Leila Thabet is the founder of Naytal, a virtual clinic for women that was acquired by US digital health company Maven Clinic.
Thabet founded London-based Naytal in 2021 and served as its CEO until it was acquired by Maven Clinic in early 2023. She is now VP of global growth and partnerships at the US firm, whose virtual health services for women and families are offered through employer benefit schemes.
Her focus there is on supporting organisations to offer care for fertility and family building through maternity, parenting, paediatrics and menopause.
In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, Thabet recalls the funding barriers as a solo female femtech founder, explains why companies should look beyond external recruitment processes for improving diversity, and reveals the health tech developments she’s most excited by.
1. What’s your worst pitching experience?
Leila Thabet: I’m not sure I could single out just one! It’s no secret that female-founded businesses attract far less funding than their male counterparts and, as a solo female founder of a startup focused on women’s health, I can confirm it’s tough out there!
I was told femtech was “niche” and asked if women really needed virtual clinics. I’m afraid I was often patronised when pitching my business and talking to potential funders, which was infuriating. Meeting Kate Ryder and the Maven team was truly a breath of fresh air – both in her approach and the fact she just intuitively understood what I was doing.
2. What’s the best way to promote diversity in the workplace?
LT: Enterprises tend to look at their external recruitment practices when they address diversity. Although this is something they absolutely should do, it is only one part of the story. Attracting diverse talent will also involve looking at your internal organisation and ensuring you have the support systems, policies and benefits to truly provide an inclusive workplace experience.
Many women, for example, find themselves working in organisations that were not designed to accommodate their needs and lifestyles, which needs to change if we’re serious about inclusion. This is one reason why I’m excited to be working in a space that gives employers a powerful tool for diversity and inclusion.
3. Do you have a productivity hack?
LT: I meticulously divide up my week so I can be as productive as possible.
Mondays are for internal team meetings. It’s the day when I plan, prioritise, and set actions for the rest of the week. Tuesdays are strategy days – I try to keep it free from meetings if at all possible, so I have space to think.
Wednesdays and Thursdays are devoted to external meetings or events and Friday is set aside for admin. I also try to do one piece of “life admin” every day. Obviously, there is flexibility within this, but it’s so useful to help me maintain my focus and stay creative while being productive.
4. Excluding your sector, which nascent technology holds the most promise?
LT: I think healthcare is now at a real tipping point as a result of digital technology and improving levels of consumer awareness. I’m particularly excited at the potential for preventative healthcare (what Peter Attia calls Medicine 3.0) and what this means for our wellbeing and longevity.
Technology such as genetic testing and activity tracking, combined with better access to rich data has the potential to put individuals in charge of their own health. I’m mindful that this needs to be handled sensitively and ethically, but it could be hugely transformative for so many aspects of healthcare – I can’t wait to see what comes next!
5. Excluding your own, what is a sector that’s ripe for disruption?
LT: Childcare. There is huge pressure on families right now to find quality childcare, and significant issues around supply and cost. Employers, employees and childcare providers are all motivated to improve the way the sector is run, but it has barely changed in decades.
The stakes are high when we consider how we lose women from the workforce because of high childcare costs and how families can find themselves actually paying to work once these costs are factored in. Ultimately, we will all lose out if we don’t try to create a better, more agile and more effective childcare sector.
Founder in Five – a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative tech startups, scaleups and unicorns – is published every Friday.