1. Hello! Please tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?
I’m Hilla Shaviv, a biomedical engineer with degrees from Caltech and Tel Aviv University, and a serial entrepreneur. I consider myself a female knight, fighting for gender parity by developing new technologies that address women’s health and wellbeing.
I’m currently working on my second startup where I invented a vaginal platform called Tulipon, which will form the basis of a new branch for women’s health. With the Tulipon, women will be able to monitor and screen their health from home - with the accuracy of a lab - based on biomarkers found in their natural vaginal effluents.
2. How did you become involved in the femtech space?
In 2007, after working for a few years as a biomedical engineer for other people’s startups and inventions, I decided to start down my own path and found my own company. I made a list of all the ideas I had at that time and started researching them from various aspects including patents, technology, marketing, regulation etc. Most of my ideas were in the cardiovascular arena, as this was the area of my studies and previous work. However, during my research I found out that this area is highly populated with patents and competition. One idea was about menses and menstrual blood flow. When I started researching the available data, research, and competition, it felt as if I entered a void. It was immediately clear to me that this was where I would like to be. With time, it became not only a business but my life’s goal, as I realized the neglect women’s health has been suffering from over the years.
3. What makes Tulipon from Gals Bio unique?
Tulipon is unique due to several reasons:
It’s a device that was invented by a female engineer
Its patent was accepted almost 100 years after the invention of the tampon by Dr. Haas in 1921.
It combines the best attribute of a tampon with the best attribute of the menstrual cup, taking into account women’s needs and concerns regarding feminine hygiene.
Tulipon is a platform that can serve various applications for women’s health and wellness unlike any other vaginal device.
4. What is the biggest challenge you've faced while working in women's health?
There are multiple challenges:
Women’s health in general is a neglected field, and because of that there is hardly any research and data available for developing new technology. Here are some examples: in order to develop a vaginal device we need to know the vaginal dimensions and the pressure needed to insert a device and remove it, how these parameters vary among women and how they change over time. We also need to know what are the fluid characteristics of menses - viscosity, flux and more. And finally, what is the chemical structure of menses and what are the available biomarkers. These are only some of the gaps we have to face in our work.
Only a small percentage of the investors are women and those who invest are usually very conservative, and men find it hard to understand women’s needs. Therefore, the chances of raising funding for a high-risk project in women’s health are very low.
Women are known to be very unpredictable customers who are not open to new technologies and to exploring new devices.
5. What opportunities has femtech opened for you?
6. What's next for Gals Bio in 2022?
In 2022, we expect to finish our R&D and transition to mass production, and by the end of 2022 we hope to finally start sales.
7. Any advice to others who are embarking on the femtech industry
First, build your team and choose it well – the team is the most important aspect of the company, therefore it has to be perfectly chosen.
Do not embark on the journey alone. You need to have a team as well as an experienced mentor from the industry.
Don’t be picky about the shares of the company, it is better to have less in something then have all of nothing.
NDA or MNDA are important, however, don’t waste too much of your time and money on them.
Talk to as many people as possible, listen to their opinion but act according to yours.
We all make mistakes all the time, the best that you can do is to learn from them.