Hi Ksenia, FEM-START is happy to have you with us today! Tell us, what inspired you to start your own businesses, and how did you come up with Lizz Health and Cardiomo?
I am not a first time founder and it is my fourth company. I joined Lizz Health last year, I met my co-founder Martijn at Dutch Health Week in Utrecht and I’ve loved the idea of Lizz and I saw how I could add value to company and product as experienced entrepreneur with skills and the ability to develop the vision of the company in terms of business strategies, development and manufacturing of medical devices. They had a good solution but lack of commercial and business skills so I thought I could bring it to the market and through the certification process as I did with my own device for Cardiomo.
Cardiomo is the company that I founded and I work for it 4 days a week. While for Lizz Health I work one day a week. But for Cardiomo, our team created the device, software and algorithms, everything from scratch. We are a scaleup now and have obtained clinical validation for the product. We have launched the pilots in 6 different countries. Our product is a medical device that’s why it’s a long way to bring it to the market. It is certified in Ukraine and available there. In Europe and the US, there is a longer process but we started marketing it and passed several audits for medical device certification. We can launch pilots but we are not able to sell at the moment, in the US you need to be on-site as well to launch. The US is a big market so we hope to launch there as well as Europe in the future.
What are some essential steps and actions you took to get your business off the ground?
For Lizz Health, we are at an early stage and a small company with a small team. We did launch 4 pilots in 4 countries, with promising results. As a next step, we are now preparing the RCT. We are aiming to be a medical device. Lizz is a social robot and can be used both in-clinic and at home. When it becomes a medical device it can be used as an integral part of treatment. A large step we are currently working on to implement is to use new AI, so it can communicate with patients more fluently, recognize the voice and develop personalized dialogs. Certification of these AI modules is a challenge, but it opens up the hospital market.
For Cardiomo, my goal is to finish certification processes and increase sales in Europe and in the US. Since I moved from the US to Europe, I do need to find a local management for the US market, establish connections there and scale up the company there and stay in as a founder.
Did it occur at any time you had to pivot your business model or quickly implement changes in how you work as a CEO and with your team?
When you launch a product you have some thoughts around the business model but this is the difference between startups and big companies, you can quickly pivot and change as a startup. You never know how well it will work so you need to be ready to switch a strategy. The ability to adapt quickly, make informed decisions, and communicate effectively with the team is crucial. Often the change is an opportunity for growth and innovation, and challenges are a catalyst for improvement in the business strategy.
You are the founder of multiple companies, how do you balance priorities and each business and implement to make them all so successful?
I try to allocate specific time blocks for each business. I make a specific day for Lizz, but I need to be ready to change. It is never fixed, some days I need to prioritize Lizz Health and work on the weekends for Cardiomo. Some weeks, I work less on Cardiomo. It is about creating flexibility in your schedule, as an entrepreneur this is very hard and balancing with a family, you need to learn how to prioritize. For Cardiomo, I am travelling to Japan next week, and when the business trip day ends, I work on Lizz Health and finish up the work. I have deadlines to stick to. Balancing priorities across the companies requires from me strategic planning, effective delegation, and a focus on key principles.
I have worked hard since a young age, but this is what gives me energy, my work and my business. And when you create your own product that can help millions of people you feel really proud of this and it motivates you to do more.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you made along the way, and what did you learn from them?
Running a startup comes with its own set of challenges, and as a CEO I made mistakes along the way. I think you learn from your mistakes and it is bound to happen to first time entrepreneurs. You need to be ok with that. Some of my biggest mistakes I can mention for example, insufficient long-term planning or choosing the wrong manufacturing site for Cardiomo which was very costly.
For certification in medical devices, you can not miss a thing in documentation. The process is long and changing someone in your team is not difficult but everything needs to be in order and if you miss this, it can be a problem. I would say certification and manufacturing are things you need to be diligent with, and I learned from it to be very careful now.
What is your biggest achievement since founding the company, and how did you get there?
I think my biggest achievement was clinical validation of the product, adoption by healthcare professionals and positive patient outcomes. When you have a software, it is easier to get users early on. We were creating a hardware device with software, so it was much harder to access customers. When you create a device, you can physically hold it and when your customer also gets to have it and give feedback on how it is useful for it is really nice. As a team, we did save someone’s life in Europe. He was a user of our pilot Cardiomo device. The device detected an unusual trait in the patient, he informed us and his doctor who did check what the device had picked up. He was scheduled for surgery early on, and this saved his life! The fact our pilot device picked up something that saved his life is a humbling and proud moment.
What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs, particularly those who do not seem to believe they can do it?
Dare to start, fear will always hold you back. So I think if you have an idea, that this is something you want to pursue, go for it, don’t let fear of failure dictate you. The first and most fundamental step is to believe in your own abilities. Confidence in your skills and vision is a powerful driver of success. You never know as an entrepreneur if a company succeeds but you learn from it, it is about resilience. For female entrepreneurs, there is a lack of funding, but it is widely known we bring in more successful investment returns than men. Believe in your abilities and take bold steps towards your entrepreneurial goals.
What’s next for Lizz Health and Cardiomo? What can we expect?
We aim to raise a new round of investment, we know the market and how to implement the changes required with the amount allocated. We also want to continue with medical certification and it improves the trust and reliability of the healthcare companion if we have that certification, so these are our next steps!
You can find out more about Ksenia’s companies Cardiomo and LizzHealth by clicking on the links directly!