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Riya Shah is founder and president of Louisville-based Fetal Life, LLC.  

What does Fetal Life do? 

In 9th grade, I learned about the emotional and financial stresses of false-positive contractions that my mother faced when she was pregnant with me. Her story inspired me to help mitigate this issue for other pregnant women by inventing a patented medical device (called myContractions) and starting a company, called Fetal Life. Fetal Life is a healthcare company that provides solutions which holistically offer care throughout the entire pregnancy journey and during the postpartum period. Fetal Life has a novel and patented contraction device that is portable, affordable, and easy to use. It can be paired with a smart mobile phone or tablet which enables pregnant women to measure their contractions at home in real time and share the contraction information remotely with healthcare providers. Fetal Life also has a mobile app (called myFetalLife) that enables the self-management of health. Furthermore, Fetal Lifes solution provides a telemonitoring platform for nurse-managed care and a telemedicine platform for physician-managed care. 

The CDC states that the early recognition and management of pregnancy complications and the continuous monitoring of the pregnancy by healthcare providers is essential in ensuring healthy, positive outcomes for expectant mothers and in reducing the risk of mortality. Fetal Life recognizes this statement to be the key to safer outcomes. Fetal Lifes solution allows for pregnant women to be remotely monitored by healthcare providers, helping extend pregnancy care beyond clinical walls and promoting improved outcomes. The emergence of telehealth has enabled remote access to healthcare services, improving rural access to healthcare specialists and access to a wider range of specialists, like OB/GYNs. The Fetal Life solution is also especially useful for high risk pregnancies and pregnant women facing access to care issues since our platforms and products allow for monitoring and sharing health vitals and contraction data in an efficient, automated manner. Fetal Life is passionate about serving the pregnant community, because healthy moms mean healthy babies. 

What sets Fetal Life apart? 

Fetal Lifes holistic care solution is unique and foresees numerous opportunities in the pregnancy space. Although many pregnancy companies exist in this market, we truly dont consider them as our competition because most of these companies as of now dont have a combination of their own patented device, telemonitoring platform, and telemedicine platform, which differentiates Fetal Life from these companies. Our devices are affordable, portable, and easy-to-use. Our devices are also clinically proven and come at a fraction of the cost of hospital contraction monitoring devices. Telemonitoring and telemedicine are also growing areas, and the need for these services has been fueled by the current pandemic. The Fetal Life solution facilitates the real time sharing of health assessments, contraction data and fetal heartbeat data with healthcare providers, regardless of location. Our devices and telehealth platforms play an important role in helping mothers share their contraction and health measurements data real time with healthcare providers to make well-informed decisions about their pregnancies. With the Fetal Life solution, pregnant mothers can get care right at their fingertips. Overall, the Fetal Life solution provides cost savings for the customer, improves outcomes, and is greatly impactful in promoting healthier pregnancies and thus healthier babies. 

What was the greatest challenge you encountered in launching your startup and how did you overcome it? 

Being an innovative company and a disruptor in the pregnancy space has its own challenges. Introducing devices in a space, especially in a highly controlled and regulated healthcare industry, requires patience. Also, the time from ideation to go-live is very long, requiring dedication to keep pursuing the path to perform clinical trials, prove the overall concept, align with healthcare providers and keep evolving. This requires a lot of patience, hard work and funding. I had to continuously keep raising funds, which at times takes away the focus from operations to fund raising every now and then. 

We also faced business scaling challenges during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic fueled a need for services like telemonitoring and telemedicine. During the pandemic, with most people adopting social distancing norms and pregnant mothers unable to visit their physicians due to safety concerns, Fetal Lifes telehealth features, and solution overall, became especially impactful in effectively monitoring pregnant mothers’ health remotely in between routine physician visits while keeping mothers safe from potentially getting infected. 

What are you most proud of about Fetal Life? 

Fetal Life holds a special place in my heart. Through my passion for technology and innovation, I want to keep helping improve health outcomes and quality of life. I am proud that Fetal Lifes technologies have been able to help pregnant women worldwide. I have received many kind notes from our pregnant users in which they tell me how thankful they are for Fetal Lifes vision and support during the pregnancy journey. It always puts a smile on my face knowing that Fetal Lifes solution is helping make pregnancy a safer and more positive journey. 

What piece of advice do you have for new founders – or – what have you learned that you wish youd known when launching a startup? 

The entrepreneurial journey is a rollercoaster with ups and downs. My mentors remind me frequently that patience is the key for entrepreneurship. Each step in the process can take time or can pose setbacks, but it is important to be patient and persevere through these challenges. These downs” eventually will turn into ups.” There is nothing more difficult yet so fulfilling than turning dreams into realities, and entrepreneurship allows just that. Being an entrepreneur is a rewarding experience that not only shapes ones identity but eventually becomes ingrained in it, and I am fortunate to be part of the entrepreneurial community.  

What is the most important ingredient or ingredients for a thriving startup ecosystem? 

For a thriving startup ecosystem, a key ingredient is the support of mentors. I am very thankful to my family, team members, and mentors for their continued support and for always believing in me, which has allowed me to be so successful at such a young age. With their support and guidance, I was able to start Fetal Life as a 15-year-old back in 2017 and have been able to help grow the company to new heights ever since. A thriving startup ecosystem is built off of a network of mentors and supportive people, who encourage innovation and collectively help startups widen their entrepreneurial impact. 

What makes Kentucky a great place to innovate? 

Kentucky is a state filled with talent, bright minds, and innovators. Kentuckys entrepreneurial ecosystem is strong and supportive, and helps entrepreneurs of all ages in growing their startups and achieving their entrepreneurial dreams. Kentucky provides many resources and funding opportunities to innovate away. I am proud to be from an innovative state like Kentucky! 

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