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Spotlight on Women in AgeTech: Megan Henken and Lindsey Williams of MyUTI

By Mark Ogilbee posted 03-18-2024 03:29 PM

  
Megan Henken and Lindsey Williams of MyUTI

MyUTI is an AgeTech Collaborative™ startup participant that provides easy access to advanced testing for urinary tract infections (UTIs) from the comfort of home, along with personalized treatment guidance for the remedy most likely to resolve the source of the infection.

In this second blog post in our series honoring Women’s History Month, we spoke with MyUTI’s founders, Megan Henken and Lindsey Williams, about the company, their experiences and perspectives as women founders, and some of the unique challenges they’ve faced on their journey as entrepreneurs.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

  

Please tell us a little bit about MyUTI.

Megan: MyUTI is a digital health platform that supports individuals who are looking to get testing for urinary tract infections. We are direct-to-consumer; people visit our website, and we ship the kit to their home, where they collect a urine sample themselves. They send it into our lab, then receive the results in 24 hours.

   

What inspired you to found the company?

Megan: Lindsey and I have both been in the health care industry professionally for a number of years, and we’re very familiar with the world of clinical diagnostics, urology, oncology and women’s health. When we met in 2019, we got up on our mutual soapbox about the gaps in women’s health care — especially the topic of urinary tract infections, because they are the No. 2 infection in the U.S.

During COVID-19, we thought, “If people are doing PCR testing and swabbing their noses at home, why couldn’t they pee in a cup at home to test for UTIs?” So using our expertise as industry veterans — as well as women who understand the condition from having experienced it personally — we decided to build the platform ourselves.

    

You just mentioned the gaps in women's health care. Can you say more about that?

Lindsey: With UTIs, women often face not only the logistical hurdles of making and getting to a doctor’s appointment to get treatment, but also the stigma of repeat infections or infections that don’t resolve: Women are often gaslit in ways that put responsibility on the patient with questions like, “Are you urinating after sex? Are you wiping correctly?” And because of the activities associated with UTIs, there can be a lot of shame and stigma attached to repeat infections.

These kinds of hurdles, especially the gaslighting — “Maybe it’s all in your head” — are the kinds of experiences that women often face in clinical settings.

Megan: This particularly relates to older adults. UTIs disproportionately impact women, but especially menopausal women who are experiencing changes in hormones, which makes them more susceptible to UTIs. Someone with a UTI might assume they need an antibiotic, but there are other modalities of treatment that, with proper testing, can put them on a path to finding relief. That’s what we want to support, and that’s why our solution uses the power of diagnostic testing to identify the top pathogens associated with UTI symptoms to help support more information and discussion with a clinician.

   

What has your experience been like, as women, founding a company in the tech space?

Lindsey: In some ways, our years of experience in the clinical diagnostic space gave us some advantage and industry credibility. So from a technology standpoint, I don’t know that our gender played a role. But on the fundraising side of things, the deck was stacked against us as women founders.

Megan: There’s another layer of expectation as a woman talking about a condition: Lindsey and I were expected to be the brand, and to talk about our very personal experiences with UTIs. Women founders are often expected to represent the condition they’re speaking about to give it validity, even though all the data is already there. By contrast, you don’t really see that with companies led by men. For example, you don’t see the founders of a company that makes erectile dysfunction drugs or therapeutics out there talking about their personal experiences with ED.

   

How did you navigate these lopsided, and intrusive, expectations?

Megan: We just walked through it. Despite our long professional experience, we had no choice but to let down that professional veneer a little bit. At the same time, we had to be very clear about our boundaries and the kinds of stories we’re willing to put out there. These are very personal topics: sexual health, menopause, even how these conditions affect our family members. We had to really decide: “Are we comfortable being the face of the brand?”

Lindsey: The bottom line is that we made the commitment to be authentic to who we are. That applies to how we show up for our company on social media and how we show up with investors. We’ve also accepted that we may not be for every investor, and that’s OK. Ultimately, the right people found us and believed in us, because we were authentic and real. And we’ve been blessed to have had incredible support from an investor and advisor perspective.

I also want to make sure we touch on the good side of being a woman founder in this space: There’s a wonderful, strong, life-giving network of other women founders through which we’ve been able to develop some really great relationships and collaborations. It’s phenomenal how supportive those relationships are, and how we just show up authentically for each other.

  

How has being in the AgeTech Collaborative™ helped your mission?

Megan: In our accelerator program cohort, we met other women founders who are now in the Collaborative, and we’ve formed really helpful symbiotic relationships with them by sharing resources and collaborating — for example, going on each other’s platforms to elevate our voices. Being entrepreneurs can be very lonely, so having those connections where you can reach out, or someone reaches out to you with advice and support, is really valuable.

  

What advice would you have for other women founders?

Megan: Just build the damn thing!

Lindsey: And I would say, don’t fall into the misconception that there’s only one way to build a company. There’s the traditional path of first raising funding, then doing this, then doing that, which is what we did — but it didn’t flow perfectly. We realized that we were having our best success when we just put our heads down and focused on our solution to the problem at hand. You can build a company by being receptive to the market feedback you get, then building iteratively — even if that’s not the “ideal” path.

Megan: Also, it’s a different kind of balancing act for women who are founders and entrepreneurs. Many of us have families and children, and we’re part of that sandwich generation that’s also looking after our parents. So managing all that, along with having full-time jobs, is a difficult balancing act. In fact, we’ve come to realize that there is no such thing as balance; there’s only deciding where you’re going to push your time and energy. Some weeks you show up at 150%, and other weeks, you have 20%. But you know that at the end of the day, you have the right mission, so you just have to be OK with that.

   

What’s next for MyUTI?

Megan: We want to democratize this model of testing. We like to say that we’re “treatment agnostic,” so wherever we find other platforms and partnerships that understand this type of testing and are driven to facilitate proper treatment for people, that’s where we’ll be.

   

You can find out more about MyUTI at their website.

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