about a new medical product that we’re currently working on which addresses a growing cardiovascular epidemic.”
    -Yukkee Poh, Co-founder, Cardiio

  • “Motivation comes from the excitement of seeing our technology being implemented into client products.”
    -Shalini Ananda, Co-founder and CEO, Quantified Skin

What piece of advice do you have for other founders?

  • “Remember that it’s not about you. As soon as you commit to turning an idea into a business, it becomes a team effort driven by user and client needs. Even the savviest intuition needs validation by the market and the user base, so test early and often. Listen deeply to your users and clients. Your staff is equally important, so bring on people who are better than you and enable them shape to the direction of the company from the outset.”
    -Kathy Bellevin, Co-founder and COO, Wildflower Health

  • “I heard this on a podcast, and it really resonated with me: “Lean into the discomfort.” There are many situations that are uncomfortable when running a startup. I’ve found that it works much better to face discomfort directly versus trying to avoid it.”
    -Amy Sheng, Co-founder, CellScope

  • “Embrace the grunt work, the blocking and tackling that’s required to build a sustainable business in the early stages.  Execution is the difference between a mediocre company and a great company, no matter how good your idea is.”
    -Leah Sparks, Co-founder and CEO, Wildflower Health

  • “Enjoy the ride, even the bumps. The learning you do during the ups, and more importantly the downs, should be the reward. Building a “successful” company comes from the learning and is icing on the cake.”
    -Anne Scott-Plante, Co-founder and Head of Product/Strategy, Wello

  • “As a founder, you’ll get advice from every direction–investors, advisors, other founders, your neighbor, your spouse.  It’s your job to filter all of this input. Consider the source and from what lens they are viewing your product, and dig deeper—pin down precisely why and how their advice applies to your business.”
    -Jennifer Chung, Co-founder and CEO, Kinsights

  • “You don’t have to be an ‘alpha-female’ to be a leader. There are many styles of leadership that foster great outcomes.”
    -Maria Ly, Co-founder, Skimble

What is the biggest challenge you have faced, and how did you overcome it?

  • “One of the biggest personal challenges I’ve faced is carving out quality time to spend with my husband, who’s also an entrepreneur. Our two startups and two young kids take up most of our time. We’re working on prioritizing our time together without other distractions but it’s hard. This is still a work in progress.”
    -Amy Sheng, Co-founder, CellScope

  • “We thought the hardest thing would be making a solution that worked.  It turned out that marketing it, finding the right message to reach kids and teenagers, was even more challenging.  We spent time doing focus groups, user testing, message testing, user interviews and have slowly evolved to a message that resonates.  It is still a work in progress, but gets better every day.”
    -Joanna Strober, Co-founder and CEO, Kurbo

  • “My first business partner was not a great fit.  Who you choose to work with is one of the most important decisions to be made.  If your business partnership is less than ideal, move on.”
    -Dr. Sara Creighton, Co-founder and Dentist, Studio Dental

  • “Lack of time and money. We have never had enough of either so we have had to be creative and disciplined in our prioritization of actions.”
    -Leslie Silverglide, Co-founder and Head of Marketing/Strategy, Wello