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By Samantha Walravens
Let’s face it. Doctors, even gynecologists and women’s health practitioners, don’t have all the answers about menopause and how to treat the myriad symptoms that come along with “the change”– hot flashes, insomnia, depression and anxiety, sexual dysfunction, to name a few.
According to an article from the New England Journal of Medicine, the newest generation of medical graduates and primary care providers lack the training to manage the menopausal symptoms an increasing number of women will experience during the next decade.
This education gap is creating a “large and unnecessary burden of suffering” for women in midlife, say doctors JoAnn Manson of Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard University and Andrew M. Kaunitz of University of Florida College of Medicine, authors of the article.
So what’s a woman in transition to do? Often, we go to our girlfriends for advice on how they’re managing symptoms, from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to alternative therapies like acupuncture, herbs and supplements. The problem is, menopause affects every woman differently, and what works for your best friend or sister may not be the best treatment for you.
Recognizing the gap in medical support for women in menopause, Microsoft exec-turned entrepreneur Jill Angelo stepped in to solve the problem, launching a platform called genneve, which she describes as “the first ever online clinic for women in menopause.”
Embracing “The Second Half”
Angelo decided to start genneve after a conversation with Jacqueline Brandwynne, a longtime business strategist who helped build Neutrogena from a small soap company into a global beauty empire that was acquired by Johnson & Johnson for $924 million in 1994.
“I remember sitting in Jackie’s living room in Los Angeles,” Angelo recalls. “We were talking about the lack of resources for women over forty, even though when women hit our forties we still have our whole second half of life to live.”
”Our brain health, our bone health, our heart health, they all change during menopause,” Angelo continues. “If we can start to impact how women live from this point on, we can actually start to impact the onset of things like Alzheimer’s and heart disease and even osteoporosis.”
Angelo started the company with a line of feminine care products, including personal lubricants and body wash, to treat symptoms women experience as hormones decline. These products serve as a revenue source as Angelo builds out her larger vision for the company– a trusted community where women in midlife can go for advice, support and treatment.
Where Medical Care Is Failing Women
By 2020, more than 50 million women will be older than 51 years, the average age of menopause, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Close to three quarters of them will experience symptoms including hot flashes, mood changes and sleep problems that can hurt their quality of life and lead to higher healthcare costs.
“There are 34 common symptoms that women experience in menopause,” explains Angelo. “Yet, only 7% of women get the treatment they need. Our healthcare system is failing us.”
Genneve is working with North American Menopause Society (NAMS) to certify health care specialists in menopause treatment. This is includes doctors, mental health specialists, and nutrition and lifestyle oriented practitioners.
“Our goal down the road is to use economies of scale and machine learning on the data we’re collecting to automate more on demand care at a lower price point,” Angelos says. “There should be no reason why women don’t have access to menopause specialists.”
“Thank God, I’m Not Going Crazy”
A frequent comment Angelo gets from her 30,000 monthly users is, “Thank God, I’m not going crazy.”
“That’s the power of the community,” she explains. “Women are experiencing the same thing and want to talk about it. If they get any ounce of comfort or support from genneve, they’re going to recommend it to five of their friends,” she explains.
By connecting this community of women to a curated network of menopause experts– something no one else is doing at this point, Angelo points out– the company intends to become the “first ever, online clinic for women in menopause.”
Getting Comfortable With Failure
Entrepreneurship is new to Angelo. She spent 15 years at Microsoft, most recently as Chief of Staff to the CMO. The hardest part of being an entrepreneur, she admits, is learning how to fail and be okay with it.
“Being comfortable with failure, and learning how to ask for help, that’s what makes or breaks you as an entrepreneur,” she explains.
She says her biggest failure to date has been not surrounding herself with supportive people.
“I never realized the extent to which you need your board, your advisors, your team to be constantly putting energy into you, versus piling on the pressure, or sucking you dry with worry about things that may not work,” she explains. “I’ve been too slow at moving those types of non-supportive people off my roster.”
She’s also learned the value of slowing down and being more thoughtful in her decision-making.
“I have over-eagerness to innovate,” she admits, “versus being patient and focused. Earlier this year, I was very eager to upgrade our platform and made a poor choice on the development team. We pushed out the technology too soon, and it broke our search.”
The site’s 25,000 monthly visitors plummeted to zero because Google no longer knew what to look for. Angelo had to make the tough decision to take down the new site, let the dev team go, and start over.
“It was an expensive mistake,” Angelo concedes.
January 9, 2019 at 12:13PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs