In 2019, Bonnie Roupé was named Female Entrepreneur of the Year in Sweden. She’s the founder and CEO of Bonzun, which was launched in 2014 as one of the first mobile health initiatives in the world and is helping millions of women to feel safe during their pregnancies. It’s been backed by both the World Health Organization and UNICEF, and last week, it was listed on the stock exchange — making Roupé its first femtech CEO.
— Bonzun is born out of my own experiences, she tells, when I almost lost my unborn baby and I was not aware of the danger of the situation. This got my head spinning and I became determined to help other women to feel safe and informed during their pregnancy. Our vision is to have a world where everyone has better control over their life, health, and wellbeing through smart, easy-to-use digital devices developed with the latest evidence-based knowledge.
It’s a big question, but how can tech make us feel better and help to reduce stress and mental illness?
— Tech is redefining the wellness business — this is true regardless of the industry you are in, of course — and the opportunities are endless. The purpose of technology is to make people’s lives better and easier. From the invention of a digital calendar, people no longer have to write down important dates and constantly check when it’s due, you now have an app to tell you what to do and when. This kind of technology is there to take away the stress and effort wasted to handle simple everyday tasks and allows you to focus on more important things. This is exactly how software helps us feel better and can relieve stress. More importantly, digital software can help people take the first step over an otherwise large threshold to request help or seek support, Roupe shares, continuing,
— For example, we just introduced Bonzun Evolve to our portfolio. It’s an evidence-based interactive digital program developed by the method of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). The program follows 8 sessions with a structure to stimulate behavioral changes and reduce stress. Today you don’t need to see a therapist. I’m not saying this is always true, but there is so much self-help available to improve mental health in your everyday life. Through the knowledge in Evolve, we will also be able to further support our other applications. Reducing stress and improving lives is the red thread of our company, so we know that we can reduce stress and increase mental wellness through technology. It is our business model.
What are the main challenges today for women facing infertility?
— Fighting fertility issues is one of the most emotionally charged situations people can go through. There is also a strong stigma surrounding infertility, and the struggle trying to conceive puts the person(s) in a very challenging situation. With this ongoing trauma of not being able to conceive, starting a fertility treatment is overwhelming for most. The treatments mean large amounts of information, medications, and medical procedures. The medications affect both body and mood. Some meds need to be taken at very exact time points and a lot of injections need to be administered. There are various medical procedures and visits to the clinic and other things that can very stressful. On top of all that, there is the anticipation and anxiety for the wish of becoming pregnant. That’s why we created our app, Bonzun IVF, as a trusted travel companion who’s there every step of the way, providing support and clarity for a very stressful and often unwanted journey.
Why do women even feel the need to use apps like yours? What’s missing and what can be done better?
— Well, I think one of the first major truths is that women understand women better, simply because we are women. The pains and aches we go through during pregnancy, during our monthly period, or menopause to mention a few. It is always difficult to put yourself into someone else’s shoes regardless of the condition. Try to imagine what it is like to have cramps, hormones that make you bloated, sweat, or that affect your mood. There are so many aspects of the female nature that you will never truly know unless you are a woman yourself. It is pretty simple actually, and I believe this is why femtech is such a strong and fast-growing movement. The need and demand are huge, and it is finally starting to be met. I mean, half of the world is inhabited by women, so of course, there is a need for apps like ours. We want to make sure women have access to all the information she needs and that she gets all the benefits a digital world has to offer, Roupé tells, adding,
— The generation growing up now does not demand, but expects to find information, support, and help through technology. However, the expectation is also that you as an individual are the one who has control and power over your health and your well-being. This places a demand on the availability and reliability of actors who are to meet these expectations. Far from all information out there is correct and that is why it is so important for us and our industry colleagues to always provide evidence-based information, free from opinion and religion.
— This was the reason I started Bonzun and we live by this. You will never hear me talk about how coffee affects the body in a certain way if there is no proper scientific data to back it up…
You mentioned it, and so have we — what’s your view on the future of femtech?
— I think the future is already here but in smaller or larger doses, so I would say further integration of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) into apps. The first and most important thing for any AI as well as ML integration is huge amounts of data, but to make it come to life in an app requires a lot of resources in terms of RnD and budget, which is a limiting factor for smaller companies today. When it comes to us, we are constantly doing a lot of RnD on machine learning algorithms and patterns with our data and implementing that in our app to provide the best level of knowledge to help our users succeed in their IVF treatments. We have since the start been very proactive and innovative in our development and our advantage is that we have been around for many years which has made it possible for us to accumulate data and knowledge, which in turn enables us to provide better services to our users.
And what are the most crucial call to actions to improve the situation both for you at Bonzun and, in general, for women’s health?
— Femtech will continue to grow and expand, as mentioned, and while we in the western world have so much more support, we need to remember that this is unfortunately not how it is for a large part of the world’s women. We know that we are far from an equal society and girls are disadvantaged by discrimination, with a direct impact on not only status but also health. This is exactly why I decided to start my business in China many years ago. Looking at the world today, around 80 % or so of the world’s population owns a smartphone. This is a huge possibility, and responsibility, for us and all other femtech companies to support and improve the lives of so many that we never would have reached just 10 years ago.
— Based on all this, femtech has massive importance in the improvement of women’s lives all around the world. We’re a global company, and our value proposition is simply ”Life, improved”. We can’t make things perfect, and we don’t pretend to, but we can make a huge difference with the software we develop. We have so much more to give and we are just at the beginning.