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“If I don’t do it, who else is going to?”: Meet Caia, the medtech striving to provide personal healthcare squads for Aussie women

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

Caia

Caia co-founder and chief Cortina McCurry. Source: supplied.

It’s not yet six months’ old, but with some funding under its belt and a global mindset, medtech startup Caia is setting out to get women talking about — and getting to know — their bodies.

Having formed through the inaugural Antler startup generator program, Caia secured $100,000 in seed funding and went on to pitch to more than 1000 attendees at Antler’s Demo Day last week.

Another 1000 people tuned into to hear the pitch via a live feed.

The platform is designed to give women easy access to healthcare practitioners, through video consultations, and to get women talking about their bodies and the weird things they do.

Whether it’s your first period, pregnancy, conditions such as endometriosis or going through the menopause, “no one talks about it”, Caia co-founder and chief Cortina McCurry tells StartupSmart.

“You can just assume that everyone has a story associated with some frustration, as a woman, that they’ve experienced in health,” she says.

Already, the Caia team has launched what McCurry calls a “public beta” of the platform with a subset of 10 practitioners, specialising in general health and wellbeing, pregnancy and menopause support.

“For us, it’s really about learning and making sure we get that customer experience right,” she says.

A single source of truth

Ultimately, McCurry has a vision of a global solution, providing women access to health experts wherever they are in the world, and even offering a holistic and integrated, personalised healthcare squad.

On average, women deal with three to four practitioners at any time, McCurry says. But those individuals don’t tend to communicate.

If a Caia user decides to give a practitioner access to what she’s discussing with the others, “they now have a single source of truth”, McCurry explains.

“And as a united care team they can organise around how can we help this particular woman be as well as she can.”

More than a ‘niche’

For McCurry, the core idea for Caia is something she’s been mulling over for about four years.

But the spark for action came when she was working in a previous corporate role. She was trying to launch a symposium to bring people together to talk about innovation in women’s health.

“People would say, ‘oh, that’s an interesting idea, isn’t that a bit niche?’,” she recalls.

“Of course it’s not niche, we’re just over 3.7 billion of the population. It’s not a niche issue.”

Others expressed concern that, in the name of equality, men’s health should be discussed too. And it should, McCurry says.

“It’s a big elephant. Yes, there are challenges with men as well,” she acknowledges.

“But we have to start somewhere.”

It was only in 1993 that women were officially required in medical trials, she notes. Historically, medical research has focused on men, and treatments have been created with men in mind.

“There’s this whole world that explains why we are where we are today,” says McCurry.

“But I think we can move on from, and solve for that,” she adds.

“And if I don’t do it, who else is going to do it?”

A business no-brainer

As they have developed the Caia platform, McCurry and co-founder Rob Haggett have reached out to form partnerships with other organisations.

“When it comes to tackling this problem, it really is about getting plugged into this ecosystem,” McCurry explains.

They’re also working on building out the tech platform so they can extend the product to enterprises and workplaces.

“This isn’t just another wellness program,” she says.

“When you actually invest in employees and give them the services they need at different life stages, you’re going to see an impact on productivity.”

According to McCurry, 43% of new mothers who go back to work end up leaving the workforce within a year. But 75% of those say they wished they didn’t have to.

“That’s a really large number … they’re not getting the support they need,” she says.

There’s a clear point here about inclusivity. But it’s also just good business.

If a woman comes back to the workforce and leaves again, the cost of lost productivity and re-hiring can amount to up to about $136,000, McCurry says.

“If a company can keep ten women by giving them the support they need, that’s a no-brainer. That’s $1.36 million.”

People-centricity

Having worked as a consultant for more than 10 years, McCurry stresses the importance of creating a culture where people feel valued. Of course, she’s striving to bring that ethos to Caia.

“We’re baking that in now,” she says.

“We’re starting to think about who we’re hiring, who we’re bringing on the team and the culture we want to have.”

While at such an early stage many startups are thinking only about the product, the pitch and keeping customers happy, for McCurry, building a successful company is about more than that.

“Customers matter, and customer centricity is critical. But, people-centricity and ensuring that the people you have in your organisation are happy and well and thriving, that’s how you deliver better customer centricity,” she says.

“There’s this huge focus on customer-centricity, and you can’t lose that. But I think the organisations that do best are the ones that put their people first.”

StartupSmart was invited to Antler HQ as the official media partner of Antler Demo Day 2019.

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is the editor at StartupSmart. You can contact her at [email protected].