Empower and Educate: Kaitlin Christine’s Mission to Improve Equality in Women’s Healthcare

Photo Credits: Megan Paddock Farrell

 

Kaitlin Christine, CEO and Founder of Gabbi, Inc, is determined to equip women with the necessary tools and knowledge for better health outcomes.

After fighting for basic healthcare for her mother and her own life, Kaitlin worked directly with C-Suite executives in health systems to implement standard of care procedures as a hereditary cancer specialist. But that wasn’t enough — in fact, once she was behind the scenes, it was even more clear that the U.S. healthcare system was in desperate need of disruption. 

She created Gabbi to be that change, not only to de-stigmatize women’s health issues, but to decrease incidence of preventable diseases by creating a nexus of trusted expertise, resources, and support for women to take control of their health.

We asked Kaitlin about her journey championing patient empowerment, from the team she’s built to the lessons she’s learned, and the advice she has for others building industry-disrupting technology.

 

Q: Tell us the story behind your company’s founding: What led you to start this business?

A: After losing my mom to breast cancer due to malpractice, I exhibited similar symptoms in my breasts at only 23. I witnessed first hand the vast disparity in women’s healthcare: the neglect, discrediting, and misinformation. I tried to fix the problem myself by working in cancer genetics only to see it was even worse behind the scenes — there was a systemic problem. After interviewing women for over a year, I identified the core problem: women don’t know what is going on with their breasts and vaginas which leads to delayed diagnosis and increased disease incidence. I also identified that health systems know this is a problem and are struggling to address it. I realized by ineffectively engaging with their patients (think about patient portals — when was the last time you ever signed in and actually used it?) the health systems are losing anywhere from $50M-100B annually. Not only was I the perfect person to solve this problem, but I could help both women and the health system and make money. 

 

Q: What problem does your company aim to solve? When it comes to that issue, what are some of the most meaningful impacts your company has had to date? 

A: Our health system is broken, especially for women and people of color. As healthcare shifts from a fee-for-service model to pay-per-performance, health systems are required to meet certain quality metrics and measure health outcomes for monetary benefit. However, over 65% of them are not meeting these measures. We believe the reason for this is that women don’t have the right tools to know what is going on with their bodies and health systems don’t know how to engage their female population.

With our unique insight and approach, we are effectively able to help both sides: female patients and health systems. We engage female patients by providing awareness of their risks, personalized insights, and support. This naturally helps health systems by increasing their patient engagement, improving health outcomes, and helping them meet their quality measures.  We engage their female patients by providing everything they need to take control of their own health. Our risk assessments and action plans inform a woman of her risks and give her the steps needed to take action. Every single person on our 11-person team has a personal story that connects to Gabbi and working pro-bono. We gauged interest by launching on the same day COVID-19 was declared a national emergency with a consumer-facing quiz assessing risk for breast cancer. We had 234 women complete the quiz and results showed that 90% of women do not know their risks. 70% of those women have an increased risk of breast cancer, and these women report not having a reliable place to learn more about their risks and what steps they can take. We also recently signed our first paying customer. 

 

Q: In what ways are you disrupting your industry?

A: The large players in healthcare are unable to move quickly and innovate. Being nimble and lean, we are able to move fast to solve the problems at hand and be agile to make changes along the way. We make all of our decisions with women in mind. We know that the way to improve health outcomes is by empowering the patient. We are B2B2C because we believe we can have the most impact by providing insights to health systems. We know that when women are adequately equipped, they take action.

 

Q: What’s one thing you wish you had known before starting your company? 

A: No one talks about how incredibly isolating it is to be an entrepreneur. You wake up alone, you work alone, go home alone, and go to bed alone just to do it all again the next day. In the early stages, it’s the hardest part: You are a one-woman show. 

There is a lot of “glamour” associated with being an entrepreneur of a startup. The truth is, it is not glamorous at all! I think this myth is such a mystery because of the rampant success many startups have had (such as Airbnb, Lyft, DropBox, etc.). My advice is to be just as intentional creating a community and tribe of fellow female entrepreneurs as you are with your business.

 

Q: What was one unexpected hurdle or challenge you faced when getting started?

A: Not being taken seriously because I did not have a co-founder and was not technical. 

 

Q: What has worked for you in terms of customer acquisition? What hasn’t worked?

A: Leveraging my network has been the key to every single customer in our pipeline. Taking meetings and phone calls with what seemed like anyone and everyone has turned into having two of the largest health systems on the West Coast in our pipeline. 

 

Q: How have you been able to differentiate yourself in terms of product offerings, marketing, positioning or leadership?

A: Gabbi was built by women for women. Everything we do is for the human at the end of the process who benefits from our product — we have all the backend features that our competitors do, however, we are built by and for the patient instead of the clinician, health insurance, or health system. This makes us trustworthy and is a key differentiation from any existing solutions.

Gabbi is a mission-driven company with deeply rooted core values. Internally, we don’t tolerate inequality or discrimination: we exist because of inequality in healthcare. Because of this, our team will be predominantly women-led and we commit to having at least half of our workforce as BIPOC. This translates into Gabbi culture: We have dance parties to celebrate product launches and we cry in meetings. Everyone is challenged to be open to different perspectives. We seek first to understand — never accuse or blame. 

And we get shit done. I believe my prioritization of these qualities has set me apart as a leader people want to work with. 

 

Q: How important have you found branding to be for the success of your company? What are the most important branding lessons you’ve learned along the way?

A: Essential. Part of our value proposition is that we don’t “look” like we are a healthcare company. Our branding establishes interest, credibility, and trust. I learned through this process that branding is key to success when you are an innovative product. 

 

Q: What are the three most important things you look for when bringing on a new hire?

A: I ask three questions to every potential hire:

  1. Why are you passionate about our mission?
  2. When have you, a friend, or family member experienced neglect from a physician or had to advocate for your own health?
  3. What is your communication style and how do you receive feedback?

The key to our team has been finding individuals who most importantly connect to our values and mission. My senior engineer, Derek Shanks, for example, reached out to me on Twitter because he read my story. Secondary are the skills. It just so happens that passionate individuals happen to be some of the most brilliant in their field. Our company culture is one of openness and vulnerability — it is essential that each new team member seeks first to understand and then learn. 

 

Q: How have you grown as a leader since starting your company?

A: As basic as it seems, I have learned that not everyone processes or communicates in the same way I do. As the CEO, I am looked to as the visionary — something for me that comes innately. What I am not good at is taking time to celebrate wins. I am always onto the next thing and move very quickly but I have learned I need to celebrate each landmark we make. And I have learned how to communicate better. I think before I started my company, I was not ready to be a leader. Now, I feel I have really stepped into the role. I regularly see a therapist, constantly read self-improvement books, and have accountability partners. 

 

Q: If you could start all over again, would you do anything different about how you fundraised?

A: I chased investors early because I kept being told I “needed to raise.” The truth is, no one was as close to the process as I was and because I was not a white tech bro, there was no chance of me getting investment dollars at such an early, pre-product state. I wasted a lot of time, money, and energy chasing after what I felt I “should” do.

 

Q: Which books, podcasts, educational programs, or other resources have been most helpful to you since starting your company?

Books: The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs; Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs; You are a Badass; Grit; Deep Work; All books by Brené Brown

Podcasts: Addicted to M.R.R.

Community: Dreamers & Doers

 

Q: What advice would you give someone starting out on the journey you’re on?

A: Seeking the counsel of others is crucial — it is what got me to where I am. However, opinions are like asses — everyone has one. You need to get real clear on whose information you value most, and then only ask advice from those specific individuals. Take in their advice to inform your decision, but at the end of the day, this is your path and you will always be the closest one to it so you are the best one to make the decision. Then step forward confidently in the direction you choose. 


Dreamers & Doers is a private collective which amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary womxn through high-impact resources, community and mutual support. It is supported by a global ecosystem of 30,000 womxn. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and sign up for their monthly carefully curated list of top career and entrepreneurial resources.

You can find more stories from incredible female leaders in the Crunchbase “Female Founder Series,” a series of stories, Q&As, and thought-leadership pieces from female founders who overcame the odds, raised funding, and are now leading successful companies.