Manufacturing Blog: Women Startup Challenge Explores Health Tech Innovations

Aug 14, 2019

by Carlos M. Gonzalez

Women-led companies receive barely any attention from the investor market today. According to Women Who Tech, 90% of investor money worldwide goes towards startups founded by men. Women Who Tech is a nonprofit organization with the mission to foster women-led tech companies that are creating innovations to change the world. This past June, the organization announced its latest Women Startup Challenge to focus on tech innovation in the healthcare industry.

Women Who Tech was founded by Allyson Kapin, co-founder of the RAD Campaign, a social change digital web agency based out of Washington, D.C. She founded Women Who Tech due to the lack of attention women tech entrepreneurs were receiving from the industry.

“Every time I went to a tech conference, I would just be surrounded by panelists and keynote speakers that were primarily white men, as if we women in tech didn't really exist,” said Kapin. “So, we launched Women Who Tech, initially as a virtual summit for women in tech to connect.”

The Women Startup Challenge was a natural progression of their mission. The startup challenge provides valuable funding for women entrepreneurs to get their projects up and running, and to advance their role in the tech industry.

“In 2015, we took a step back after seeing a rise in the number of women in tech organizations. And we said, you know, what isn't really being addressed, the lack of funding for women-led tech startups,” said Kapin. “We launched the Women's Startup Challenge in partnership with Craig Newmark, who is the founder of Craigslist and Craig Newmark philanthropy, and we have been on a mission ever since to really close the funding gap for women.”

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One of the most exciting success stories to come out of the 2017 Women Startup challenge was the medical device company, Open Bionics. Open Bionics was founded by Samantha Payne and Joel Gibbard in 2014 and is drastically changing the medical device market for bionic arms by offering 3D- printed prosthetics at a fraction of the cost. Traditionally, these prosthetics would cost up to $25,000. Open Bionics offers them about $5,000 per prosthetic and has partnered with Disney to offer Marvel superhero and Disney cartoon stylized prosthetics. Open Bionics has now gone on to raise $10 million in funding capital.

The fall 2019 Women Startup challenge will push for more women-led healthcare startups.
The current 2019 Women Startup fall challenge focuses on the health tech industry. Healthcare is currently undergoing a technology revolution. Electronic records, patient monitoring, robotics and automation assistance, and machine learning tools are being deployed across the healthcare market. The healthcare industry has seen rapid growth in the last five years. The Lancet Institute estimated by 2040, $25 trillion will be spent on healthcare every year. According to Statista, almost $380 billion of healthcare revenue was generated in the United States and the European Union. However, when you look at where the money goes, only 9.7% of funding is awarded to women-led startups, said Kapin.

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The upcoming startup challenge will help change that outlook. Ten early-stage startups will be selected to compete for a $50,000 grant. The final selection will occur on October 7 at Paris City Hall in France. To enter the challenge, the health tech-focused startup must be based in Europe or the U.S. with a European presence. The founder or one of the cofounders must be a woman, and one of them must be the technical founder. The company must be in the prototype stage or already have launched a device that’s ready to be produced on a mass scale.

Besides the grant fund, the winning startup will also receive one-on-one mentorship from investors and support on critical startup services. This is one of the main goals for Kapin and Women Who Tech, to knock down the investor walls that keep women out of the conversation.

“The investor world is quite small, and a lot of these deals are negotiated through personal connections. So, if your portfolio is primarily comprised of white men, well guess who those startups are going to recommend,” said Kapin.

“This is all about opening up and busting down those networks for women-led startups so that they can begin to network with more investors. And even if those investors aren't the best fit for them, what happens out of those conversations is that it provides introductions to other investors, who potentially may be a better fit for them. So that's a big goal for us, to open up this investor network and break down those walls, she added.

To learn more about Women Who Tech and the upcoming health tech startup challenge, please visit them at WomenWhoTech.com.

Carlos M. Gonzalez is special projects manager