Ten startups from Eindhoven have been honoured with the Gerard and Anton Award 2016. The jury of the awards thinks these ten have all it takes to follow the footsteps of Gerard and Anton Philips who, 125 years ago, formed the first truly successful startup in the region. Every day we highlight one of those startups. Today: Lifesense.
Women hardly go to the doctor with pelvic floor problems. “They are ashamed, there is still a taboo”, says Valer Pop. He is CEO of LifeSense group. With Carin – a sensor in the underwear in combination with an exercise program – Pop is confident that he can give women a better – and more confident – life.
Some problems are not easy to discuss. However that does not stop this startup to use technology in a surprising way to help women with urine loss. They just successfully closed their crowdfunding campaign.
Upon entering his office, Valer Pop quickly places a sensor in the charger; the little thing is no bigger than a lens case and can easily be attached to the specially designed underwear. The sensor measures urine leakage and together with the training app, progress is tracked for its users. “The training program has been developed with more than 100 women. Based on the results of the sensor, the app offers the participating women a personal training program. Within three to six months, women already benefit from the training”, Pop says.
Child of Eindhoven
The technology was developed under the ‘warm wings’ at Holst Centre on the High Tech Campus. “We are truly a child of Eindhoven. Holst Centre is our mother, we have been given the opportunity to develop the technology. Later at High Tech XL we have learned the business side, the real business thinking. So I would like to call them our father. We now are growing significantly and for that we are grateful to our parents. In 2018 we want to be the fastest growing company in the world, in terms of sales. Then we can do something in return for the region. Our goal is to create a startup fund.”
Pop already has a strong focus on the region. “Almost all of our product parts come from a plant in Best. They may be a little bit more expensive than parts from Taiwan, but you know for sure that the quality is good. Plus you can contribute to the regional economy, which I think is also important. Our goal is to reach the whole world, but our R&D department will always stay in Eindhoven, because here we can find all the needed knowledge.”
Earlier this month, LifeSense Group expanded to Japan, where a licensing agreement was signed. The company also successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign. “That was really amazing. In two days we had a hundred new followers, not even from our own circles. Also on facebook we did well, in about a month we had 50,000 new clicks. With Kickstarter we raised 60,000 euros, really great.”
These VC’s are all men; they really have no idea of the problems experienced by women because of unwanted leakage
Finding investors turned out to be more difficult. “You have to imagine that 90% of the times you are talking with Venture Capitalists, a man is sitting next to you. These men really have no idea of the problems experienced by women because of unwanted leakage. It’s a man’s world, and men feel uncomfortable talking about these kind of matters, let alone investing in them. Imagine that of all the money that VCs are investing, only 5% goes to women, that’s kind of scary, isn’t it?” In order to convince these investors, you have to be really strong, Pop says. “You need to believe in your business and have a long-term view.”
Pop grabs some underwear from the table and shows the material. “This fabric is designed by Julia Veldhuijzen van Zanten. She graduated with it at the Design Academy in 2014. Now, she is developing it to new levels for LifeSense. The fabric is very absorbent. Also comfort is important and it looks like any other underwear. Women don’t need to wear any shameful diaper anymore. Those things are awfully old-fashioned anyway. And besides, diapers and pads leave a giant ecological footprint, you don’t want that either. With Carin, you help yourself and the world. That is our vision, and everyone here at the company has a 100% belief in it.”
Ignorance among women
According to Pop, there is still much ignorance among women. “Most women do not know what they can do about it, only 10% of women who have problems, dare to go to the doctor. That taboo we want to break. On one hand, we do so with our ‘ambassadors’: proud women who are not ashamed to speak about this. They can make other women aware of the solutions. We also have an online platform where women can share their experiences. And right now, we are talking to a major health insurer in the Netherlands, in order to reach a wider market.”
In the future, Pop envisions Carin wearables for each life phase of a woman. “We want to assist women throughout their lives. Girls who are menstruating for the first time can be very uncertain about their bodies, but with our guidance and accurate measurements we help them through this exciting time. Women who have just given birth, we can help with a quick recovery package. And did you know that you can enhance orgasm by training the pelvic floor muscles?”
Valer Pop wants to share his advice: