First in a series of articles on female founders, Ziana Kotadia (MBA ’22) asks Giovanna Abramo (MBA ’22) about her startup, Plenna, which focuses on female healthcare.
Tell us more about your start-up, Plenna?
Plena in Spanish is female for “fulfilled.” Our vision is for women to live healthy and fulfilled lives, and our goal is to become the go-to brand in Mexico for women’s health. We’ve built our startup around three C’s: Content, Community and Care. For Content, Plenna is a modern source of information for women’s health; you can find tips on birth control, managing vaginal infections and general gynecology. We’re also building a strong Community, a platform where women can anonymously ask questions about sexual health, and have a professional gynaecologist on the other side answering. We’ve found that 80% of questions are asked between 10pm and 4am, when women are at their most vulnerable. It’s so important to not only have anonymity, but also urgent responses. Now we’re working on automated professional help to have a friendly confidant answering questions as soon as the need arises. You can ask the team about anything from UTIs to using menstrual cups. Lastly, but very importantly, we want to provide Care. We want to build the biggest network of women’s health clinics in Mexico and deliver an online to offline customer journey, lowering the cost of healthcare for women. Plenna focuses on gynecology for modern women, aged 18 to 30 years old. First we want to crack this problem, and then expand to other areas of care, such as endocrinology and mental health.
Why did you decide to focus on women’s health in Mexico?
In Mexico, 50% of spend on healthcare is out of pocket, and the government system is underfunded and at overcapacity. Only 8% of the population can afford insurance. There are many tech-enabled startups disrupting the market, but women’s health is not yet addressed at a large scale. Mexico is still a very conservative society, and talking about sexual health is taboo. Many of my high school friends had unplanned pregnancies at a young age. In fact, three out of five women have unplanned pregnancies in Mexico, 30% are suffering from Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and every two minutes a baby is born from an underaged mum in Mexico. Plenna combines a passion for healthcare and female empowerment. Mexico as a country is changing, and there is a wave of women’s rights campaigns sweeping the nation. I believe Plenna could be an amazing bridge.
Are you building Plenna alone?
I have an amazing co-founder and friend from Mexico whom I am working on Plenna with, Lorena Ostos (GSB ’21). She just graduated Stanford Business School and has moved back to Mexico. We met at Bain and made the perfect partnership. I am a bit more creative, and thrive in uncertainty, and embrace it. Lorena is a bit more structured and methodical. Our strengths naturally complement each other, and balance each other out, so I work on the growth strategies and more creative side of the business, while Lorena focuses her time on finance, fundraising and HR. It’s incredible to be working with Lorena, and I’m glad we can experience this crazy journey together. We now have a core team of five people, with an additional three working part-time.
When did you start thinking about building Plenna?
I did a pre-MBA internship at an impact investment firm, and helped to build a women’s health investment thesis for this fund, focused on emerging countries mainly in Southeast Asia. This experience opened a whole new universe of FemTech and really inspired me. I also had experience at Moons, a start-up orthodontics clinic in Mexico, one of the healthcare innovators that is disrupting the market. My heart was in Mexico, and so my partner and I started thinking about how we might be able to make an impact in this healthcare space.
What progress have you made this year?
We’ve opened our first MVP clinic in Mexico to learn and iterate on our customer journey. We’re aiming to open our first flagship clinic in Mexico by January. We just closed a round of fundraising and are working with some incredible investors, both VCs with great reputations and experiences in the healthcare space, and angel investors too.
Do you have any advice for other female founders?
I think it’s really important to find something you’re passionate about, it makes the tough days more enjoyable. Make sure you have the right partnerships and support systems. Lastly, understand that doing this while doing your MBA at HBS will inevitably involve trade-offs. Just always remember why you started this journey, and the lives you’ll change as a result.
Giovanna Abramo (HBS ’22) spent the last three years prior to HBS working at Bain & Company in Mexico City where she worked on performance improvement, strategy, and operational model redesign projects across industries like consumer products, automotive, and mining. Additionally, she worked for a Mexican health care startup called Moons, leading market entry, in-house production, and operations for Colombia, and interned at SAGANA, an impact investing fund, where she had the opportunity to lead an investment thesis on Women’s health startups. Giovanna holds a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Tecnológico de Monterrey.
If you want to learn more about Plenna, visit https://www.soyplenna.com/ or follow them on Instagram @soyplenna.
Ziana Kotadia (MBA ’22) is from the UK, and most recently made the move from London to Boston. She loves to travel, learn about new cultures, and enjoys eating her way through cities. She loves to cook and is passionate about great food.