Women-owned startup receives $2 million in strategic funding for lifesaving diagnostic test for pregnant women
Milestones to date:
|When Wendy Davis founded GestVision, Inc., she had an important goal: to finally attack preeclampsia head on, and to distribute her lifesaving diagnostic test to communities everywhere.
Preeclampsia is a life threatening condition found in only 5% of pregnant women, but for which over 40% of all pregnant women show signs at some point in their pregnancy. If left untreated, it can cause total organ failure, seizures, and death of both the mothers and their babies. A horrible, scary prognosis. No wonder this is the condition that regularly keeps OB/GYN’s up at night worrying about their patients, and is arguably the biggest problem facing pregnant women today. The only known cure for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby, often pre-term, and with all the complications that go along with that, such as cerebral palsy, developmental delays and severe respiratory issues. With GestVision’s new revolutionary diagnostic test, this disease can finally be diagnosed with very high accuracy, resulting in millions of lives saved worldwide, and millions more mothers able to confidently continue their pregnancies, and go on to deliver healthy, full-term babies.
When Wendy reached out to the Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CTSBDC), she was ready to seek venture capital funding to expand her team and continue down the path toward FDA approval and commercialization. CTSBDC Technology Business Advisor Patty Meagher, who had met Wendy at a CTNext entrepreneurial pitch event, immediately saw the passion that Wendy had for her company, the potential that this product had to save lives and the economic opportunity for both investors and the State of Connecticut. The product is also based on groundbreaking research done at Yale University, and Wendy had the enthusiastic support of the Yale community, another critical success factor. Wendy and Patty formed a steadfast partnership that would help guide GestVision to new heights.
Immediately, Patty got to work helping Wendy lay the groundwork for a successful round of funding. She introduced her to Angel Groups and Family Offices who might be interested in investing in GestVision, and who would also be helpful partners. Patty’s focus was on helping Wendy navigate the fundraising waters and acting as a trusted coach. Entrepreneurship is not a solo act. Successful entrepreneurs know that reaching out to their community is key. In fact, to this day, they have logged over 100 hours together, time spent working on making the mission of GestVision a reality. Concurrently, Wendy was leveraging her professional network and seeking out other strategic partners.
As part of the fundraising effort, Patty wanted to help both spread the word about GestVision and enhance Wendy’s visibility across the innovation community. As part of this effort, Patty recommended Wendy for a CT Technology Council Woman of Innovation Award, and she was chosen as one of their honorees at the annual awards dinner. Next came the InnovateHER contest. This competition was created and funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration to identify women-owned businesses that create commercializable products that are important to women and children. It was personally very rewarding for Patty to see this particular event held at the organization she had founded, and to see her portfolio company as part of the mix. Wendy won this state pitch contest and was then chosen as one of 10 finalists to go to Washington D.C. to present on the national stage. Patty joined her for that trip, giving her an opportunity to introduce the team to another Family Office who would later become helpful in their funding negotiations.
Later in 2015, Wendy entered talks with Cooper Surgical, a Connecticut company that offers a full portfolio of medical and surgical products and brands for women’s health care. Cooper, it turns out, would emerge as both an ideal strategic partner and investor. Throughout the funding process, Wendy and Patty worked together to ensure the best possible outcome for GestVision and its mission. They attended meetings in Connecticut, Boston, Washington and New York City, and brainstormed about strategy. In the end, Wendy was actually given two competing term sheets, providing the all-important ‘parallel path.’ In November 2015, GestVision closed the deal with Cooper Surgical, and received $2,000,000 in capital funding, the first tranche of the total amount committed by Cooper. They were now out of the starting gate! Up until that point, GestVision had no paid employees. However, with this capital, Wendy and Emily Moore, Vice President, are fulltime paid employees and are expanding their team, creating three more full-time jobs and providing new momentum for the march toward FDA approval and commercialization.