Kayo Women in Healthcare Investing exhibition

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Seven women-led healthcare startups lined up against a panel of windows inside the Full Frame Theatre in Durham during a cocktail reception for the Kayo Roundtable: Women in Healthcare Investing event Tuesday night. 

Since the focus of the event was around women investing in healthcare startups, it was fitting to have seven different representations of the industry exhibit their products too. Each startup shared an underlying theme though—they’re all working to break down boundaries and barriers between patients and doctors, in addition to being led by women.

This theme is relevant because data is showing that more women-driven startups might make for a new and better healthcare industry. A digital health venture fund, Rock Health, released a report last year that showed more healthcare startup success when women are on the leadership team.

Eighty-five percent of dying digital health startups don’t have a single women on their executive teams and all digital health startups that closed down in the year studied were led by male CEOs.

These statistics indicate that women are good for business. Seven of the top 10 Fortune 100 healthcare companies have a board with at least a quarter of its members female.

Venture capital hasn’t seen the same success, though. Only 10 percent of partners (those making final investment decisions) in digital health investment firms are women and 75 percent of those firms lack a single female partner.

The Kayo Conference Series is working to change that. In 2013, the series was formed by Kayo Advisory, a financial services firm in Charlottesville, Va. Kayo promotes and supports women in finance roles through a series of three conferences.

The Women in Healthcare Investing conference is one of them. Held on the American Tobacco Campus on Tuesday, it included a panel and Q&A with five female executives in startup investing, banking or advisory roles—Cindy Whitehead of The Pink Ceiling (former CEO of Sprout Pharmaceuticals), Cody Nystrom of SJF Ventures, Kapila Ratnam of NewSpring Capital, Theresa Sexton of Claritas Capital, Mara Huntington of Square 1 Bank and Amy Risseeuw of Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton. The discussion was not open to the media, but an open reception and exhibition followed. 

Here’s a snapshot of each exhibiting company:


Standing apart from the rest of the exhibiting companies is PPD ACT, which isn’t a startup but a research project. The study's objective is to measure the degree genetics can play in postpartum depression and psychosis. The researchers hope to collect data from 100,000 participants worldwide through its media darling mobile app, available now on iOS. Users take a questionnaire about pregnancy and postpartum depression and, if their answers line up with the requirements to be eligible for the study, they submit a DNA sample to the researchers. 

Kayo Women in Healthcare Investing exhibition - PPD ACT
PPD ACT is a study to measure the degree genetics can play in postpartum depression and psychosis. Credit: David Nadolski, Kayo Conference Series' director
The findings will give biological insights on why some women suffer from postpartum depression and others don’t. The researchers hope the results will help clinicians better treat the condition. 

Axial Exchange

With its three software platforms, Axial Exchange offers solutions to problems both patients and their providers face. One is a web-based dashboard that opens communication between all of a patient’s care providers. With it, providers can engage with patients outside of their facilities in various ways, like managing follow-up appointments, giving referrals to fit their needs or monitoring whether or not patients are taking their medications as prescribed.

Axial also has an automated software that sends clinical summaries of a patient’s records and real-time notifications of their activity (like emergency room admissions or inpatient stays) to their entire network of providers. For the patients themselves, Axial brings doctor’s office care to wherever they are in the form of a mobile app. In it, patients can manage medication, appointments, weight and more.

The startup was founded by a former Red Hat executive, Joanne Rohde, in Raleigh seven years ago and now has 73 separate facilities as clients. 

Camras Vision

Camras Vision, a startup out of Research Triangle Park, has developed an implant that helps prevent the progression of glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness. The device applies pressure to a patient’s eyes to help them maintain the vision they have left. What sets the Camras implant apart from other glaucoma implants is its adjustable pressure function. Simply, doctors can externally change the pressure settings to better fit the patient’s condition over time, without having to readmit them into surgery. 

Camras is led by the device inventor’s daughter Lucinda Camras, a Duke PhD in biomedical engineering, who raised money from Triangle Angel Partners earlier this year.

CivaTech Oncology

A RTP-based startup is shifting the standard of early-stage cancer treatment and it’s the first of its kind in North Carolina. CivaTech Oncology has two implantable devices that offer patients easier and less painful options for radiation therapy. One device, CivaString, combats localized tumors with different prescription doses of radiation. Another option is CivaSheet, a flexible implant that distributes radiation therapy in cancerous tissue without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue. 

Kayo Women in Healthcare Investing exhibition - CivaTech Oncology
RTP-based CivaTech Oncology is shifting the standard of early-stage cancer treatment with two implantable devices that offer patients alternative options for radiation therapy. Credit: David Nadolski, Kayo Conference Series' director
Founded by Suzanne Troxler Babcock, this company has raised nearly $5 million since its founding in 2006. 

Global Specimen Solutions

Raleigh startup Global Specimen Solutions makes managing specimen collections easier through its two software products. GlobalCODE virtually tracks and manages specimen banks and displays that data through visual reports. The snapTRACK iOS and Android app works with GlobalCODE to simplify the process of collecting, recording and transporting specimen for laboratories and collector sites. 

CEO and president is Amelia Wall Warner who founded the company in 2013 after a successful career in pharma and the exit of her previous company. She's also an adjunct professor at UNC's Eshelman School of Pharmacy.


Durham-based ColoWrap makes colonoscopies easier and safer through a compressor that wraps around a patient’s abdomen and applies the right amount of pressure to the area. This reduces procedure time for providers and prevents discomfort for patients. The wrap has been used on over 10,000 patients in a number of big-name health care systems, including Duke, UNC and Rutgers University. More than 14 million colonoscopies are performed every year, so the market is ripe.

Kayo Women in Healthcare Investing - Colowrap
ColoWrap makes colonoscopies easier for providers and more comfortable for patients. Credit: David Nadolski, Kayo Conference Series' director
Gastroenterologist and former professor at the Duke School of Medicine Dr. Marybeth Spanarkel partnered with her sons James and John Hathorn to invent the device in 2011. They have a series of angel investors involved too, including Thundershirt founder Phil Blizzard.


Mevii is an app that aggregates stress management practices and puts them into an easy-to-use mobile app. Users can improve their mental health and quality of life through browsing stress reduction resources and engaging in therapeutic activities like performing mindfulness tasks, journaling their behavior or learning relaxation techniques. 

Mevii was developed by a women-led company called Thrive 4-7 in Raleigh. Serial entrepreneur Connie Mester, who previously founded the Global Pain Institute, partnered with Kelly Earp, who has a PhD in public health and previously led her own consulting practice, to start the company in 2013. They launched the app last summer. CEO Deborah Hylton joined the company this year to lead its commercialization.