Interview with Gals Bio CEO Hilla Shaviv

1. What is Gals Bio?  

Gals Bio is an Israeli based company developing a new women’s health and wellness branch based on an innovative vaginal platform. Our first product, called Tulipon, is not only a disposable, biodegradable, vaginal menses-collecting device which replaces tampons, sanitary napkins and menstrual cups, but  it can also monitor women’s health, from their own home, according to biomarkers available in the monthly menses. Tulipon is small and hygienic and it’s as easy-to-use as a regular tampon with an applicator.

2. How did you come up with the idea of Gals Bio?

I’m a serial entrepreneur and Gals Bio is my second start-up within the women’s health and wellness arena. While working on my first startup, GalsBio Ltd, about 13 year ago, we had investigated the viscosity of menses and found a correlation to pain levels of menstrual cramps. This was something that had never been done before and part of our findings were published in a scientific medical journal. As part of the study, women had to collect their menses so we could analyze it in a lab. To do that efficiently, we distributed menstrual cups so we could study menses as close as possible to the time it was collected.

This was the first time I learned about menstrual cups and the revelation came as a shock to me in many ways: I didn’t understand how they weren’t more popular among menstruating women and why menstruating women in places like Africa, with little money for disposable sanitary products, didn’t use this simple reusable cheap alternative.

I realized, however, that one of the greatest disadvantages of the cup is the fact that it has to be cleaned, washed, and sterilized, which is not for everyone. It’s also very hard to insert, even for me, and I’m a mechanical engineer. But I loved the fact that it didn’t involve problematic absorbent materials like tampons and it’s safe to use for 12hr with no leakage. I found menstrual cup to be so convenient and safe, that sometimes I forgot that I was during “my time of the month”. So like any good entrepreneur, I saw a great opportunity.

The basic idea behind Tulipon was to combine the best attributes of existing feminine hygiene products into one product: tampons (which are easy-to-use, discreet, clean, and disposable) with the menstrual cup (which is ecological, reduces the risk of toxic shock syndrome, and has no absorbent materials). And we added additional features like a leak-proof seal so it can remain inserted for 12 hours.

Hilla Shaviv, Gals Bio CEO

3. How did you get to where you are today with your company?

We have been very lucky in securing funding, but the rest has been a lot of hard work — literally sweat, blood (pardon the pun) and tears. One of the main problems we’ve had in developing a vaginal device is that the available scientific data is very scarce. I’m referring to basic information that would be needed to develop any medical device like, in this case, the average size of the vaginal cavity, properties of the tissue, and other stats. Moreover, since the platform is designed around what many consider to be a conservative subject, both men and women are reluctant to share their knowledge and existing problems. So part of our work in developing this new hygienic device has been to shatter taboos and clear up common misconceptions.  

4. What obstacles did you have to overcome as a female founder and what advice would you give?

As a woman entrepreneur with a degree and background in mechanical engineering, I’m a bit quirky in the entrepreneurial world of medical devices. Even more so considering the field I choose to work on.

In the world of VCs, investors want to reduce risks as much as possible. So they tend to choose the venture which they perceive as having the fewest risks and unknowns in an area that is familiar to them. When I walk into a room, chances are they have never met someone like me who is in my field before. This is something that I have to deal with all the time. People don’t necessarily know how to digest a totally innovative feminine hygiene device – something that has not really been addressed in the last 100 years!

I’m incredibly proud of Tulipon and I don’t think that it could have been invented by a man (as the tampon was).

As for advice to all first-time female entrepreneurs, regardless to the subject of your project, invest time and efforts to choose your dream team. Make sure that it will involve men as well as women from different backgrounds for diversity.

5. How is it setting up a company in Israel, a country deemed ‘The Startup Nation’?

Israel is a wonderful place for entrepreneurship. Since it’s a small country and business is conducted in a less formal manner, everyone is approachable. People are really open-minded and willing to experience new things. Nonetheless, there are so many companies that were established to give services for all of these startups, and really hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.  

6. What advice would you give to young budding entrepreneurs?

My main advice is not to do it alone and to invest whatever time and resources are needed to find and build your team. Divide the shares equally; it’s better to earn less in a working project than not to earn anything at all.

After you have established a winning team, look for a mentor. Find someone who has “been there and done that”, and do your due diligence on everyone – from your mentor to your employees as well as your investors. Don’t get into bed” with anyone you don’t know or trust. If you have doubts about anyone, don’t wait. You should not spend time or money on incapable people. Moreover, try to progress with your product as much as possible by your own without raising any funding reducing the risk as much as possible.

And finally, the knowledge and devotion within your team is your most valuable asset. Treat it that way!

We would like to thank Hilla for taking the time to speak with us.

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