Omgyno founded by Doreen Toutikian and Elisabeth Milini in Greece and Lebanon, Siira founded by Sandra Salame in Lebanon, and Maternally founded by Yasmin El Mouallem in the UAE were crowned the winners of the MENA region’s first digital-health FemTech Accelerator, launched in October 2021 during Expo 2020 by partners Organon and Flat6Labs to address unmet women’s healthcare needs.
The winners were announced after the programme’s 10 finalists from across Egypt, Lebanon, UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Jordan pitched their ideas to a panel of judges and an audience of prospective investors.
The pitches took place at the ‘Demo Day’ event, hosted at the GrEEK Campus. The panel of judges selecting the final winners consisted of Dina El Shenoufy, Chief Investment Officer at Flat6Labs; Ramy Koussa, Associate Vice President of MENAT at Organon; Dr. Amr Alashkar, Chief Information Officer at Cleopatra Hospital Group; Jailan El Messeiry, Group Digital Marketing & Communications Manager at UN Women; and Frederika Meijer, Country Representative at UNFPA.
Omgyno, the start-up that won first place, is a FemTech platform redesigning the gynecological experience. After identifying the causes behind gaps in testing for the potentially cancer-causing HPV virus, including fear of judgement and accessibility, the two entrepreneurs worked on a user-centered platform offering home testing and telehealth, tailored to promote self-care and privacy.
Siira, the start-up that sat in second place, developed a mental health platform designed to accompany women in their daily struggles related to parenting, relationships and work. Conscious that only 30-35% of people with mental health problems seek professional support, Sandra Salame’s start-up is focused on addressing this gap.
Globally, one in five women experience mental health issues during pregnancy, and/or following birth. Seeking to plug this gap, Maternally, which was adjudged third runner-up, is an online platform being developed to cater to women’s specific mental health needs during their motherhood journey.
“At Organon, we understand that prioritizing women’s health is tied to long-term productivity and resilient societies. That’s why, as part of our ESG Economic, Social and Governance-driven purpose to achieve her promise, we are committed to investing in programs, partnerships, initiatives, and ideas that work to fill that gap. The best ideas for addressing these gaps truly come from the women who experience these challenges first-hand,” said Ramy Koussa, AVP MENAT, Organon.
“With vast unmet medical needs, today, women across the MENA region cannot fully participate in the economy on account of a lack of adequate healthcare. Shockingly, the region loses $575 billion yearly due to the lack of female economic participation,” he added.
Dina El Shenoufy, Chief Investment Officer at Flat6Labs, commented, “At Flat6Labs, we have been delighted to participate in and support this female empowerment initiative. Participating start-ups have received over 65 hours of training sessions led by top local and international advisors, and 27 hours of one-on-one coaching sessions, helping them gain a solid understanding of the FemTech market, connect with key leaders and grow their networks.”
“Our partnership with Organon not only works to redress many of the gender inequities we see in the start-up world, particularly around access to funding, but also to support better women’s health. We know that female health and economic empowerment go hand in hand. By investing in the women in our communities and supporting greater gender equality, everyone across our societies benefits,” she added.
The FemTech accelerator program, announced shortly after Organon’s launch in the MENAT region, is the first regional Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) initiative by Organon that is committed to addressing unmet women’s needs. Inspired by Organon’s purpose to help women and girls achieve their promise through better health, the program was designed to support female entrepreneurship and digital health start-ups that advance women’s health by providing support to build products, test market fit and improve business models, as well as access to investors.