Danae is a medical doctor with a background in public health and member of BASHH (British Association for Sexual Health and HIV). She co-founded and is the CEO of Yoxly, a venture that provides a range of remote sexual health services through an ecosystem designed to give users more convenience, privacy, accessibility, and control. At present Yoxly is operating as a team of three. Having built and launched its MVP earlier this year, Yoxly is generating revenue and looking to close its pre-seed funding round.
What is your background? What made you decide to get involved in supporting entrepreneurs?
I’m a doctor working in emergency medicine, but I also have a background in public health. I’m passionate about helping people – both in the acute setting (working in A&E) and in the long term (promoting health and preventing disease). But healthcare is often reactive, rather than proactive. It was the frustrations that I felt with an inefficient system that led to unnecessary costs (both human and financial) which prompted me to set up Yoxly. I channelled that frustration into motivation.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
I would say it is identifying a problem and then devising a new or improved solution that makes people’s lives better in some way, shape, or form.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
I was constantly confronted by the need for better sexual health education and provision of services. It was evident though my work at the hospital, as well as through friends and family. We conduced market research to confirm what we thought was a good idea and began building Yoxly to those specific frustrations.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
First, be inquisitive and never become complacent. Always be thinking critically and avoid becoming overly attached to your ideas or so passionate that you lose perspective. It’s important to stay lean and agile, otherwise you may miss something that could be improved. Second is the ability to work effectively in a team. Make sure that you are surrounding yourself with people who think differently and who can challenge you. Third is resilience – sometimes an almost pathological optimism. As an entrepreneur you are going to be knocked down again and again, but what matters is how many times you get up. Ultimately there are no failures, just opportunities to learn. Take what you’ve learned and apply that knowledge to your next endeavour.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
I’m very much a people person. I love meeting people who are dynamic and diverse, exchanging ideas and putting skillsets together to create something valuable.
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
It was thrilling to receive feedback from our users after we started trading. Those early users are almost like co-creators – their input shapes your company. While it’s always rewarding to hear how we’ve helped them, it’s equally important to note their questions or frustrations, to understand how we can continually improve on our product/service.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
As I said earlier, there are no failures, just opportunities to learn. There is an inclination to sit in a room with a whiteboard and plan…and plan…and plan. Don’t get stuck in the analysis paralysis, where you’re so focused on theory that you don’t put anything into practice. Start doing, learn quickly, stay agile.
How have you funded your ideas?
Until recently we’ve been self-funding, apart from two small grants. It allowed up to get the MVP up and running. Now we have external investors on board, which has been wonderful, and we’re looking forward to taking Yoxly to the next level.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
Absolutely! We were helped by the Santander grant, the OxFo Covid-19 Rapid Solutions grant, the OxFo LEV8 Demo Day, the DSLive pitch competition, the Need for Seed pitch competition, and the Oxford Seed Fund, just to name a few.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Oxford is an incredibly diverse and interesting city. It draws talented people, studying all sorts of things, from all over the world. The University is an amazing resource, and the Oxford Foundry and the Saïd Business School are extremely helpful.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
I would 100% recommend the Oxford Foundry. I’d also suggest entering pitching competitions (like the DSLive) and joining online startup networks (like Odin). Get to know other startups in your area, exchange ideas and explore the potential for synergy.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman entrepreneur? If so, how have you overcome them?
The startup/VC world can still feel quite male-dominated. Sometimes it’s difficult to be a “different” voice in the room. Just remember that diversity adds value. Your perspective adds value. If someone isn’t willing to hear that, then it’s not your responsibility to convince them.
What resources would you recommend for other women?
There is growing support for women in business. Check out female angel networks, find a mentor. Don’t be shy about reaching out or asking questions. There are plenty of people out there who are happy to help!
How could institutions such as the University of Oxford better support women entrepreneurs?
The fact that we are asking this question is already a step in the right direction! It would be wonderful to see more female focused networking events, where entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, etc, could meet and share ideas.
Do you have any advice specifically for other women who want to be entrepreneurs?
Believe in yourself, your idea, and what you can accomplish – if you don’t believe, nobody else will. Remember that diversity adds value. Your perspective adds value. Don’t let others minimize what you bring to the table. Don’t give up. You can make almost anything work, eventually, in some form or fashion – it’s just a matter of how many times you’re willing to try.
Any last words of advice?
Remember not to give up. Believe in yourself, your idea, and what you can accomplish – if you don’t believe, nobody else will.