The Founder Stories brings us closer to entrepreneurs and their journey creating a startup in Demium. This time, we sat down with Helena Rodemann, Head of Product and co-founder at Moonai. She and Laura-June Clarke, her co-founder, have devised a unique way to combine music and technology as a means to relieve menstrual cramps and pain. This femtech startup was born spotlessly aligned with Helena’s personal vision and mission to make the world a better place for women.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your entrepreneurial background
When someone asks me this question, I usually answer it in three buckets: I talk about my experience, a little bit about my education and then I talk about my main passions.
In terms of experience, I’ve been a UX designer for the past 7 years, working across at different stages of the product life cycle. I started in UX writing, exploring how to use words to drive people to take action, and since then I’ve moved along the different stages of the life cycle.
Before Demium, I was working as a UX and digital engagement designer for a social innovations tech lab in the US. That was a pivotal moment in my career because it really helped me understand user-centered design, specifically women-centered design, and delve more into how to be hypothesis-driven and problem-focused. I’ve also been a UX strategy consultant for different companies and startups, and have worked in design and marketing agencies for clients like HP and General Electric as well as smaller tech companies.
I’ve been in the tech and startup world for a while now, and also in the non-profit sector, so when I joined Demium, I was really ready to apply everything I had learned throughout my experience to keep leveraging technology for social impact.
In terms of education, I have a masters degree in Intervention in Gender-based Violence and that brings me to my passion, the third bucket. My ultimate mission in life is to make the world world for women, and I’ve been focusing on that both professionally and personally, as an activist. I’ve funded equality commissions and I’ve been really vocal — either by giving workshops, writing about it in different newspaper organizations, as well as advocating for it in my personal life. I am also a competitive swimmer, I swim almost every day with my team and that’s also one of my passions.
Q: What has creating Moonai taught you about femtech?
I’ve learned that femtech is a very unique space, compared to other types of spaces such as fintech or edtech. It’s surprisingly collaborative and supportive. We’ve been talking with other companies that could essentially be our competitors, but because we all share the same vision and mission, we feel united and see ourselves rather as allies or partners.
Q: What have you learned on a more personal level by creating Moonai?
I’ve been a menstrual activist for a long time, and even though it’s an area I know quite a lot about, ince founding Moonai, I’ve been learning about the powerful intersection between menstrual health and music technology. Before, I knew music and sound made me feel better, but I wasn’t aware of the extent of its impact. That’s been incredibly fascinating and motivating. Connecting that science to biology and the different factors that influence and cause menstrual pain, has been mind blowing and powerful. I hadn’t made that connection before.
Something else that’s surfaced for me throughout the journey of creating Moonai is the understanding that even though menstrual pain is common, that doesn’t make it OK. Menstrual cycles are a vital sign of our health, and pain is a symptom that something is wrong. It’s not something we just have to put up with and it needs to be addressed in more ways than it is.
We need more solutions and options for our pain, and Moonai has reiterated this personal conviction and has given me tools and insights to support my stance that more needs to be done to address menstruator’s health.
Q: What are some of the highest highs and lowest lows of your entrepreneurial journey?
Honestly, there are a lot of favorite moments. At the top of the list is when we share that we’re building a new, safe, and drug-free option for menstrual pain, the way people react has been really encouraging, especially those who experience menstrual pain. They are tremendously grateful that someone’s taking the time and effort to help them understand, manage and deal with their pain, and sitting down and talking with them, hearing what they need and learning how we can help them are definitely some of my favorite moments.
But there are also a lot of moments of stress. Pitching your idea to investors and the committee is a stressful process, and it’s been a lot of work. Thankfully, the Demium team including Álvaro Callejo and Manu Nieto have been crucial to surviving and navigating the entire process. They are really supportive to us and I don’t think we would be where we are if it hadn’t been for them.
Q: How did you end up in Demium?
Kind of by accident, honestly. Starting my own company has always been something I’ve been drawn to, and it’s not the first time I start my own project.
I came across a Facebook ad and was really drawn to the Demium model, being pre-idea pre-team. I am a big fan of navigating uncertainty and having worked in the startup world for so long, I love the idea of focusing on a problem to solve and then finding a solution. I like Demium’s “join without knowing” approach in the sense that you never know what you will end up developing. I was selected for Demium’s AllStartup weekend (we won second place!) and I went there simply thinking it would be fun and I would meet lots of interesting people. I didn’t go with a specific idea in mind or pretension, I just thought “let’s see what happens”.
There, I met Laura, my co-founder, also by accident. Once we started talking, we realized how aligned we were by our drive to create an impact. We were also placed in the same team during the AllStartup weekend and worked really well together. We had a lot of fun, despite how stressful it was.
Q: How has your experience been with Demium?
I’ve felt very supported and have met people who really believed in us, our skills and the impact of our idea. That’s been the highlight and the main takeaway: being with people who believe in you; and to me, Demium represents that altogether. We could have done it by ourselves, but the experience would have been totally different. Having someone to rely on is vital when taking the risk to move forward – meeting people able to reboot and boost your morale.
And again, having people like Álvaro Callejo, Jorge Dobón or Manu Nieto in our circle is the highlight of the Demium experience — they are incredibly experienced, insightful and kind supporters who we feel we can trust and rely on.
Q: What would be your advice for other entrepreneurs?
So much advice to choose from! From an emotional and mental health point of view, I would say to make sure you surround yourself with the right community. Being part of a group and feeling their support is going to help you succeed and stand on your feet again if you fall, which you will.
From a startup process perspective, always make sure you question and double-check every single assumption and hypothesis you have. Talk to users to validate what you’re doing,learn how to talk to people, how to listen and understand them.
The last piece of advice would be: make sure to find a problem you really care about. Focus first on the problem and then on the solution. The solution may change, but being passionate about the problem itself will keep you going and help you stay motivated. Also incredibly important: really make sure you build a strong relationship with your co-founder; it’s the foundation of everything yet to come.