Colette Courtion has staked her claim where tech innovation has largely feared to tread: women’s pelvic floors.
“People want to discount this body part as not being important or not wanting to talk about it,” said Courtion. “This is a part of the body that has been ignored.”
But roughly half of the world’s population have them and many would benefit from healthcare attention. So more than six years ago, Courtion launched Joylux, a Seattle-based startup that sells electronic devices that can help women strengthen their pelvic floor and improve their vaginal health.
The creation of Joylux came from a lucky coincidence of professional experience and personal life. Courtion had worked for nearly 15 years in beauty and anti-aging technologies, including serving as CEO of JeNu, which sells a device that uses ultra-sound energy to reduce wrinkles. Then, as she was getting ready to have her son, a friend warned her of the lasting incontinence that can occur after a pregnancy.
She told me, “be prepared to pee your pants every time you sneeze,” Courtion said.
After recovering from her initial surprise and dismay, Courtion wondered if her rejuvenating facial skin-care technology could be applied to the pelvic area to restore health. So she created Joylux, which sells an FDA-approved device called vFit that generates warmth, LED red lights and sonic vibration to stimulate pelvic tissue and increase blood flow.
Now Joylux is expanding beyond the sale of devices to create a women’s health platform focused on menopause. Next year, the company is releasing an app to help manage and track menopausal symptoms. From the data collected, Courtion hopes to provide predictive information to guide women through symptoms including incontinence, vaginal dryness, hot flashes and night sweats.
Roughly 45 million U.S. women experience menopausal symptoms annually.
“This is a massive, massive opportunity,” Courtion said.
Courtion, who was named a Top 100 Female Founder by Inc. Magazine in October, said there’s growing interest in the sector as people are more willing to openly discuss menopause and women’s health issues. She’s working to raise new venture capital, having pulled in $16 million through previous rounds.
Genneve, a Seattle startup with products and services for women experiencing menopause, has raised $5.3 million. Pulse, another Seattle startup with a menopause focus, sells a motion-sensor lubricant warmer and dispenser. The company, which has raised nearly $10 million, made its CES (Consumer Electronics Show) debut in January.
Rock Health reported in September that just 3% of U.S. digital health venture capital deals since 2011 have focused on women’s health. Meanwhile, PitchBook noted that quarterly funding to female founders just dropped to a three-year low.
Previous to her work at Joylux and JeNu, Courtion created Calidora Skin Clinics, a Northwest chain of medical spas that was acquired. Before moving to the beauty sector, she was a marketing executive for Starbucks, helping run the wildly popular Starbucks Card loyalty program. Courtion began her career in finance at PepsiCo and the Seattle venture capital firm Maveron.
We caught up with Courtion for this installment of Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: I live and work in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood
Computer types: I am an avid user of my MacBook
Mobile devices: iPhone, which is always attached to me
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: I would be lost without Amazon, which is my most used app. I am turning to music to take me to other places so I spend a lot of time using Spotify. As a team, we stay connected using Microsoft Teams.
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? While the majority of the team is working from home, I’ve continued coming into the office. This allows me to have a focused environment with everything I need at my fingertips. Luckily for me, my office is only a few minutes from home. I don’t need much to make things happen, mainly my computer and phone! I have a few pictures of the team and artwork from my son as decoration.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? I know as well as anyone how difficult it can be to succeed at both. I remind myself to do the best I can in both places and the rest will fall into place. Everyone is under so much stress from outside circumstances that it’s more important than ever to give extra latitude and a little extra grace to everyone — myself included.
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? For many of us, our social networks are our only social interactions while stuck at home. I am very active on Facebook and LinkedIn. As a business, we use both channels extensively to reach our customers and I like to have alignment to know what is happening on these channels. I am clearly our customer!
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? Several hundred at any given time. I receive so many solicitations every day, I can’t open them fast enough. I don’t bother trying to keep up with those.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? I am fundraising, which means I have a lot of meetings and appointments. This week, I have 15+ meetings scheduled, most via Zoom or Google.
How do you run meetings? Given how busy we all are, I try to be very concise and efficient with the time. I am transparent and prefer not to spend time on things that don’t impact business in a significant way. That said, in an effort to stay connected we do have team happy hours via Zoom, which are all about fun and personal issues — and no work topics. Those are free-flowing and non-agenda driven.
Everyday work uniform? We tend to be pretty casual. I normally wear jeans and a blouse or sweater and will put on a jacket for a more formal meeting.
How do you make time for family? I’m a single mom so time for family is critical for me. My 5-year-old son Coleman is the light of my life and I can’t wait for our time together. He is a good reminder of what’s important and keeps me grounded.
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? Coleman is my best stress reliever. We go for a bike ride, play tennis, ski, draw, read, sing. We love to spend time together.
What are you listening to? My Spotify playlists are bringing it back to the ’70s and ’80s lately. Lots of great memories associated with those songs and they make me happy.
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? I catch my morning news via my phone from Apple News, New York Times and Wall Street Journal. I spend time on Facebook and Twitter, and am also an avid reader of the National Institutes of Health briefings and menopause platforms. I am engaged with several female founders groups online as well, which I love and appreciate.
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins, “Bad Blood” by John Carreyrou, and “Educated” by Tara Westover.
Night owl or early riser? I enjoy a bit of time to myself after Coleman goes to bed at night. I normally jump on Netflix and peruse my phone before falling asleep around 11 p.m. Coleman is up fairly early (around 7 a.m.) so we wake up and have breakfast together before I head to work at 8.
Where do you get your best ideas? I feel the most creative in the evening (I am usually sitting in bed and scanning my phone). My brain finally clears out the day’s business thoughts and lets my creative side engage.
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? I was lucky enough to work for Starbucks during the formative years of my career. My former boss, Anne Saunders, pushed me into sales and marketing rather than finance, which is where I started my career.
Anne taught me how to successfully connect on an emotional level with the consumer and how critical that was to any product. Numbers give you one perspective, but human insight and emotion tell a very different and important side of the story. Not only did she make me a better CEO, but she is a wonderful person whom I learned so much from.