GynAware: The Co-founders' Personal Journeys and Inspirations (Part 2)
Steve Jobs (2015), Silicon Valley (2014-2019) or the Social Network (2010) feature giants of the industry, technological trailblazers and entrepreneurial geniuses. These businesspeople are portrayed as cutthroat, ruthless, hardened. They always seem to know when to cut their losses, and are usually able to walk away into the sunset with scorned business partners, a fabulous backstory and millions, if not billions, of dollars to boot. When they do allow themselves a moment of vulnerability, it is often to express regret at the dog-eat-dog world they have become intrinsically enthralled in rather than to lament the fate of whatever friend, partner or acquaintance they had to trample over to get to the apex. Overwhelmingly, these behemoths of the entrepreneurial world are men, with big obscure and often intangible dreams hanging in the balance.
As an avid film and television consumer, it is easy to get caught up with this preconceived idea of what an entrepreneur should be. Certainly, a 23-year old woman with a penchant for women’s health advocacy and science fiction does not exactly fit the mold. So, if someone told me a year ago that I would be the CEO of a medical device start-up, I would have laughed, omitting the embarrassing fact that I did not even know what the letters ‘C.E.O.’ stand for.
My name is Ida Derish, I am a graduate student at McGill University and I am a budding scientist, first and foremost. A dedicated friend (to humans, animals and cells at my lab). A moderately-to-very stressed student. Maybe a few other labels I would associate with my person, but nothing coming close to the daunting task of leading a medical device company in the sphere of diagnostic gynaecology. A year ago, I simply did not see myself ever working in a corporate environment, much less as a leader of a corporation, as small as it may be.
But plans change, evolve and morph into new endeavors that can change your life. That is where GynAware comes into play. And coincidentally, this venture was an opportunity for me to dismantle the imposter syndrome that plagued me by relying on my friend and co-founder. Her unwavering loyalty and adaptability through the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired me and caused me to grow as a person. She was always there, listening, lending a hand and providing innovative disruptive ideas to supplement my own. Despite the few bumps along the way, we emerged on the other side of our hardships stronger and more competent. To me, this is what it means to elevate yourself and others.
I’ve always centred my life around science and healthcare, whether that meant volunteering at hospitals to help patients, giving emotional support to people that needed advice or applying myself as a researcher to provide breakthrough knowledge to advance medical science. Even when the opportunity to shadow doctors and learn how to create a medical device was presented, I never saw myself actually becoming a co-founder of a startup. A year ago, I would have said business isn’t for me, there’s no way I have what it takes to belong in it. There’s no way a 23 year old me can help impact the world right now with the inexperience I have.
But lo’ and behold, I found a passion in combining science with business and the idea of helping through innovation. The growing guts to interview renowned specialists in their field, who were kind enough to give time out of their busy schedules, gave me a sense of expectation and momentum in starting something that can aid people in a completely innovative way. I was constantly challenging myself by building or learning unexpected skills on the fly when submitting business applications became a routine job in my hectic school life. Along with the trust and confidence I felt in my team, the unfinished painting that was our business came to life one brushstroke at a time and it became much more realistic. My name is Meera Kanagalingham, a graduate student from the Experimental Surgery program at McGill University and I am now the Chief Scientific Officer of GynAware.
You will never know unless you try. Take an opportunity even if it seems like a far-off dream.
Building this company from scratch taught me to believe in these words. Not only do I feel that I elevated myself, but I’ve gained a lot more confidence in helping others do the same. When it came time to truly step up to the requirements of the position, I believed that if my friend and co-founder Ida was there, the venture would truly have an opportunity to succeed, and we would be able to support one another emotionally and skillfully until we become an unstoppable unit. I hope I can help inspire other women this way, by advocating for a novelty in the field of gynaecology. It is no secret that gynaecology is a field that is not quite as advanced compared to other neighbouring fields. The uterus and the diseases that impact it are still viewed as somewhat of an enigma, and numerous research efforts have not been continued as vigorously as required. GynAware wants to bring awareness to a pressing problem that afflicts countless women in order to enable more effective options in their care.
GynAware is also welcoming new engineering co-founders who would like to help advocate for women’s health with us.
This article is the first part of a two-part series written by Ida Derish and Meera Kanagalingham, the Co-Founders of GynAware. The article was edited and formatted by Nikoo Aghaei.
Images provided by Ida Derish and Meera Kanagalingham