Rachel Bartholomew has been involved in the start up community for the past 10 years working in various roles in small businesses, venture capital, innovation labs and ecosystem partnerships. She is currently working on her second business, Hyivy Health, focused on creating a medical device for women with pelvic floor conditions after her own cervical cancer battle in 2019. Her last start up, an automotive ecommerce software, worked with large corporate clients, such as eBay and Canadian Tire. She is a graduate of the Masters of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program at the University of Waterloo and after graduation, she became an entrepreneurial advisor to over 250 formation stage businesses. She has worked as a professor in entrepreneurship for quantum computing, an Analyst for a venture capital firm, an Innovation Manager at a large Canadian Financial Institution and helped restart Laurier University’s incubator program.
1. For those of us who aren't familiar, could you tell us a bit more about Hyivy?
Hyivy Health (pronounced Hi-Ivy) is a Canadian medical device company created by Rachel Bartholomew after her recent fight with cervical cancer. She wanted to change the way we treat hypotonic and hypertonic pelvic floor symptoms for the 1 in 3 women who will experience pelvic health challenges in their lifetime. Hyivy Health has created a pelvic rehabilitation system for women dealing with pelvic floor issues caused by a diagnosis such as menopause, post-partum, and gynecological conditions such as endometriosis and pelvic based cancers. Our system consists of a multitherapy vaginal wand performing hot and cold therapy, self-lubrication and auto dilation that are used in combination with biosensors, which are collecting the first ever data set on the pelvic floor. This data is tracked using our patient mobile application and our remote patient monitoring, clinician software portal for OBGYNs and Pelvic Floor Therapists.
2. Can you tell us more about the bigger problem Hyivy is solving?
1 in 3 women are dealing with non-curable, pelvic health related conditions and there are over millions of women struggling globally with a diagnosis that impacts their pelvic health at any age. These women live with multiple symptoms which all directly impact their quality of life, day to day activities and overall well being. There are currently 2 standards of care options to help with their symptoms including pelvic floor therapy, which can cost an average of $2,000 out of pocket per patient, and ineffective and painful static dilators that were created almost 100 years ago. Clinicians are also seeing a 35% increase in demand for pelvic treatments and lack the concrete data needed to aid in their aftercare and pelvic health follow ups, which is leading to permanent, non-curable symptoms costing the healthcare system over $90B in North America.
3. How is Hyivy different than other pelvic trainers on the market?
Hyivy is the first medical device to treat multiple symptoms and collect and track subjective and objective data on the pelvic floor from both a hypo and hypertonic standpoint. Many of the trainers on the market are not regulated, use their own custom, non-medical methodology for data collection and do not focus on the relaxation, surrounding tissue and other components important to a health pelvic floor beyond muscles. We are working to standardize data on the pelvic floor, are helping to facilitate affordable and accessible pelvic floor therapy, are providing clinicians with virtual and customizable care options, and destigmatizing pelvic health through education and community. What many see as an insurmountable problem, Hyivy looks at holistically, rather than piecemeal; therefore, creating an innovation that looks to solve multiple complex problems at once. We are also actively pursuing FDA and Health Canada approvals focusing on expanding the label use that the FDA currently has cleared for pelvic floor to include improvements in chronic pelvic pain with endometriosis, menopausal vaginal atrophy, vaginal stenosis from cancer radiation treatments, pelvic surgery, and vulvodynia patients.
4. You also have a podcast about empowering individuals to take control of their health. Can you share a bit more about the podcast and where we can listen?
White Coat Warriors! I love this project, it really cuts to the core of what I’m most passionate about.
I recorded it during my cancer treatment and invited guests to share how they took action in the face of health challenges and life-altering diagnoses even when medical professionals failed to listen. We bring on guests who talk about: Hashimoto’s disease, hyperthyroidism, Crohn’s disease, endometriosis, breast cancer, Tourette's syndrome, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It was meant to be a limited 7-part podcast series, but we’re seeing so much traction with it, we’re thinking about bringing it back sometime soon. You can listen on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
5. What advice would you give to other female founders?
I think the kind of broad stroke advice that I would give is build your community. Asking for help, advice, or access to resources is not a sign of weakness – for a founder, it’s a sign of strength. I think folks who identify as female are so often given the message that they have to do the work perfectly and by themselves. Don’t listen to that little voice that’s telling you that you have to go it alone! That also extends to making connections and community with other founders who identify as female. We have unique challenges, like for example, last year I think somewhere around 2% of VC funding went startups lead by all women teams. Find other women looking to build things and are either on a similar path as you, have been through things you have, and who you can give some advice to.
6. We'd love to hear more about your goals for 2022 and what we should expect next from Hyivy?
2022 has already been off to an eventful start as we recently closed our 1.1M pre-seed funding round.
With this funding, we’ll be dedicating our efforts to the manufacturability of the device, safety testing and ISO 13485 certification, regulatory approvals for the FDA and Health Canada as a Class 2 Device, and completing upcoming clinical trial with McMaster University to further explore the device’s use for pelvic pain with endometriosis patients as well as launching our second trial with Grand River Cancer Centre for colorectal and gynecological cancer care recovery post radiation. We‘re also excited to launch the first private, anonymous online pelvic health community where women can have a safe space to ask their pelvic health questions and can even be connected with Hyivy Accredited Clinicians. Hyivy Health is currently recruiting both patients and clinicians for focus groups and product testing to ensure we are creating an effective, patient first, clinician friendly pelvic health rehabilitation system and we welcome anyone interested to visit our website hyivy.com.