Inspiring Women in Healthtech: Meet Karolina Löfqvist, Founder of Hormona

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February 26, 2021

Karolina Löfqvist is a former Management Consultant, who became a health tech entrepreneur after her own health issues. Her app, Hormona, will empower women with similar health issues to track symptoms and manage their health.

Karolina joined South Bank Innovation as part of SimDH's 2020 Cohort in the later end of last year.

Why Hormona is innovative

Hormones carry messsages around the body to tell it what to do, and when. Imbalanced hormone levels can cause distressing symptoms such as insomnia, weight gain, fatigue, skin changes and mood changes.

Hormone changes are a natural part of aging - In women, normal changes will occur during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause,  each cause sudden changes in hormone levels. In men, most changes occur during puperty, but hormone changes due to aging present as a slower decline - not a sudden drop.

Other hormone changes can occur that are not normal. These are a result of hormone-related conditions such as Thyroid Disorder. Additional lifestyle factors, such as stress levels and diets, can disrupt hormones even further.

An estimated 80% of women are affected by hormone imbalance, but the symptoms of a hormonal imbalance can be misdiagnosed. This can cause further issues as people can be prescribed medications for conditions they do not have, such as depression or bi-polar disorder. As most GP's only have a general knowledge of hormones and the symptoms that a hormonal imbalance can cause, getting the right diagnosis can be time consuming. In the UK, it can take up to 18 weeks to see an endocrinologist (a hormone specialist) through NHS referrals.

Hormona's service empowers women by giving them access to faster, reliable results. Each Hormona user receives a personalised hormone profile, access to endocrinology experts as well as insights to aid self-care, putting them in teh drivers' seat of their health.

Karolina was kind enough to tell us more about herself and her experience as a woman in Healthtech.

Tell us a little about yourself?

I’m Karolina, the founder of Hormona. I’m a Swedish woman that’s been living in London for the last 10 years and I’m beyond passionate with women’s health.

Describe your innovation in a sentence?

A data driven women’s health solution targeting hormonal imbalances.

How did you discover the issue that your innovation addresses?

Hormona was created out of my personal frustration with my health and wellbeing - I was bounced between doctors for almost 5 years before I was diagnosed with Thyroid disorder and hormonal imbalances. It was such a long, lonely and depressing journey and I just knew that there had to be a better way for women to get help with hormonal issues.

When did you start working with the SBI team, and what have you achieved so far?

We joined the SIMDH accelerator program during autumn 2020 and since then we’ve managed to take our business to a completely new level. Much thanks to all the support and knowledge that has been provided by the SBI team and just before the end of last year we closed our first round of investment!  

What has been a challenge or an obstacle in your product development?

Our challenges have included everything from trying to create the best user experience, to finding the best labs, to making sure our data is stored in the most secured way. Product development is definitely something that will remain the core of our business and something I see as an ongoing, never ending process.

What are the benefits of working with SBI/LSBU for you?

As a female founder of a women’s healthtech start-up, a field I don’t have any professional experience in, means that there have been plenty of areas where the SBI/LSBU team has been extremely helpful. Their network of professionals with expertise in specialist areas related to our business, and their ability to give us access to one-to-one calls with those experts means that we’ve managed to get access to important information in a fraction of the time it would’ve taken us to seek out those experts ourselves.

What were you doing before you founded your company?

I worked as management consultant, mainly focusing on digitalisation of large corporations. However, I was brought up in an entrepreneurial family, and started my first company at 18 years old, so I live and breathe entrepreneurship.

How did this experience help you build your company/develop your product?

Working as a management consultant taught me a lot about digitalisation and how to use Agile in order to deliver value faster, which has been the key to our development. In a startup it’s all about being flexible and making changes very quickly.

What’s next for you and your business?

So many exciting things! Firstly, we’re in the final testing stage of our new ground-breaking health device, with clinical studies coming up in the next couple of months and a launch date later this summer. Finally, we can start to actually help women! In addition to this, we have some really cool and innovative product developments in the pipeline to continue to further help women with hormonal issues. 

What is your top tip for women developing new products?

Never take no for an answer. I believe it’s still tougher for women to start their own company but we just have to work harder. This year we constantly faced the challenge of trying to convince groups of men that there’s still a massive need to improve women’s health and we learned that it’s about finding an angle that they can relate to. You need to have thick skin and don’t take things personally. Believe in your vision and you will get there.

How would you describe your experience as a woman in business or a woman in STEM?

My experience as a woman in business and particularly in a STEM business is that it is still very male orientated and so a lot of time is spent explaining the problems we as a business are trying to solve. When raising money you almost exclusively deal with men who unfortunately are not always knowledgeable when it comes to women’s health and hormonal health in particular. It gets frustrating when you know you’re trying to solve an issues that affects 80% of women, yet most of the people you deal with seems blind to the fact that it is even an issue. To combat this, and to find some balance, I tend to surround myself and work with as many other awesome women within my business who all understand the massive feat we’ve undertaken.  

What do you think is the most important issue that tech entreprenuers should be addressing?

Only do things that really matters! I don’t want to start a company just for the sake of it. I want to make a difference. There are so many areas that needs improvement now and this is where tech innovations could really help. Focus on things that are close to your heart and that can improve the life and future for generations to come.

How do you think universities and organisations like LSBU can help further gender equality in business or tech? 

Women are still a minority when it comes to tech. Roughly 10% of all IT professionals today are women, which isn’t nearly enough and something we should all work hard to change. I think this comes down to both the lack of female roles models in the industry, as well as the fact that, since the birth of tech, it’s been seen as “a male world”. I’m happy to see that this is already starting to shift, but we need more role models and we need to spark an interest for tech in girls from a young age. I think LSBU can make a big difference by highlighting successful women in tech, by organising seminars featuring women in tech, creating women in tech groups and offering internships at tech organisation to show how fun it is to work in tech. Maybe even attend career days at schools and talk about the future for women in tech?

How do you imagine innovation helping women?

In so many ways. I believe innovation is what is going to advance the gender equality for women. Women are still massively under-represented in clinical trials and medical studies which results in incorrect diagnoses and wrong treatments. By increasing the gender equality, I believe better innovations will be created by women as we women are in the best situation to understand the challenges we are facing, and how to define those innovative solutions.

Which woman, living or dead, would you invite to dinner and why?

If I was hosting a dinner today I would invite Sheryl Sandberg. As the first woman in Facebook’s board and an advocat for women’s rights, I think she would provide a lot of great advice. She’s really shown that you can be a successful woman in a man’s world and that in itself is impressive - but her experience in running one of the biggest global companies in the world would also mean an abundance of knowledge that would be beyond useful for a fellow woman in business such as myself.