Meet The PE Class Of 2018: Alicia Chong, Founder and CEO of Bloomer Tech
The 2018 PE Intensive, taking place April 13 & 14, brings together the the top 200 female founders from the PE Venture Competition for hands-on workshops and mentorship in New York City. Among the 200 are 10 finalists who have been given the additional opportunity to participate in the pitch competition on Saturday, April 14 for a chance to receive a $10,000 grant and a spot in a five-week accelerator program hosted at Rent the Runway’s headquarters.
In the week leading up to #PEIntensive18, we’re featuring the 10 pre-selected finalists (two additional wildcard companies to be chosen during the Intensive will also present at the live pitch competition) and introducing them and their companies to our PE Community. Visit our 2018 PE Intensive website to meet the entire #PEClassOf2018, join our mailing list for Intensive updates, and follow Intensive highlights and behind-the-scenes with hashtag #PEIntensive18.
Alicia Chong is Founder and CEO of Bloomer Tech, an MIT startup transforming women’s heart health by using ordinary clothing to collect extraordinary data. Alicia has a hardware engineering background and worked for ten years generating initiatives in Mexico and Costa Rica for Women in Tech after founding MenTe (Mujeres en Tecnología) with the collaborative community Ideas en Acción. We spoke to Alicia to learn more about Bloomer Tech, about being a woman at the helm of a tech company, and what she’s most looking forward to at #PEIntensive18.
Photo credit: Casey Atkins
What inspired you to start your business?
I was inspired by being a woman in tech and realizing there are gender gaps in healthcare, and that we could use technology to accelerate progress and build a future that includes all of us. I want tools for personalized medicine to impact all of us positively, and we can only do that if we collect data from populations that are different. A future with AI in healthcare is only as good as the data we give our models.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
There have been so many challenges, I am not sure which has been the biggest! We’ve reached technical breakthroughs to build our smart garments technology, and we’ve had people that don’t believe in us challenge us. I think building a company while being a student at MIT has had its highs and lows too—it’s hard to balance life, especially when all you can think about is your startup.
What’s been the greatest reward?
Meeting amazing people along the way, and also getting support from the people I admire and the I’m building the product for (Cardiologists and Heart Survivors). It’s also been rewarding to realize how much growth I’ve had and how much dedication and focus I’ve put into making this happen. But, definitely the greatest reward is how it feels when a patient shares their story with us and how they see themselves benefitting from our product.
What changes would you most like to see in your industry, and how are you working to make those changes happen?
When we talk about building AI-driven healthcare solutions, I want everyone to understand we have to include populations that are different and we will build a better future. Too often we see that data used to build those AI-driven healthcare models only include data from a certain population. We are raising our voices so others identify this as a problem and include diverse data in their datasets.
Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
I am very persistent, especially when I know something is possible, and I believe there is more than one way to reach our goals. It’s motivating to know that if I don’t persist, the future won’t be how I imagine it. Feeling I can contribute something to building a healthier world keeps me going—when things get tough, I imagine how much better the lives of women I’ve met would be if I could really make this happen. I also imagine how terrible and unfair the future could be if we don’t build these valuable and diverse datasets today; we have to work on this huge problem.
What about #PEIntensive18 are you looking forward to most?
I’m looking forward to learning from women who have been where I am today and achieved their dreams, and also I want to meet other women who are in the same stage we are. It’s always good to have friends that understand what you are going through as a founder.