Inspirational Woman: Bonnie Roupé | Founder & CEO, Bonzun

Bonnie Roupé

Bonnie Roupé is the CEO and Founder of Bonzun, the Stockholm-based company that creates tools designed to support women and their families during pregnancy.

Its first product, Bonzun Pregnancy, acts as the world’s first virtual midwife and provides pregnant women and parents-to-be with scientifically accurate medical information, guiding them through their pregnancy. To date, Bonzun Pregnancy has helped over 2 million users across the UK and Sweden, as well as millions of others with its affiliate app, Kexuema, in China.

It was personal experience that led Bonnie to found Bonzun. When she was pregnant with her second child, Bonnie experienced a number of complications, but was unable to identify if these were normal in the course of pregnancy or a cause for concern, on her own. These complications almost killed Bonnie; however, she had no idea that she was close to dying until she became critically unwell. She found it surprising that in this digital age, there wasn’t a tool available to help her identify her symptoms without having to consult a doctor or medical professional.

While researching the resources available to pregnant women, Bonnie was shocked to see the high numbers of women still dying from preventable causes, with the 2018 World Health Organization report supporting this, and finding that an estimated 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day. The same report states that the majority of maternal deaths are preventable, as health-care solutions for preventing or managing complications are well known, and that a lack of information is one of the main causes that prevents women from receiving the care that they need. With the United Nations aiming to provide universal internet access by 2020, Bonnie thought that it was natural that a solution addressing something as preventable as maternal mortality should be digital, which is how Bonzun was born.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My name is Bonnie Roupé and I’m the CEO and Founder of Bonzun, a Stockholm-based company that creates tools designed to support women and their families before and during pregnancy. Currently we offer Bonzun Pregnancy, an app which supports women during their pregnancy, and Bonzun IVF, software which assists women undergoing IVF treatment. I was born and raised in Sweden and have worked in the internet and mobile industries for over 20 years. Prior to founding Bonzun, I built a sports & health magazine to 20 per cent market share, exiting after four years to start Bonzun.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I was always interested in entrepreneurship and innovation, and was passionate about creating companies that would fill a niche. For example, in 2005 I founded Red Tee, Sweden’s first golf magazine aimed specifically at women, and in 2012, I founded Bonzun.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I developed pre-eclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition that endangered both me and my unborn child. At the time, I didn’t know the danger we were in as I didn’t know the symptoms I should be looking out for, let alone the words I should be using to look up my symptoms online.

The experience made me realise that there was no resource out there for accessing credible and accurate information around pregnancy. You had to go to the hospital first just to find out if you needed to be there or not. It all seemed very archaic, having to turn to a doctor every time there was a concern. I started to think that it would be useful for pregnant women to have all the information they need at the palm of their hand instead and that, in this digital age, it would be possible for me to build one myself. I could see very clearly how the software would work and I realised that if I didn’t build it, then maybe no one else would.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

There have been many challenges. At the beginning, I didn’t realise the amount of stamina and capital that is needed when you develop a completely new market. There is nothing to compare yourself to and so it is not good enough to simply build a great product. It also requires a lot of time and energy to explain your vision and prove the validity of your idea, and why the world needs it and as a founder, time is a very scarce commodity.

With Bonzun, we were fortunate to be able to make use of the wealth of data available in order to illustrate how big of an issue maternal death is, and how much of it is due to the downplaying of symptoms, or a lack of accurate information available to women. The difficulty for us, however, was in explaining to the global health industry how women could potentially access vital information and benefit from digital solutions, in addition to the care already provided by doctors. You have to remember that when I started Bonzun, the term healthtech was unheard of, the smartphone was new, and people had only just started to realise that mobile gaming could become huge. The idea that you could potentially build life-changing mobile apps that could function as a healthcare solution was beyond most people’s imagination.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

One of my biggest career achievements to date has definitely been seeing Bonzun Pregnancy develop from an idea into a company that has so far helped over two million women around the world with their pregnancy. The statistics around maternal mortality are truly heartbreaking - the 2018 World Health Organization report found that an estimated 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day. Knowing that we are working towards reducing this number and increasing awareness of life-threatening complications of pregnancy is hugely rewarding.

I am also incredibly proud of our newest innovation, Bonzun IVF. Currently, the tool is white labelled and sold directly to clinics in Sweden, Norway and Hong Kong; however, we are looking to expand even further in the coming months. It is an exciting time, because currently there is no other solution out there with the same functions.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I think the main factor for my achieving success was the fact that I always had absolute trust in myself and in my vision. I knew that a tool like Bonzun was needed and that it would help women around the world, so it wasn’t a matter of choice - I had to create it! This absolute faith in my idea has led to everything else - building a team that shared my vision, securing funding and growing and developing our products. Determination, and the belief that what we were creating was not only useful, but necessary, is what got Bonzun to where it is today.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

I would say firstly, believe in yourself - you wouldn’t have an idea in your head if you didn’t have the power to follow through. I would also urge anyone looking towards a career in technology to speak to others working in the field and never hesitate to ask for advice - I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for the mentors who helped me along the way. I truly believe that we, as businesspeople, need to invest in others, too. I try and meet with one aspiring entrepreneur a week, as I believe it is our responsibility as experienced founders to share our knowledge and encourage others to realise their vision.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I do think there are still barriers for women working in tech, and the only way to overcome this is by recognising bias - that's the most important starting point. When you put on a gender lens, you can more actively see even the unconscious biases at play - and do something about them.

I believe that this is a shared societal issue, though, and both men and women are at fault. We have societal norms that steer us. Old habits and comfortable categorisation that makes life easier, so and so we have to make sure we are going through regular checks and balances to identify where we have gaps and how to address them. That includes power dynamics in the boardroom right down to how staff are treated and how women and girls are portrayed in marketing material.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

In order to support the career progress of anyone working in tech, or any other industry for that matter, companies need to see people beyond their gender, looking at their skill set, experience and what they are bringing to the business as a whole. I believe that this approach will foster talent, provide equal opportunities and help businesses to flourish.

There is currently on 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would make sure that the 17 per cent of women who are already in tech get more exposure in general media to inspire young women to pursue a career in tech.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I like Reid Hoffman's podcast, Masters of Scale and would recommend the episode with Sallie Krawcheck called “Check your blind spot”. It’s not really about tech, but it’s inspiring and shows the risk that comes with lack of diversity, as well as highlighting opportunities for women who might feel like outsiders, as well as how we can develop a perspective that could bring high value to the table. On the readlist, I would say, ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg and ‘Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office’ by Lois P Frankel. And my current favourite, ‘Blitzscaling’ by Chris Yeh and Reid Hoffman.