Women in Health Entrepreneurship

When it comes to healthcare and entrepreneurship, there is no such thing as a founder journey without challenges, hurdles, difficulties or dilemmas.  That said, across the system, it is often the case that female-identifying and diverse individuals face particular and specific barriers that are not always faced by their counterparts.

For example, 63% of men are highly confident about raising their next round versus just 10% of females (The State of Australian Startup Funding Report).

At the MedTech Actuator, we’re for founders.  And this means really understanding the diversity of experiences of entrepreneurs from all corners of the system, and from multiple backgrounds and contexts. The MedTech Actuator is creating opportunities so more women can learn about and participate in the healthcare innovation ecosystem.  

In this blog, we’re sharing key tips from the expert panel at the recent MedTech Actuator Women who lunch. And keep reading to check out more ecosystem opportunities and to sign up for upcoming MedTech Actuator events near you.

Women Who Raise
Women Who Raise | MedTech, BioTech and HealthTech

Women Who Raise | MedTech, BioTech and HealthTech

Last month, the MedTech Actuator hosted Lunch Chats: Women Who Raise – MedTech, BioTech, and HealthTech, putting female founders at the helm of the conversation to talk about capital raising. 

Dr Anabela Correia – CEO and Managing Director at LiVac, Rachel Yang – Partner at Giant Leap, and Tanisha Banaszczyk – Principal at Folklore Ventures joined the panel and provided a broad overview of the investment experience in Australia. We’ve wrapped up the panels’ key tips and tricks for navigating fundraising for MedTech, BioTech, and HealthTech startups.

Tips and tricks for successfully raising capital

1. Prepare, prepare some more, then go back and prepare again. 

“I’ve learned to prepare and I can’t overemphasise – prepare! It takes us about three months to get ready for a capital raise and to set up a really detailed data room. We pride ourselves on (the fact) that if an investor asks us a question we can answer it straight away. There is no hesitation. That helps to keep the conversation moving… It is all about preparation,” – Dr Anabela Correia, CEO and Managing Director at LiVac.

2. Understand the path you’re taking before you even begin. Start by reading Venture Deals or watching some of Startup Vic panel discussions (recommended by Rachel Yang – Partner at Giant Leap).

3. Know who you’re pitching to and know your investor’s mandate. There is no point speaking to an investor who doesn’t invest in early-stage startups if that is what you are. Do your research. 

4. Getting noticed by investors can be hard. Accelerator programs like the MedTech Actuator Accelerator can get you in front of potential investors. And ecosystem partners such as Startup Vic, Fishburners and What the Health?! often run investment focused events where you can learn more and meet people.

“We really nurture our networks. We’re constantly updating investors on our progress, at least once a month, and we often stop by for coffee. They’re part of the LiVac family. These relationships are really important to us,” Dr Anabela Correia,CEO and Managing Director at LiVac

5. If this is your first time seeking investment, talk to others who have been there before. Use your founder network as a support group, a sounding board, and a pathway for warm introductions.

6. A lot can happen before that first meeting. Investors will want a pitch deck, some market context and even anecdotal evidence from a trusted community member. Don’t be alarmed if they perform their own due diligence too. Be ready to answer any questions and send over all requested documents before you sit down for the first conversation.

7. In the early stages, it is all about the founders and the team. 

“It is very much a people game… really we want to know that the people behind the business are there doing their life’s work, growing the business and that they’re executors – they can get the things done that they need to get done and also attract a strong team around them,” Rachel Yang, Partner at Giant Leap.

8. Impact has to come from within and it has to be woven into the very fabric of what you’re building. Be prepared to start measuring impact potential.

“(Giant Leap) looks for impact embedded in the business model. So what that means if for every dollar invested, there is a unit of impact… In the healthcare space, it is things like improved health outcomes, healthcare savings to the broader system,” – Rachel Yang, Partner at Giant Leap.

9. The ecosystem is optimistic about digital health and its impact on healthcare, so there has never been a better time to dive into healthcare startups, especially if you’re a female founder.

“When you think about what opportunities are out there and where there is the most potential for innovation in a space, it is about what problems can be solved. (Investors) are really optimistic about… the digital health space and digital therapeutics. The ability to solve these (healthcare) problems at scale is really exciting.” – Rachel Yang, Partner at Giant Leap.

What’s next?

There are many opportunities for you to explore entrepreneurship across the healthcare innovation ecosystem. Join the MedTech Actuator at an upcoming event near you:

  • Morning with Women in Health Entrepreneurship – Join the MedTech Actuator and partners for a morning exploring what it takes to be an entrepreneur in the healthcare ecosystem. This event will speak to the hurdles and challenges often faced by female-identifying and diverse individuals in healthcare. Anyone interested in healthcare entrepreneurship is welcome to attend. Reserve your seat today.
  • The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship – if you’re an early-stage researcher or post-graduate student interested in innovating in human health then the Menzies Scholarship is perfect for you. Applications open soon. Register your interest here.
  • The MedTech Actuator Office Hours – we’ve opened up our calendars and would love to sit down with emerging female and diverse founders. From friendly intros to questions about programs to soundboard, Makenzie would love to chat with you. Book a call today!

The MedTech Actuator is actively opening and fostering an inclusive MedTech innovation ecosystem. We strongly encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds to engage with our community and apply to our programs. 

This post was created by Makenzie Thomas, Program and Community Coordinator, and, Simran Jain, Marketing Coordinator, at MedTech Actuator

Meet Shanna – Project Officer

Project Officer Shanna Lam works with the MedTech Actuator team to organise and provide project management support for the MedTech Actuator programs, including the flagship 12-month MedTech Actuator Accelerator, the idea-stage innovation competition Origin, Menzies Scholarship and Fellowship and its community across Australia and the Asia-Pacific. 

As a recent graduate from the University of Melbourne with a Master of Biomedical Engineering, Shanna brings project management skills along with STEM knowledge to the role. During her final year at the university, Shanna undertook Biodesign Innovation as a capstone subject, which introduced her to the world of MedTech innovation. During the unit, Shanna and her Team – Venosense – applied the interdisciplinary concepts to design an innovative medical device. 

Her team’s project was focused on transforming peripheral intravenous visualisation through the use of a 3D imaging system that would help improve the accuracy of cannulation procedures. Cannulation is one of the most widely performed invasive procedures in medicine, and their invention had the potential to make a significant difference to the patient experience and quality of healthcare. This experience inspired her to get involved in the startup community. 

“I love learning new things and being challenged, so I’m very excited to join Medtech Actuator”, says Shanna. 

The opportunity to help MedTech Actuator programs run as smoothly as possible to help new founders make an impact with their innovative technologies is what drives her. 

Shanna is inspired by how much Medtech Actuator has already achieved in just a few years, and is now looking forward to more accomplishments in the future.

“I can’t wait to work with all the new startups making a difference in Medtech”.

Outside of work, Shanna likes to travel, play board games, and sew. 

Meet our team

More on how the MedTech Actuator team is supporting Asia Pacific’s next wave of health innovators – meet: 

Meet Matt – Commercial & Partnership Director

Commercial and Partnership Director Matt Frith works with the MedTech Actuator team to develop and drive the execution of strategies to ensure the long term growth of the MedTech Actuator, and its programs such as MedTech Actuator Accelerator, Origin, Menzies Scholarship and Fellowship, and its ecosystem across Australia and the Asia-Pacific. This includes engaging with and supporting startup founders and developing and managing strategic relationships with key partners and stakeholders across public policy, health, and innovation ecosystems.

With an Executive MBA with Distinction from RMIT University, Matt is a successful and impact-driven senior leader with over 15 years of industry and innovation ecosystem experience leading and delivering complex commercial projects and partnerships to drive business and profit growth and social impact. His partnerships experience spans senior Sales & Marketing and Commercial roles in global manufacturing businesses with responsibility for managing teams, annual revenue budgets ranging from $40-$80 million, and strategic relationships with key partners across Australia, NZ and Asia.

Creating impact through innovation 

Matt has built programs to support, and collaborated with inventors, researchers, and technical R&D experts to successfully commercialise and translate new innovations. He worked within RMIT’s Activator team to establish and implement the inaugural startup and innovation programs. And for the last 4 years, he has supported The University of Queensland with the commercial development and launch of evidence-based digital health intervention, BeUpstanding, which is being used by thousands of employees to improve their health at work. 

With a passion for generating impact through innovation, Matt founded kin8 and over the last 7 years has delivered innovation commercialisation and change management projects for a network of diverse clients including RMIT University, The University of Queensland, JLL, Haworth, TALi Health, Fire Protection Association, Whitehorse City Council, LaunchVic, Defence Innovation Hub, The Victorian Government, and the Shared Value Project. 

“I’m looking forward to building on the solid foundation of existing relationships, networks, and diverse MedTech Actuator partners, and developing new collaborations that create mutual value”, says Matt.

Matt is super excited with the momentum and the ambitious growth plans that are in motion to further scale MedTech Actuator in the Asia Pacific region. With this, he can support an even greater number of founders to successfully commercialise innovative new technologies that will change the face of healthcare. He is passionate about the MedTech, HealthTech, and BioTech innovations leading to more personalised health care and a future where we can better understand, prevent, and treat mental health conditions.

“I’m driven to rapidly expand MedTech Actuator’s impact even further, and I’m inspired by founders that have the courage to take on the challenge of developing an innovative MedTech, HealthTech or BioTech startup.”



Meet our team

More on how the MedTech Actuator team is supporting Asia Pacific’s next wave of health innovators – meet: 

Synchron: Unlocking The Natural Highways Of The Brain

Synchron founders and inaugural MedTech Actuator Origin alumni Associate Professor Thomas Oxley and Professor Nicholas Opie spoke with us recently about their journey to unlock the natural highways of the brain. 

For startups who may be struggling with funding, technology and doors closing, Thomas and Nicholas’ story shows that curiosity, resilience, drive and friendship are key to success in the long road of MedTech innovation.

On consciousness and Astro Boy

Tracing early childhood’s influence on life-changing innovation.

Thomas: As a boy growing up, conversations with my father got me thinking about wanting to do new things. I think innovation is a curiosity, or wanting to change the way that things are into something new. And from a very young age I was fascinated with things that we didn’t understand, or things that we didn’t know. 

“My conversations with my father about philosophy and space kept pushing me towards the areas of the unknown.”

Thomas talking about the origins of his innovation during MedTech’s Got Talent (now known as MedTech Actuator Origin) Gala Final 2013

I remember deciding quite early on as a teenager that there were three big mysteries that were worth chasing in life: the brain, the ocean, and outer space. I was exposed to things around the brain when I was quite young and it was this big black box mystery to me.

A lot of people go into medicine because they have an experience in their family, or they want to be healers. I went into medicine with a fascination around what was not known. I was drawn to solving mysteries around what the brain is, and what consciousness is.

When I finished medicine, I was first exposed to brain computer interfaces (BCI) on night shift in 2008. I saw a scientific piece about the first human implant with a BCI. And it just set off my imagination with what it could mean and where it could go. 

And this was all, I think, the origin of my person.

Nicholas: For me it was a little bit different. My fascination came from cartoons: Inspector Gadget, Astro Boy. I watched those cartoons as a kid and said, “I want to do that. I want to build robotic devices that people can use.” And this has stemmed throughout my career.

When Nick saw Astro Boy as a child when he was 6 learning to make things he said, “I want to do that.”

I did science and engineering at university and then continued on that passion, developing prosthetic devices and bionic eyes. 

“I tried to find ways that I could make technology using my hands, and help people who didn’t have any other option.”

I did a lot of research and academic work, and solved a lot of interesting problems. But in academia, at least from my perspective, there was this continual cycle of, “There’s a new problem – you solve it. There’s a new problem – you solve it.” 

Sure, we found new knowledge and that was great. But it didn’t seem to make a big impact on the community at large. 

It was really only when meeting Tom, and we came up with the idea of making a technology that goes inside blood vessels as a novel way to access the brain and learn the information contained within, that we really had the chance and opportunity to say:

 

“It’s now up to us. Do we want to continue this cycle of learning? Or is there a way that we can really push this forward and make sure it gets to the people that need it.”

Tom and I were well aligned early on that this was the path we wanted to take. And this started progressing with the MedTech Actuator Origin (then known as MedTech’s Got Talent) helping us along the way, showing us what it means to turn from academia or research into a commercial company.

Nicholas and Thomas took out the top prize for Synchron at the inaugural MedTech’s Got Talent (now known as MedTech Actuator Origin) Gala Final 2013.

“Hello World” – the first direct-thought tweet 

When Philip communicated with the world through thought.

Thomas: The first patient was implanted with the Synchron brain computer interface back in August 2019. He had his first system and was using WhatsApp within a few weeks of having turned the system on. 

Then the idea for direct-thought tweets came about at the end of 2021, as a feel-good Christmas story. A patient that we work with, Philip O’Keefe, [voice cracks a little with emotion] is an amazing guy and just full of energy. Philip is 62 years old, and has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“Philip is facing this horrible illness and his mortality with this enthusiasm and understanding that what he is working on is hopefully going to help people in his position in years to come after him.” 

It was very stressful for Philip, with a thirty minute take-over period for him to tweet directly from my twitter account using his thoughts. His whole family was there with him.

Phil sends the world’s first-ever tweets using direct thought with the Synchron brain computer interface.

But he had his 16-year-old daughter there and his wife and the family. There were tears, it was incredible. It was a life affirming moment for Philip, and an inspiration for his family. It was really special.


Phil created these tweets from Thomas’ account using direct-thought

Building the team behind a groundbreaking technology

And the ecosystem behind the team.

Nicholas: People can learn what they need to learn. But it’s very hard to change who you are. I really go into a lot of the interviews and try to find people that I gel with, that I think are enthusiastic and have the same values, and really want to make a difference. 

If they don’t have particular skills, if they’re good enough and they want it enough – which becomes apparent when you’re speaking with them – they’ll be able to learn those skills, for the most part. 

I don’t really use the skills that I learnt in my engineering degree any more, because they’re not the ones that I’m passionate about. And I think the same goes the other way around. 

“If you’re really passionate about something then you can learn anything.”

So largely, it’s been about getting the right people – not necessarily the right skills. Skills are certainly important, you don’t want to be too far away. But we look for the right people to form a team and to form a culture of excellence, people who are enthusiastic about driving forward the mission that we have.

Thomas: Going back to really key leadership positions that we had to put in place – research and development, clinical, regulatory, and product. You also have to sell a vision – it’s not just a job now. This is a generational chance to make a contribution to something that’s going to change the world. And to do that you have to take risks, because everyone has taken a pay cut to come to the company, because there are other rewards. And so that plays into what Nick was talking about. 

“We’re looking for the risk-taking, entrepreneurial, full of life people who are willing to find ways to make it work.”

I think entrepreneurship is growing in Australia. I did notice when I moved over to the US, the cultural norm of a startup is more at the forefront of psychology there. It’s more talked about, the language is there, the words are there, there’s more of an understanding of it. And I think it’s growing now in Australia too, and that takes time.

Nicholas: I think it also comes from the education sector. When I finished my PhD along with others, we handed in our thesis, and off we went. We were done. And we didn’t know what to do next. There was no pathway. 

“But at a lot of American institutions, you have to do a final year in your PhD, whether you’re successful or not, and try to start a business out of what you’ve made.” 

So you’re already in the mindset of doing this [PhD] for the purpose of taking it further. And you’re guided – but not only guided, you’re mandated – to do that and to get that experience. 

I think it would be great to have this in Australia. To get everyone to start thinking about, ‘why am I doing this?’, and ‘if I do it, how can I take it further’? Regardless of whether it works or not, that’s not the point. 

It’s about getting in the mindset of not just doing things for the sake of doing things. But doing things because there’s a beneficial societal role that comes at the end.

On determination, resilience, and being uncrushable

Facing things not going your way, again and again.

Nicholas: I don’t know how many of those pitches you did, Tom. But you continued to do them, refining them, getting them better every time – even though it all kept shutting on you. To be able to continue doing that and then finally get to a point where someone says, ‘we’re ready to go’, that must have been a highlight for you. You put in a huge amount of effort and I don’t know how you were able to continue receiving the ‘nos’ – that’s amazing.

Thomas: Thanks Nick. I think we made contact with a particular investor in January 2019, and then the deal was done in 2021. So it took two years. And I think I counted that it was 200 engaged groups until we got the deal done and got to Series B. And now the trajectory is looking a bit different to where we were.

Nicholas: That’s a bit of a lesson for founders in MedTech Actuator programs and the innovation ecosystem more broadly. That you’ve got to have that resilience. You need to believe in yourself and your own technology. And you need to be able to face a whole lot of things not going your way, particularly in the pitching space. 

And hopefully you’ll get lucky and the timing will be right, and it’ll kick off. But you know don’t stop after two or three or five or ten – or 200! [laughs] – negative ones, right? You’ve got to keep going. The position we are in today is because Tom has had the ability to keep going and to keep searching. 

Thomas: Throughout our time working together, Nick has had this unending amount of enthusiasm and optimism that is uncrushable. A lot of people just give up or don’t have this sort of resilience. 

What I’ve loved about working with Nick for all these years is that when I get a little bit flat or down, he’s always able to bounce us back up. Sometimes he misplaces his optimism and feels that everything is going to work out! But when it’s getting tough I really feed off Nick’s resilience.

Nicholas and Thomas’ journey as friends and Founders at MedTech’s Got Talent (now known as MedTech Actuator Origin) Gala Final 2013

On answering childhood curiosities

And the calling of Inspector Gadget.

Thomas: In terms of my childhood curiosity, I think the subconscious in the brain is a massively untouched area that still seems invisible. I’m probably going to die before we get the chance to really understand that. There’s so much to learn from the brain to understand what we’re manifesting.

Nicholas: I’ll never genuinely feel like Inspector Gadget. There’s always more tricks that he can pull out of his hat. That’s a never ending story that will keep going and keep getting better. 

Learn more about Synchron, and read the Press Release announcing Philip O’Keefe’s ‘Hello World’ moment on 23 December 2021.





Meet Simran – Marketing Coordinator

Every team needs strong marketing and communication professionals to drive brand awareness, and coordinate promotional activities. As Marketing Coordinator, Simran Jain will be doing just that – bringing a unique background in marketing and biotechnology to the team at MedTech Actuator.

Simran will be managing all the marketing activities for MedTech Actuator. From content design to social media and supporting brand development, Simran will ensure that the MedTech Actuator programs reach the healthcare and startup ecosystems. On a day-to-day basis, Simran will oversee communication channels, in order to keep the community updated on MedTech Actuator Accelerator, Origin, Menzies Scholarship and Fellowship and the latest innovations and happenings.

“The core of a Marketing Coordinator’s purpose is to create value for the MedTech, HealthTech, and Biotech ecosystem. It is about communicating the opportunities to those who are driving innovation in medicine, such as startup founders, researchers, and clinicians. In doing so, I can have an impact to improve outcomes for patients and individuals who may be suffering.”

Simran holds a Master of management (marketing), with honours, from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Science (integrated) Biotechnology from VIT University, India. Before moving to Melbourne and working at social impact-focused startups, such as Far More and The Creative Co-Operative,  Simran carried out research in international labs in analytical chemistry through Mitacs Globalink Scholarship at MacEwan University, Canada, and in nanobiotechnology at the Indian Institute of Science, India. 

In addition to Simran’s marketing skillset, her background in biotechnology and applied science will enable her to connect deeply with the founders and medical technologies changing the future of healthcare in Australia and across Asia-Pacific. This dual-lens broadens Simran’s impact at MedTech Actuator beyond marketing, enabling her to identify innovation trends, and contribute to Medtech Actuator’s work with startups. 

“I am excited about the innovations emerging in MedTech and keen to see how they will revolutionise current approaches to well-being and care. I am delighted to be a part of this ecosystem and be able to contribute to the startups creating a difference.”

Meet our team

More on how the MedTech Actuator team is supporting Asia Pacific’s next wave of health innovators – meet: 

This piece was written by Makenzie Thomas, Program and Community Coordinator – MedTech Actuator.