Maggie Bergeron: Physiotherapist to Tech CEO
Maggie is a Registered Physiotherapist, Co-Founder of Embodia, Owner of The Yellow Room and Host of HealthTO. Embodia (formerly healthSwapp) is a online continuing education marketplace for healthcare professionals and their patients.
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself and Embodia.
I’m a physiotherapist and believe in a holistic, mindful approach to the practice. I started this company 2.5 years ago with a software developer who I met while dragon boating. I was sharing some of my challenges of the practice with him and he was looking for a side project. We decided to work together and launched healthSwapp which initially was a private secure app, similar to a YouTube channel, that healthcare practitioners could share home programs with patients and track how much they were actually doing. We’ve evolved a lot since then! Today Embodia is an end-to-end solution; a marketplace with online courses by experts in the field including pelvic health and oncology rehabilitation, as well as an app to share resources including exercises and education with patients who can track performance, goals and symptom levels.
Q. What’s the future of Health Tech? What trends are you seeing and what are you working on at Embodia?
Diversity is a very interesting topic for us right now - we’re working on a transgender module for Embodia. From my experience, I’ve seen a lot of very specialized professionals and resources, for example cancer rehab, but transgender health is really not looked at and more importantly, healthcare professionals really don’t know how to properly treat and support transgender patients. This module will cover everything from proper language to use to the psychological effects of a surgery. In addition, we will be providing a consumer facing course so that anyone with transgender consideration can take the course and learn about proper nutrition, mental health, exercise and meditation that may be helpful.
We’re excited to launch this for Niagara Pride on June 10th and will also be integrating with Toronto Pride at the end of June.
Q. What has been most helpful to you in your entrepreneurial journey?
I come from a very female dominant profession, about 70% female, and it’s starting to change now. Coming into the entrepreneurial world the first time in my health practice, I didn’t feel isolated at all. I feel that I received great support as a female founder and my co-founder is Lebanese so we make a unique duo!
One notable thing for me was my first mentor, Catherine Graham, CEO of commonsku and President of RIGHTSLEEVE. I was connected through Futurepreneur, which was more of a formal relationship for the first year. We received a loan for a year and were paired with a mentor but even once our loan was paid off (my co-founder refuses to have outstanding debt!) we have continued our relationship and meet every month. Catherine is extremely helpful on the marketing side and I love hearing her stories of how to navigate the tech world where, as she puts it, there’s a “huge lineup for mens washrooms at tech events and no line for womens”. She was an entrepreneur years before I and I very much value her perspective.
Q. You’re the host of HealthTO. What are your observations in bridging health and tech so far?
Just 2.5 years ago when I started, there was a massive resistance to tech in the health world. All I was hearing was “it’s so hard to talk to health care professionals about tech!” and it was true. Today, and especially with my involvement with HealthTO, we’re starting to see the two worlds come together. Our goal is to have the audience 50% tech and 50% health care professionals and we’re close to it (we’re about 40% healthcare professionals today).
The real (and exciting!) message is that tech shouldn’t be feared as there are solutions to privacy and securing information, but that there is a massive opportunity to not only innovate to benefit patients but also in health care professionals’ own workflow and efficiency. The bottom line is about saving time and saving money.
HealthTO takes place bi-monthtly in Toronto and it’s all about information sharing and feedback (more information at healthto.org).
Q. What’s your top advice for people in a similar position to yours?
There is nothing better than starting out as a poor entrepreneur. This doesn’t always feel great and often the challenges feel completely overwhelming. Here’s why we have decided to bootstrap Embodia:
- Without having to focus on outside funders we have 100% control over our company and our time
- Having limited funds lights a proverbial fire under your ass to work hard and work smart. When you don’t have millions of dollars to spend on hires and resources, you have to dig deep and get creative.
We are in this for the long game and want to grow with our partners – our users, course instructors and patients. These are our investors. They pay us for our service, and while our MRR is small, there is nothing better than learning, growing and building for those that you set out to serve in the first place.