Founder Profile

Rebecca Egger

Little Otter Health

For making kids mental health services more accessible.

Helen Egger had spent 30 years working in child psychiatry when she began to see that the academic strides being made in mental health weren’t reaching families: “We can’t solve the child mental health crisis just by training more providers,” she says, noting that while 20 percent of children have a mental health disorder, 70 percent of U.S. counties don’t have a single child psychiatrist. And when families do find care, they often face months-long waitlists. Egger had, since 2016, served as chair of NYU Langone’s department of child and adolescent psychiatry, where she’d launched a digital children’s health initiative. Her daughter Rebecca, who had product and engineering chops following stints at Palantir and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, came on as a consultant to help spin Helen’s project into a company. “After building the first slide deck with her and doing the first business model, something clicked,” Rebecca says. “I was like, ‘Wait a second--I have to do this.’” The duo founded Little Otter in 2020 with Rebecca as CEO; Helen left tenure behind and joined full-time in March 2021 as chief scientific and medical officer. In May 2021, the San Francisco-based company launched its digital health platform for children aged 0-12 and their families in California. The pandemic and the stigma around mental health care have only made the need for Little Otter’s services more urgent. “A lot of our families come to us after they’ve tried six to 10 other interventions,” Rebecca says. With $4.3 million in funding to date, Little Otter aims to offer services nationwide by the end of 2022.--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Location
San Francisco, California
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Vicky Tsai

Tatcha

For using her platform to fight hate crimes.

When Vicky Tsai returned in January 2021 to her CEO role at Tatcha, the San Francisco-based, Japanese-inspired skin care brand she’d founded more than a decade earlier, she had her work cut out for her. The company’s growth and culture had faltered in the two years since she’d stepped down, she says: “My job was to not just right the ship, but to imagine a completely new future for the company that takes into account how much the world has changed.” Then, when harassment and hate crimes targeting Asian Americans surged, Tsai knew she had to speak out. “It affected us as a brand, it affected our clients, and it affected each of us at a very individual and personal level,” she says, noting that the employees and customers of her brand are largely Asian American women, which made serving that community her first priority. “We took care of them by taking very public and early stances on what we would do to support change.” Tsai donated to anti-hate groups and is mentoring other AAPI entrepreneurs through Gold House, a leadership organization. Tatcha also worked with Room to Read, a children’s literacy and girls’ education nonprofit, to gather lists of books and resources to help teachers improve Asian American representation in their classroom libraries. “What I’m most personally proud of,” Tsai says, “is something that’s hard to measure but easy to feel, which is the change in my company--now that we’ve put purpose and culture back into the heart of the brand.”--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Location
San Francisco, California
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Ruzwana Bashir

Peek

For helping travel businesses stay afloat.

At the beginning of 2020, Ruzwana Bashir was celebrating a major milestone. Her company, Peek--which offers a platform to connect travelers with businesses offering local experiences like ziplining and boat tours--had reached a billion dollars in bookings. Then the pandemic hit, and bookings skidded to a halt overnight, says Bashir, the company’s co-founder and CEO. The businesses on Peek’s platform were hurting even more, so the company dedicated its efforts to supporting them. “By helping them succeed, we knew that we would be able to come out at the other end as well,” Bashir says. Peek helped its business customers access Paycheck Protection Program loans, provided contactless technology so they could reopen safely, and held workshops to help them pivot to targeting locals rather than tourists. Peek even helped some businesses start offering online experiences. The company took advantage of the shift to remote work by offering virtual team-building activities for distributed workforces at companies like Spotify, Google, and Nike. After closing its own San Francisco headquarters and going fully remote, Peek has flourished, doubling its pre-Covid bookings, Bashir says.--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Location
San Francisco, California
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Cynthia Plotch

Stix

For giving women's health tests a much-needed makeover.

After running into her boyfriend’s mom while buying a pregnancy test, Cynthia Plotch thought the women’s health industry could use a fresh approach. Her friend Jamie Norwood, who had recently fainted from a UTI, agreed. The two conducted some market research, found a need, and co-founded Stix, a direct-to-consumer women’s health brand, in September 2019: Their first product was a discreet, easy-to-use pregnancy test. But when the duo set out to raise money, more than 100 investors turned them down. “Most of venture capital is run by men, and this is a problem that mostly women face,” says Norwood. “So not only are we pitching the business and explaining why it makes sense as a business, but we're also explaining the problem.” Another complication arose in April 2020, when Plotch fell ill with mysterious symptoms and was eventually diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. “When you get sick, I think you realize how much you need to prioritize,” Plotch says. For Stix, that meant clarifying its mission to become a one-stop shop for women’s health education, not just products. The founders raised a $3.5 million seed round in April 2021, bringing Stix’s total funding to $5 million. The Philadelphia company is now a nine-person operation offering products to test for, treat, and prevent UTIs and yeast infections, in addition to pregnancy and ovulation tests and prenatal vitamins. Next up: launching new product lines and expanding its online library of health resources and digital tools.--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Location
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Jamie Norwood

Stix

For giving women's health tests a much-needed makeover.

After running into her boyfriend’s mom while buying a pregnancy test, Cynthia Plotch thought the women’s health industry could use a fresh approach. Her friend Jamie Norwood, who had recently fainted from a UTI, agreed. The two conducted some market research, found a need, and co-founded Stix, a direct-to-consumer women’s health brand, in September 2019: Their first product was a discreet, easy-to-use pregnancy test. But when the duo set out to raise money, more than 100 investors turned them down. “Most of venture capital is run by men, and this is a problem that mostly women face,” says Norwood. “So not only are we pitching the business and explaining why it makes sense as a business, but we're also explaining the problem.” Another complication arose in April 2020, when Plotch fell ill with mysterious symptoms and was eventually diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. “When you get sick, I think you realize how much you need to prioritize,” Plotch says. For Stix, that meant clarifying its mission to become a one-stop shop for women’s health education, not just products. The founders raised a $3.5 million seed round in April 2021, bringing Stix’s total funding to $5 million. The Philadelphia company is now a nine-person operation offering products to test for, treat, and prevent UTIs and yeast infections, in addition to pregnancy and ovulation tests and prenatal vitamins. Next up: launching new product lines and expanding its online library of health resources and digital tools.--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Location
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021