How did you come up with your business idea/research field?
During my doctoral research, I realized about the many gaps in healthcare delivery and the huge potential of wearable technologies to improve patient’s health. I decided that I wanted to take part in this digital transformation and together with other female entrepreneurs, we founded Qolware. At Qolware, we focus on the analysis of wearable data and the use of AI-based technology to determine a person’s “health fingerprint”. This fingerprint takes into account internal and external health risk factors characteristic of every patient, like vitals signals and medication history, to achieve a more personalized treatment, health monitoring and reliable prediction and detection of medical emergencies.
Why did you become an entrepreneur/researcher in the heathcare industry?
Everyone has his or her own reason to start an entrepreneurial journey. For me, one of the main motivations was to have the possibility to decide and shape the way in which I can have a positive impact in the world that surrounds me. Probably my risk-taking attitude and desire of continuous learning was also determinant to start this journey.
How was the process of deciding that you really wanted to do it, what pushed you?
Somehow for me this was a natural step to take. I had seen first-hand many of the shortages that clinicians and patients have to face in a daily basis and I had the tools and know-how to change things for the better. So, why not try? I was already convinced that I needed to do something; I just could not see myself ending up as another number working for a big enterprise. But probably the last push was finding a great co-founder as well as a skilled team, as passionate and equally motivated to build something amazing together. Without a strong team behind you, it is very difficult (and boring) to start a business.
What have been the main challenges you have encountered?
The first big challenge is to get the funding to start building a company. And probably the second big challenge is how to attract talent and retain it. Being a young small company, the resources are usually very limited and one must find ways to compensate this deficit.
There is quite a high proportion of women working in the healthcare system. Why do you think there are so few female founders?
I guess it may be a mix of a higher risk aversion compared to men, and a lack of external encouragement, sometimes driven by traditional social perceptions that promote the figure of the man as the one who is expected to achieve leadership and make a successful career.
What traits do you think you have, that made you became a successful entrepreneur?
I cannot call myself a successful entrepreneur, at least not yet. But one of my big strengths, that I consider is very important for any successful entrepreneur, is having a good dose of resilience. That would definitely help to push through the difficult moments, because sometimes the journey is hard and the capacity to recover quickly is determinant to help you maintain your focus and look for a solution.
Did you have a mentor or supporter that helped you pursue your idea?
Yes! The most determined adventurers also need someone to pat them on the back. In my case, this is my doctoral advisor, Professor Diepold. I have to thank him for providing me with indispensable resources to ensure the best environment for the Qolware team as well as for his unstinting support and strategic advice.
If you were about to pursue a new idea or venture right now - which field/trend/technology would you look into?
I would stay in the connected health field. It is still full of possibilities. In particular, the growing use of wearable and mobile gadget, like fitness trackers and wristbands, on a daily basis is generating a lot of precious information that if used in a smart way could improve significantly the diagnosis and treatment of many chronic diseases as well as the way we deliver care, making it more personalized, accessible and affordable.
What do you think needs to change in our societies for more women to pursue an entrepreneurial career?
I think creating awareness would help to encourage other women to start pursuing their own ideas. But probably the key is to fight against the stereotypes about women being the ones staying at home and also about men having to achieve leadership positions. Both are equally wrong.
Do you have any message you would like to share with other women that are thinking about pursuing an innovative idea in the field of healthcare?
I would give a woman the same message I would share with a man: be passionate about what you do. Believe in yourself. Do not be afraid of trying! Whatever the result of your adventure is, you will learn very valuable lessons during this exciting journey.