Female Founder Friday: Anne Marie Droste shares her journey

By Florence Mayo
10 November, 2020

On the 31st of October, we hosted an event with Anne Marie Droste to kick-off our Female Founder Friday series.

Anne Marie is the co-founder and CEO of Grip Fertility, an at-home fertility test that helps women understand their bodies better and get to grips with fertility – without needing to wait for something to go wrong. Prior to founding Grip, Anne Marie was a core member of the Entrepreneur First team.

Anne Marie explained to an audience of 50 budding female founders how she came up with the idea for Grip. She came to the stage in her life when women are expected to quit their jobs, put their lives on hold, get married and have children. Similar to many women in their thirties, Anne Marie was affected by the fear that the longer you wait to have children, the less likely it is you will be able to conceive:

“I wanted to know, am I in the category of people who can have triplets when they’re 43, or am I in the category of people who should be worried at 32. If I knew that, I would make very different choices about what I do with the next 5 years of my life”

Anne Marie and the Grip team want us to be pro-active about our health, able to plan our lives, and make more informed choices.

Female founders starting out

During the Q&A, the audience members shared with Anne Marie a feeling of pressure that, as a female founder, you should be driven by impact, rather than profit and influence. Over the years Anne Marie has hardened herself and learned to stop being so scared of wanting to make a profit:

“In particular as women we shouldn’t be so scared to say that we’re just ambitious, want a great job, and want to beat everybody else. Our male peers wouldn’t think twice, so why should we?”

She feels that there is a lot of value in mission, particularly in terms of developing new technology and adding to the future, but it is a case of each to their own when it comes to starting a company. Her aim from the start was always ease of access and to empower women through data, yet her real drive was simply to create something really big and, in doing so, has created this impact.

Anne Marie’s advice to women who want to start a company, but are concerned they haven’t found an idea they are passionate about: this may not be the forever idea.

A founder has to be able to see themselves working in a field for a long time, but this doesn’t mean you have to be 100% convinced by your idea. A lot of what Anne Marie knows now, she learned in the process.

She is proud that 7 months ago, there was nothing.

Now, there is a product and people have made big life decisions because of something she created.

“It motivates me to know that I am bringing change into the world but that isn’t necessarily the reason I started.”

The highs and lows of building a company

When asked how she copes with the uncertainty of building a company and the criticism of others, Anne Marie explained that you never really feel comfortable. However, this is the path, with all of its complications, that she chose:

“I want it to exist and I want to be this person – and the version of me that tries this is the version of me that I like most’

Anne Marie combatted cold feet through talking to people and focussing on the positive things she had achieved. She reflected that women tend to be more critical of each other rather than supportive, and it’s easy to get in the mindset that startups are all in competition. Instead, startups should be more prepared to support, encourage and learn from each other – something Anne Marie believes already happens in the femtech community.

“Most people will think you are wrong and that’s fine. You will get 90% nos and that doesn’t matter. What does matter is the 10% of yeses”

People have strong opinions, particularly when it comes to building something new and breaking the norms, but it is important to listen to the opinions of the people who matter. For Anne Marie, the hard bit about being a founder is that you don’t know what is going to be right until you do it. Therefore, it’s important to have a network of people to let you know that it’s okay if things go wrong.

Finding a co-founder

For Anne Marie, her greatest ally is her co-founder Ling. Ling and Anne Marie are like yin and yang, but they complement each other as a co-founding team. They dare to disagree with one another, and have different opinions about how things should look. Yet this disagreement creates huge amounts of trust and healthy discussion on where the company is going. Having a co-founder creates commitment, emotional support and the counterbalance of working together.

“I think she’s awesome and can do a lot of things that I can’t do. Together, we can do things that barely anyone else can.”

However, Anne Marie explains that finding a co-founder wasn’t as simple as choosing her best friend. The only way to know if you’re going to make a strong team of co-founders is if you experiment with working together, and find out what works for you both. The answer is to try loads of things, plenty of which won’t work. She notes that the same can be said for building a company. As a founder you’ve got to be strong, stick to it and believe in yourself, yet be prepared to fail and go through the process of “slogging a dead horse into life”.

“In this sort of career, I would not forgive myself for not even trying.”

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