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Marina Pavlovic Rivas is the co-founder and CEO of Eli Health.

Five questions with Eli Health

08 December 2020

5 minute read

Marina Pavlovic Rivas is the Co-founder and CEO of Eli Health. The company develops an at-home device that can capture daily hormone fluctuations from saliva and an app to provide insights tailored to each user's unique profile.

Marina Pavlovic Rivas is the Co-founder and CEO of Eli Health. The company develops an at-home device that can capture daily hormone fluctuations from saliva and an app to provide insights tailored to each user's unique profile.

Eli’s initial focus is on providing women with a no-compromise option to own their fertility and contraception decisions. In the long term, Eli will give women control over their health at any stage of their life by unlocking solutions for a wide range of conditions that are driven by hormonal fluctuations.

The team completed the Techstars Montréal AI Accelerator in 2019.
 

01. What was the inspiration behind your company?

We started the company after we realised that contraception remains an issue for many. Women's freedom to control their fertility can improve their lives in profound ways. Unfortunately, many feel this freedom is at the expense of their health. Up to half of women report side effects from their birth control method and are now determined to find better options. We were inspired to solve a problem that so many women around the world have and that I had myself for more than a decade.

During our journey, we quickly became aware that a hormone monitoring product can empower women to take control of their health throughout their lives. This has shaped our long-term mission. Hormones are at the root of so many transitions and conditions women experience from puberty to menopause, yet they remain a black box. The possibility of finally closing this hormonal data gap is truly exciting, as this will have significant impacts on women's health.

02. How do you feel being a female founder gives your startup a unique advantage?

The markets we are addressing are massive and the expected returns are high. Even if the case for better solutions is clear, these markets have been overlooked for generations. Today, many men are not yet aware of the problems we address, although they are well known to a majority of women.

Being a female founder is essential to the insights behind the creation of Eli. It enabled us to be early movers in a booming space. While women constitute a minority among startup founders, we are part of a small group that has privileged insights on half of the population. Since women make 80% of buying decisions in healthcare, this actually gives us somewhat of an unfair advantage.

03. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since first developing and launching your startup?

We’ve learned so much since launching the company in the summer of 2019. One of the most important things we have experienced first-hand is that having a network is crucial. We faced challenges that we were able to overcome much more easily by leveraging our network. Whether it was finding the right people, or securing funding and partnerships, our network has made all the difference. Building a network takes time, but there are a lot of good resources out there to help, including Techstars which is a fantastic one.

04. Some female founders report experiencing problems accessing capital, mentors, and networking opportunities. Tell us about some of the barriers you’ve faced.

We have benefited from a lot of help from mentors along our journey. We feel incredibly fortunate to have obtained initial investment at the very beginning of our journey through Techstars and to be closing a fundraising round a year later.

We know that a very small amount of VC funding goes to female founders, that this amount is even more microscopic when you are a woman from an underrepresented group, and that this dynamic is exacerbated by the pandemic. This motivates us to work even harder to create a success story.

There are a lot of changes that need to be made and it’s important to take every step we can toward equity. I'm thrilled to see that so many women and men are taking action. Now the movement must become mainstream.

05. What is the one piece of advice you'd give to other women thinking about starting a company?

The one piece of advice I’d give to other women thinking about starting a company is to start it. Of course, there are many things that need to be thought through but having a plan without executing that plan is worth nothing. No one has everything figured out, and as you evolve, there will always be new things to figure out. That’s why having a bias towards action is important. Surrounding yourself with the right people and learning from them is also a game-changer.
 

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