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Healthtech December 3, 2021

Meet Olivia: the startup women over 40 have been waiting for

A massive 84% of women say menopause have a negative impact on their life – but 80% of doctors say they don’t have enough knowledge in this area to detect symptoms early on. We spoke to Olivia co-founder Hannah Lindström to discuss how their app bridges this gap and get her advice for other entrepreneurs in femtech.

Olivia co-founders Hannah Lindström (left) and Amy Aanen (right). Photo by our friend Theo Zätterström.

Tell us about the team behind Olivia.

Everyone has really different backgrounds. I used to live in New York doing marketing and PR and when I moved back to Sweden I started thinking about doing something closer to my heart and my passion: female biohacking. After a while, I started thinking about how I could move beyond the holistic side of things and make a bigger impact. I felt there are so many period trackers and apps for fertility, but nothing to help people actually feel better and understand their hormones so they can take better care of themselves.  

Then I met Amy, who was then part of Antler, by chance. She had started Olivia a few months prior, and she needed a new co-founder. At the same time I was thinking about doing something similar for women in their fertile years, but the more I learnt the more I realized menopausal women is such an underserved market and a lot of the knowledge I had was extremely relevant.

Amy started out working in e-commerce, and she’s been everywhere! She’s from the Netherlands, but she’s lived in Berlin, Malaysia, South Africa, and then moved to Sweden to work with Kry with international expansion. She is very much an excel sheet wizard. 

Then we have Omima, our CTO, a total rockstar. I mean, super, super talented. And she keeps me and Amy in place. I usually go into a mad creative spiral like ‘this is so amazing, we have to do this!’, and Omima is like ‘No way. Where’s the data? Where’s the strategy?’. So we really complement each other. Then we also have talents in content creation, UX and UI design as well as on the medical side. 

What’s it like starting a company with someone you don’t know?

Well, it’s weird because it’s like getting married without even going on a date, but it’s been really good. Being on a startup journey is really not easy. I read somewhere that why most startups fail is because the founders don’t get along. Communication is key, both on who does what and how to go about it with the company, especially when the team grows and it’s not just the founders anymore, but also emotionally. You can’t assume the other person knows how you feel, so you might as well talk about it even if it feels silly. 

Why do women need Olivia?

As women, we’re all very aware when we get our first period, aware of the process of becoming pregnant, and even pregnancy. Everybody has a period tracker, or an app telling them how big their baby is right now. But when it comes to menopause, they get virtually no support. Most women have no idea what’s coming and they’re usually taken off guard.

So a big aspect of it is what we want to see happen in society – in terms of supporting mature women – and change the way we approach things. It should be as common for a woman who’s 45 to think ‘okay menopause is probably around the corner, I need to think about how I can take care of myself to make it easier’, just the same way we do if we want to get pregnant. We consider how we’re living our lives, and stop drinking and smoking our brains out. Menopause can be a very turbulent time and it’s important to take care of yourself. Many also experience mental symptoms that no one really talks about, and often feel like they have to hide their physical symptoms. 

So we created something offering research-based biohacking that’s simple and approachable and allows people to implement things in their life easily and understand why they’re doing it.

Why is this so important to you and your team?

Well, we’re not menopausal yet, but it’s going to happen! There’s also such a huge emotional aspect to it. We’re helping women feel supported and heard, which is what gets me up in the morning. I’m not just doing some bullshit, it’s something that really makes a difference in the world. But I guess everyone thinks they’re saving the world with their product! 

I think a lot about the equality aspect too. We need more women in boardrooms, but reaching that sort of level usually happens at the same time as menopause. How are we going to create an equal future if we don’t take that into consideration? Women need to feel like they have the energy to be in power. Michelle Obama has talked about being at the White House and getting hot flashes, she was just so uncomfortable. We need to make sure that women feel good and don’t step away from the workplace, and of course, live the best life they can.

So how does Olivia work?

Olivia is a digital therapeutics app that coaches women through menopause. The app offers a tracking function to keep track of symptoms as well as lifestyle habits that may be making the symptoms worse, and also learn about what’s going on in your body and mind when going through this phase of life. The app also provides the users with personalized programs on what you can do yourself to decrease symptoms, where we offer support in how to get better sleep quality, stress relief, how to rest in other ways than by just sleeping, having less hot flashes etc. The app is developed with top health experts and academic advisors, so it’s all based on the latest research-backed evidence. 

What unexpected challenges have you faced on your startup journey so far? 

I didn’t expect it to be this tough, or the amount of disappointment you feel on a personal level when things don’t go according to plan. I thought it would be easier (laughs) but there’s a reason people say building a company is really, really hard. 

And you have to kind of get used to feeling like you’re failing, and getting back up every time you’re knocked down. Now, when something happens we’re just like, alright, it’s not the right timing, and remind ourselves why we’re here. You want to do so many things it’s hard to know where to start, and if it’s actually the right thing. 

We spent a long time working on features of the app, and when we did user testing we just didn’t get the response we wanted. We realized it wasn’t the right format, and we had to rethink everything. That was hard because you just expect everyone to love it as much as you do, but then you have to go back to the drawing table and start again. It’s tough, especially in the beginning because you believe in what you do and you realize it was only you who did. 

But the positive side is you can grow a lot as a person. If you’re open to it and see every setback as a learning experience, you can have the best growth journey ever and it can be such a fantastic ride. It’s the best school that you could ever be part of, if you are open to it. But you really need to leave your ego at the door. 

So what’s your advice for other entrepreneurs?

Be open-minded. But most of all: don’t stop. Take feedback when feedback is necessary. But also remember you know your product better than everyone else, you know your market more, but of course, have the data to support what you’re doing. It’s hard not to get hurt by one person’s personal opinion, like if an investor thinks your product won’t fly. Well, fuck it, there are others who will. Never lose faith in yourself. If you don’t believe in it, it’ll never work. 

You need to be obsessed. Discipline triumphs passion every single day. You have to work really, really hard to have just a little bit of luck.

But know when to rest. The company won’t work unless you do. There will always be things that need to be done, you will never be finished. Make sure to press pause and take time off once in a while. Recharge your mind and your emotions, you will be better acquitted both as a founder and as a manager in the long run by prioritizing your own well-being. 

What’s been the best moment so far at Sting?

Something Krim Talia said in a coach meeting. We were talking about when to release the product and saying we’re not ready, we need to do more, it needs to be perfect. And Krim just told us to release it, and said if 200 people hate it, who cares? When you have 20 million users it won’t matter, and no one knows who you are yet anyway. I thought this was such a healthy way to look at it and a great wake up call. We wanted it to be superduper perfect, and he just told us to stop being afraid that someone won’t like it. At the moment, good is good enough. 

So what’s next for Olivia?

We’ve so far gained a lot of organic traction and gathered some amazing insights with the product that is currently live, and we’re now getting ready to release our 2.0 version in just a few weeks, which is super exciting! We are also shipping off a new brand identity which has been a tedious process. So a lot of fun and exciting things are happening for us right now and a lot of hard work is starting to pay off a little bit! We are very much looking forward to the year ahead and everything it will have in store, we are so ready for it! 

Would you like to learn more about Olivia?

Visit their website or reach out to Hannah: hannah@join-olivia.com

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