Theblood on gender diversity, “women's issues” & unbalanced capital distribution

Laura Diez

Startup Stories

Do women start up differently than men? One thing is certain - in any case, they start up less than their male colleagues and encounter more headwind. This fact is also confirmed by Isabelle Guenou and Miriam Santer, the founders of theblood.

Menstrual blood - beyond the conventional classification as waste.

Theblood is no ordinary menstrual tracking tool. The innovative startup introduces a new biological sample to the field of diagnostic testing. "Theblood menstrual test is a novel method that combines a non-invasive blood test with unique insights into the uterus. It will help reduce the stigma associated with menstruation. The team believes these tests will make a significant contribution to improving women's health care. By generating data, they will help close the gender data gap," Miriam explains.

The motivations for starting theblood lie in Isabelle's personal connection to menstrual pain. As a former competitive athlete, she experienced firsthand the sacrifices for peak performance, relying on hormonal contraceptives for years. A diagnosis of endometriosis changed the course of her life, a disease often recognized late in life. This experience propelled her to co-found theblood with Miriam. Together, they recognized the need to raise awareness about menstrual health, create a platform that educates about challenges, and also provides effective solutions and support.

Innovative health information for women: Focus on new insights through menstrual analysis

"We mainly focus on providing users with information about their health status, and ideally, these are novel insights. Our initial focus is on menstrual analysis in the context of lifestyle health, which includes aspects such as vitamins, cycle and hormonal health. In the long term, we would even like to exploit the potential for early diagnosis of chronic diseases such as endometriosis. In this regard, our non-invasive blood sample is invaluable as it contains a variety of interesting components. This data allows us to provide specific information to women without them having to make complicated medical appointments or being trapped in the traditional healthcare system. Our solution is fully digitized, which makes it even more fascinating," Miriam said.

"Just because it's a women's issue in quotes, it's treated differently!"

The focus on "women's issues" often leads to different treatment and attention. A good example of this is the treatment of erectile dysfunction, where a much more sensitive approach is evident in research. There, information is better compared and analyzed. "Gynecologists are also part of the problem and that has deeper causes. There is a lack of research and also a lack of information that female doctors often don't have," Isabelle explains.

Gender diversity is often discussed in the startup world - hands on dominates over gender

 "As a young male or female founder, you are often influenced by investors and external voices that tell you how your team should be composed. We advocate for mixed teams as they offer different approaches and perspectives that are enriching. Ultimately, however, success depends heavily on the individual. Academic degrees are not always decisive, especially when it comes to creating something completely new for which there are no proven experts yet. In such cases, the motivation and commitment of the individuals are crucial in building up the business and putting in the hard work. We experienced this ourselves when we added a physician and consultant to our team, even though neither Isabelle nor I had a medical background. However, thanks to scientists on the team, we were able to cover the necessary expertise extremely well," says Miriam. The two founders of theblood have found that it is less about gender or university backgrounds when selecting their team, and more about a potential employee showing commitment and taking initiative.

Work-life balance: Family planning and societal perceptions

"The debate about work-life balance, family planning, and widespread gendered expectations of women, particularly the assumption that women should not work and are relegated to the role of mother, continues to run through various aspects of our working world. This is also evident in corporate contexts, for example in job interviews, where questions about compatibility are often asked indirectly. It's about future plans and career prospects. Personally, I think it would be desirable if such questions were no longer central. Nowadays, many things are possible. The challenges are greater when female founders have families at the same time. It is an individual decision how to shape the role. In fundraising, personal questions were often asked, which I think are less significant," says Miriam.

Isabelle adds, "A lot is doable, but not everything at the same time. The initial phase as a founder is characterized by ambition and dedication. Priorities are set, personal aspects play a role. Questions about this are individual. There are many ways today for couples to work together to overcome challenges of raising children."

"Only 2% of venture capital goes to startups founded by women!"

"We clearly noticed that there are differences. That took time for us to accept and really understand. Women don't just start up differently, they present their ideas differently, think differently and handle their finances differently. That doesn't mean it can't be successful - it can and often is. Still, the investor community is used to a different way of doing things. Stronger numbers, strong performances, a more masculine approach to moving things forward. We, on the other hand, have been very realistic about risk from the start. We've learned to clearly communicate that as female founders, we are very willing to take risks, unlike some other females. This makes us particularly suited to grow in this entrepreneurial role or to already be successful. You emphasize such arguments and behaviors differently again as a woman to highlight your strengths and show that you are fully aware of them and can handle them. We have learned a lot in this regard. Here I always like to point out a statistic from XYZ that describes that only 2% of venture capital goes to startups founded by women!

With any startup idea or company, there are people or investors who are a perfect fit and others who are not. That's what you learn. It requires a fine sense. With our topic, we already noticed in second 3 whether someone understood whether it "clicked" with them. The subject is complex because on the one hand we have to cover basic research since it hasn't been done yet, and on the other hand we have to push a startup where we have to show traction, activate sales and show a normal growth rate. There is a tendency for women to be treated differently than men. That's a reality," says Isabelle.

Miriam adds an exciting point: "Last winter, Isabelle and I started as a couple, and later a male co-founder joined our team - that made a significant difference. The presence of a male physician confirming that our idea works often carries a special authority that men often perceive."

"Men often claim the space without resistance; their demeanor is different in that regard."

With women, that automatic respect isn't always there. It's frustrating, but it takes time for women to establish themselves and prove their worth. In contrast, men are often expected to already know what they're doing without having to prove themselves first. Men often claim space without resistance, and their demeanor is different in this regard. These are clear differences that we have noticed," Miriam explains.

On the one hand, the investor landscape should change here and open up to women as well as niche topics. On the other hand, however, young female founders in particular should not give up here. Theblood is a prime example that it works as long as you claim the space for yourself and believe in your idea.

One piece of advice for Female Founders in male-dominated fields:

"Just do it! Done is better than perfect! With this approach, we grew into the role ourselves and have come a long way so far. We've learned a lot, and we've also tried to follow advice, but sometimes we've found that it's only gotten us so far. We realized that we were much further along in other places. So, never give up, just keep going," says Isabelle.

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