Who's That Gal: Gina Nebesar of Ovia Health
Name: Gina Nebesar
Occupation: Chief of Product, Ovia Health
Hometown: Monterey, California
Currently Reading: ...a preteen sci-fi novel I prefer not to name
Tell us about Ovia Health. What do you do? What inspired you to start the company?
Ovia Health is the leading digital health platform for women and families. We have three mobile apps (Ovia Fertility, Ovia Pregnancy, and Ovia Parenting), and what we really want to do is empower our users to take control of their healthcare and start families with confidence. It's an incredible feeling to be able to impact millions of people through our apps during some of the most important times in their lives.
Our company was founded in 2012 when our founder and CTO, Alex Baron, and his wife were first trying to start a family. He was getting a Masters in Statistics at Harvard, and he actually wrote an algorithm to predict his wife’s ovulation. The algorithm worked, and nine months later, Alex’s son (we call him “the beta baby”) was born. Alex then teamed up with our CEO Paris Wallace and me to create a health platform based on his algorithm.
We were so inspired by the state of women’s healthcare, so we set out to create a platform that improved the system and empowered women and families to engage with their healthcare every minute of every day.
How did your career path land you in health tech?
Before I made babies professionally, I made vending machines and satellites. I started my career as an engineer and production line manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, where I supervised manufacturing centers for space flight hardware. Managing a production line felt like running a startup, and from there I knew I wanted to start my own company.
I went to Harvard Business School and founded my first company, Automatic Apparel, out of my dorm room. Automatic Apparel sold everything from t-shirts and socks to earphones and cellphone chargers out of high-tech, touchscreen vending machines. My experience with that business taught me how to make not just products, but also experiences that people love.
After Automatic Apparel, I teamed up with my Ovia Health co-founders, and now I have the absolute dream job of helping people use technology to start families and live healthier, fuller lives.
We hear that you’re Techstars alum. What do you see as the pros and cons of participating in a startup accelerator program?
Techstars Boston was a great program for Ovia Health. At the end of the program we were just a team of six, but we had the support of the entire Boston entrepreneurial community.
Did your own pregnancy change your outlook on your work at all?
The biggest full-circle moment for me was filming weekly videos about my pregnancy to be shown to millions of women in our Ovia Pregnancy app.
Over the years, I’d heard so many journeys and stories, from fertility struggles to birth stories from amazing women and men who use our apps. Opening up about my own experience on such a large, public platform was eye opening, and it made me realize how much support Ovia gives to so many families, including mine.
Tracking my own journey with Ovia, from fertility to pregnancy to parenting, was a truly rewarding experience, and it made me appreciate my colleagues for their meaningful work even more.
Being pregnant also fueled an even bigger mission for the company to support working families. Pregnancy alone is like having a second job. Becoming a working parent inspired me to think how Ovia Health can help families digest and engage with their healthcare at home and at work.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in running Ovia?
The biggest challenge in my job is determining what we don’t build. I own the product roadmap and get to prioritize what we build andy why, so everyone thinks it must be hard to choose what to build. But when you have a passion product and a team of people who want to change the world, there’s no shortage of innovative product ideas. Choosing what amazing idea or product doesn’t make the roadmap is actually the hardest challenge.
What keeps you motivated?
The millions of women using our apps everyday keep me motivated! I look at my daughter with complete awe and think how my team and I have helped so many people also realize their dream of becoming parents.
What’s next for Ovia?
Ovia Health is rolling out our fertility and maternity solutions to top employers throughout the country, and we’re so excited to be helping employers engage women and families at work. Being a working mom, I know how hard balancing everything can be. I’m so thrilled to be working with innovative employers who want to better recruit and retain women and families with their benefits and care.