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Start-Up Diaries: Mimeno

Dr. Christiane Zedelius and Dagmar Mahnel are the founders of mimeno. The innovative app is designed to help women through the menopause – it provides a tracker to analyze the symptoms, a tailored body & mind program and a digital encyclopedia on all menopause related topics

How the idea for mimeno started

Christiane: I was a lawyer for more than 20 years and worked in large law firms. Everything was wonderful, it could have gone on forever. If it hadn’t been for this feeling of wanting to make a fresh start that I had. In my job, I got familiar with the digital world. I thought I would love to change sides, to build a start-up. Then, one day I was sitting at my desk in the office when everything changed. That morning again I woke up sweating. I started researching menopause on the Internet. You come across a lot of esoteric stuff, the available information was very limited and not well prepared or researched. Most of the time, it came down to recommending hormone supplements. It gave you the impression, that there wasn’t much that could be done anyway and women just have to ‘deal’ with it. That was when I had the initial spark. I went to my partners at the law firm and said: I had good years here. It was really great. But I’m out.

It’s been two years now. I started with a younger partner from the firm and a programmer. My co-founder quit after a few months, he had two small children and had to earn money again. A start-up does not bring a good return instantly. I was desperate to continue and was looking for a successor – a female successor, to be precise. And that’s how Dagmar came into play…

Dagmar: I have a background in business administration and worked in the consumer goods industry for many years before I switched to e-commerce and co-founded windeln.de. That was a great time. After I left the company and stopped working operationally, it was clear to me that I wanted to stay in this environment. I needed the contact to young people, to founders. I looked at pitches at ‘go beyond’, a business angel platform. And that’s when I heard the presentation by mimeno and met Christiane. I was totally enthusiastic about the product. I told Christiane: “If you make enough money, I’ll join you.” We stayed in touch. And then last summer I got a surprise phone call asking if I wanted to have lunch. Christiane told me she was looking for a new co-founder. It didn’t take me long to think it over.

What’s special about mimeno

Christiane: mimeno is designed to accompany women holistically through the menopause. The app consists of different tools with a multimodal approach. The heart of the app is a tracker where you can enter your symptoms and therapies every day. This data is collected in a database and displayed on a dashboard. You can see how you have been feeling the last weeks and months. The dashboard documents different symptoms and additionally – and this is the interesting thing – the correlation between symptoms and therapy.

An example: You have increased the dose of herbal preparations and suddenly you sleep better, but you have headaches more often. Such correlations can be recognized. You are much more enlightened and also more confident in your dealings with doctors. It also makes it easier for doctors – they can build on this data, it allows a much deeper anamnesis. We have worked together with internists, gynecologists and endocrinologists. Everything corresponds with the latest scientific knowledge. For example, the questionnaire with which one can determine quite easily whether one is in the menopause. It is based on a so-called menopause rating scale.

Dagmar: The second tool is a Body & Mind program. Because women not only have physical but often also mental complaints. It includes meditations, hormone-yoga or even a classic cardio program. Here you have the possibility to fill in additional questionnaires. On the basis of this data we can offer women an individual 20-day program with different exercises. An example: Many women suffer from hot flushes. Regular cardio training can reduce these complaints by 35 to 40 percent. So, in this case, you get more suggestions to do cardio. The third tool is an information tool called Insights, with blog articles and a glossary with the most important terms. 

Next Steps

Dagmar: The next step will be a community tool, a protected area, where women can talk anonymously peer-to-peer. This is extremely important to us.

Christiane: We are also in the process of getting certified. It’s an elaborate process, but we’re already halfway there. When you have CE certification, it’s like a kind of seal of approval. In Spain, for example, there is now an app on prescription. The measure is aimed specifically at digital diaries. It would be a huge step for us, so we have to complete the certification. 

Our Mission

Christiane: We have a social mission in addition to pure business. We are concerned with the removal of taboos surrounding the topic. There are countries that are much further along in dealing with it. In the UK, for example, female members of parliament have brought up the issue into the public parliamentary debate. There are employers there, for example in the food industry, who even contractually guarantee affected women a sabbatical. Or in China, for example: there is a clinic in Beijing where one million women with menopausal symptoms are treated on an outpatient basis every year. We are still a long way from this progressive approach in Germany.

Dagmar: The problem with this lack of openness is that it also has an impact on the health system. Many of the symptoms are only considered in isolation. An internist treats the heart stumble, but does not see the connection, maybe checks the thyroid hormones, but no longer the estrogen and progesterone. We could save so much money in the health system! Because doctors only look at their specialty, many unnecessary and useless therapies are prescribed. This is madness.

The most important achievements 

Christiane: I have made numerous telephone calls. The women told me that mimeno had given them an incredible security in life. They would finally feel that they were no longer alone. I would describe this incredibly emotional user feedback as our greatest success. It’s enormously motivating.

Dagmar: What women take so much for mimeno is the feeling of coziness. Someone is doing something for me. This can also be seen in the interest in the planned community tool, although at the moment it is only announced “Coming soon”. 

What we have underestimated

Christiane: The commitment of the investors. We have a business model that requires a bigger investment. We thought it would be easier to get venture. After all, we offer an innovative, digital solution for a major issue that does not exist anywhere else in the world. We’re on a pretty good track at the moment to collect money. But it is tough. 

Dagmar: We have a target group that is highly exciting because it is very clearly defined: women between 42 and 60, 75 percent of them have complaints and have been dealing with it for an average of seven and a half years. However, mimeno is a long-term investment. This is not for someone who wants to make money in two or three years. 

Our big goal 

Christiane: We want to turn mimeno into a trusted brand. If I may think big now, women should automatically think of mimeno at the first signs of menopause. Like with o.b. when they get their first period. And we are not finished yet, we still have so many ideas! For example, you could combine analogue and digital, combine the emotional with AI. But that costs a lot of money.

The most important tip for new entrepreneurs 

Christiane: Before approaching a business model that doesn’t immediately make money like ours, you should make sure that you have financial supporters. We have taken a very risky path. The world has changed. Today we celebrate start-ups that generate revenue very quickly. So, in reverse: if you have an idea that scales quickly, it makes things a lot easier. Dagmar: I think it’s important that you don’t have to bend over backwards with your co-founders. That you can say what you think. You don’t even have to know each other well before. We didn’t know each other well either. But you should have the feeling that you share values such as respect, openness, honesty. I also find diversity in the team incredibly important and enriching. I learned that at windeln.de too. That’s why it’s great that our IT colleague not only does programming, but also thinks along with us and gives us feedback – as a man.

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