Cécile Real is the president and founder of Endodiag, a company she set up in 2011 to develop new diagnostic tools for endometriosis, a disease that affects approximately 10% of all women of childbearing age. In a series of blog posts over the next few weeks, Cécile will tell us about her experience in setting up her business.
I was lucky to start my first company at the age of 25. I use the word ‘lucky’ because, despite the fact that it is very challenging, being an entrepreneur is a very exciting and fulfilling occupation or, should I say, way of life. You think about it 24/7, but it gives you the opportunity to meet incredible people along the way and achieve things you never imagined you would.
When I told my father that I wanted to start my own company, he had an unexpected reaction, saying: “fine, fine, but don’t stop looking for a real job”. Hopefully when I called him back few weeks later to tell him that I had decided to launch my first company, he realised I was serious about doing it and he became my N°1 supporter. Without knowing it, that was probably the first key lesson I learnt.
Trust your instinct! You have to have the confidence to go ahead and do it! There is more than one way to be successful and you have to make your own way. Just because some people do things differently to you, it doesn’t mean that they are right and you are wrong. I do feel that sometimes women have a lack of confidence in themselves. Some people will agree with you and some won’t, but that’s not a good enough reason for you not to do it. Be smart, listen to others, and then make your own decision and strategy.
As a biomedical engineer I have always wanted to work on projects that address health issues. So my first company was developing new biomaterials for patients suffering from arthritis. After eight years of successful development, we were bought by a large orthopaedics company. I learnt a lot but I wanted to see other ideas, projects, and organisations, so I decided to help others to start or develop their companies. However, after two years of this, I was definitively missing being an entrepreneur and I wanted to find a new project that could have a strong social impact. That opportunity presented itself when I learnt about endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a chronic and disabling gynaecological disease affecting 180 million women worldwide, as many as suffer from diabetes. It involves tissue that normally grows inside the uterus growing outside it and invading other organs (ovary, bladder, colon…). It is associated with a variety of symptoms, particularly severe and unbearable pelvic pain and infertility (50%).
The only reliable diagnosis of endometriosis is through invasive surgery. On average, this surgery is performed nine years after the onset of the disease. Nine years of not knowing the cause of your pain and the associated emotional distress has a tremendous impact on a person’s social, personal and professional life. Even after surgical intervention the recurrence rate is very high (approximately 50% after two years) and endometriosis patients will have an average of five surgeries during their lifetime. A lot of people think pain during menstruation is normal… but endometriosis actually affects one in ten women.
Driven by a desire to provide healthcare professionals and patients with a better understanding of the illness and better diagnosis tools, we set up Endodiag in 2011…
Cécile REAL and Helene BENY, 1st employee of the company @Endodiag Lab