Innovation Blog

Female Innovators Share Insights on Pivoting in Challenging Times 

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The Women in Digital Health initiative at MassChallenge HealthTech is focused on providing female entrepreneurs and innovation executives with the content, resources, and supportive community to empower them as leaders in digital health. Since launching the initiative in 2018, we have hosted quarterly panels, lively discussions, and networking events in Boston. The initiative encourages learning, networking and finding opportunities to support women in digital health both personally and professionally.

On Friday May 8th, we had the opportunity to partner with Accenture to co-host a virtual discussion, where female innovation leaders and executives shared their experiences pivoting business strategies during challenging economic times. Our event speakers included: Floren Pressman-Robinson, Interactive Life Sciences Lead at Accenture; Amy Van Haren, Founder and CEO of pumpspotting; Beverly Hardy, Associate Director of Digital Business Development at Sanofi; and Jen Horonjeff, CEO of Savvy Cooperative. If you missed out and are interested in viewing the event, you can watch a recording on YouTube. Otherwise, here are some key takeaways from the event:

1. Understand how a challenging time can adjust your business. Lean in and be more agile.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought on an onset of economic challenges globally; with that, a majority of organizations are leaning in or experiencing layoffs. Despite the challenging times, the healthcare industry has been looking to drive innovation to solve this massive challenge. Floren Pressman-Robinson, our event moderator, asked the speakers about their organization’s business strategy and how they are adjusting their plans as a result of the pandemic.

Bev Hardy shared her experiences working at a global healthcare company like Sanofi who is in the trenches of finding a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I am fortunate to work in an industry which is important in the global COVID-19 response, and this work needs to continue. We were brought in as an early partner to complement such efforts. We will continue to be relentless in the pursuit of prioritization.”

On the other hand, our entrepreneurs shared a different perspective compared to Bev’s. Jen Horonjeff highlighted her company’s need to adjust to the pandemic but also support patients during these challenging times. “We are spending time to help people adjust to this new environment. However, we felt conflicted as first because we continuously asked ourselves ‘how do we support these patients?’”

Amy Van Haren provided insights on how the new environment impacted her end users. “The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that there are greater needs for mothers, so we have been seeing a lot more activity during these challenging times. It has brought new challenges for us but also a desire to serve as many mothers as we can.”

2. Focus on your end user and think before you pivot.

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing organizations to think about adjusting their business strategies, one question is still top of mind, as our moderator Pressman-Robinson shared during the discussion: “Is it always necessary to pivot during challenging times?” The panelists agreed that before you commit to a pivot in your business strategy, it is vital to consider who will be impacted: most likely your end user.

Van Haren shared how these challenging times were impacting new mothers. “Although pumpspotting is trying to do the work we need to, we are constantly thinking about how this new environment is impacting mothers. A lot of our work currently revolves around thinking about our mobile app and how mothers are interacting with it.”

Savvy Cooperative, a disease agnostic cooperative, is working to empower patients to speak up and improve health innovation. Horonjeff also emphasized the need to support all patients during the pandemic. “Our ultimate mission, especially during the pandemic, is to ensure that everyday people don’t get lost. We want to hear from diverse individuals and understand how they are impacted.”

3. It takes a village to innovate. Build relationships and support one another.

We all need to lean on each other, especially during these challenging times. Our panelists shared tips on how to use your network and leverage each other.  Horonjeff gave her advice to fellow entrepreneurs: “Surround yourselves with programs like MassChallenge who can provide you with resources you need to keep your business going.”

Hardy shared advice on building relationships when thinking about pivoting not only their business strategy but also their professional careers. “A great piece of advice I received is to create a personal board of advisors. Identify the 3 to 5 people who have an experience with you as well as help you make decisions.”

Hardy also shared tips on building relationships in the workplace. “Communicate frequently, use Slack, and don’t forget to add fun and levity to your team. It’s important to set clear guidelines to ensure people can work as productively as they can at home.”

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