Sequoia Health: Empowering Men to Unlock Sexual Health Potential
Please introduce yourself and the Startup Sequoia Health to our readers!
Hi StartUp Valley readers! I’m Denis Galka here with Olga Nevdakh. We are the founders of Sequoia. Sequoia is a mobile app that allows men to anonymously track and improve sexual health.
Why did you decide to start a business?
Denis: I decided to start this business based on a personal incident that occurred several years ago. When I was 23, I experienced pelvic pain as a result of catching a cold. Initially, I didn’t understand what was happening to me, and I simply felt some pain after urinating. However, instead of seeking medical help, I chose to ignore it out of embarrassment, hoping that it would resolve itself.
Unfortunately, over time, the pain worsened and began to significantly impact my intimate life. It reached a point where I could no longer bear it, and I finally sought medical attention. While the disease was eventually treated, I was left with lingering questions.
Reflecting on my experience, I started to question why I felt such intense shame and reluctance to reveal my health issue. It was something completely natural for me as a man, yet I was afraid to discuss it openly. This realization sparked a deep desire to address the stigma and barriers that prevent men from seeking help and discussing their sexual health openly.
Olga: How does it make you feel when you hear the phrase «bad erection»? What associations come to mind? Do you feel shame, weakness, or embarrassment?
When you see ads for drugs that treat impotence, does it trigger discomfort?
Have you ever heard nervous chuckles, inappropriate jokes, and promises of miracle pills supposed to help in the company of so-called friends?
I’ve heard the answer “yes” to these questions from men who seek my advice. Each of them carries a story of rejection of their problem, their sexual history, and even themselves. Loss of identity, depression, and other mental disorders.
I have always enjoyed dealing with complex and unpopular topics and challenging myself as a professional. In my previous work as a forensic scientist, I studied and researched men with paraphilias. At the same time, I became interested in normal sexology and the types of concerns men bring to a sexologist. That’s how I ended up in the polyclinic.
From the beginning, I’ve always had a lot of men at my appointments. I’m good at building a treatment plan and therapeutic work. I assign a lot of homework, writing, different techniques, exercises, diaries, and reading articles. But often, men would lose their notes, which slowed down the whole process, and it was sometimes impossible to trace the dynamics.
I wanted to do something convenient where all the assigned tasks were stored in one place, reducing the risk of loss or forgetting. I aimed to instill a sense of responsibility in men for their health, encouraging them to take the initiative without hesitation.
What is the vision behind Sequoia Health?
The vision behind Sequoia Health is to break the stigma surrounding men’s sexual health. We are driven by a desire to change men’s attitudes toward their intimate health and foster a habit of paying attention to it. Our ultimate goal is to empower men to have long and fulfilling intimate lives, free from shame or hesitation.
We envision a world where discussions about men’s sexual health are open, normalized, and free from judgment. Through our app and platform, we strive to provide comprehensive resources, education, and support that enable men to take proactive steps toward their sexual well-being. We want to create a safe and inclusive space where men can access the tools they need to understand, address, and optimize their intimate health.
From the idea to the start what have been the biggest challenges so far and how did you finance yourself?
The biggest challenge encountered during the early stages of Sequoia Health was finding confirmation that our focus on men’s sexual health was indeed a significant need. Men often find it difficult to openly discuss their sexual health problems, which made it challenging to gather sufficient responses during customer development interviews. However, we were fortunate to have Olga join them. Olga’s expertise and experience as a healthcare professional allowed her to connect with patients who understood the complexity of the problem and were willing to share their experiences and insights. We’ve also partnered with UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) Belarus, which has greatly enhanced our knowledge base.
In terms of financing, we used our own money.
Who is the target group of Sequoia Health?
The target group of Sequoia Health is men aged 20-65 who are interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and are seeking to unlock their sexual health potential. This app is designed for men who want to be sexually educated and informed about various aspects of their sexual health. Additionally, Sequoia Health caters to men who may already be experiencing sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction, ejaculation disorders, or low libido. The app aims to provide resources, guidance, and potential solutions to help men address these issues and improve their overall sexual well-being.
Sequoia Health operates through a user-friendly mobile app. Upon downloading the app, users are prompted to take the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) test, which serves as an initial assessment. Based on the results, a medical algorithm generates a personalized health report and a 21-day course designed to enhance intimate health. Each day, users are presented with a daily plan consisting of physical exercises, relaxation exercises, meditation techniques, and a sexual health tracker. The tracker allows users to monitor their sexual activity, including sex, masturbation, and the quality of erections.
After the initial 21-day course, users are encouraged to retake the IIEF test to assess their progress. They receive a new Erectile Index and are provided with another 21-day course featuring updated recommendations. Additionally, on a monthly basis, users receive a health report based on the sexual tracker data, offering insights into the changes in their sexual activity as a result of following the recommendations.
The Sequoia app also provides information on recommended health tests based on a user’s age and features a knowledge library containing articles on various aspects of male sexuality. Users also have the option to anonymously ask a doctor a question, enabling a more personalized approach.
One of our key advantages is our team of doctors, including psychologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, and sexologists. They contribute medical algorithms, exercises, and unique authored content to the app. Furthermore, Sequoia Health is supported by the United Nations Population Fund, enhancing our credibility and resources.
What sets us apart from other providers is that the Sequoia app’s benefits have been confirmed by numerous kinds of research. In a survey conducted in June 2023, the following positive changes were reported by users: 79% experienced positive changes in sexual health, 45% noticed improved erection quality, 25% reported more intense orgasms, 26% observed an increase in libido, and 43% became more mindful of their sexual health. These findings demonstrate the effectiveness and impact of the Sequoia app compared to other providers in the market.
Sequoia Health, where does the road go? Where do you see yourself in five years?
The road ahead for Sequoia Health is filled with ambitious plans.
Firstly, we aim to expand our reach and impact by adding support for Android devices and incorporating multiple languages. Our goal is to ensure that men from all around the world, regardless of their geographical location, social status, or sexual orientation, have the opportunity to improve their sexual health and unlock their potential through our app.
Additionally, we are committed to becoming HIPAA and GDPR-compliant, prioritizing the security and privacy of user data. We want our users to have complete confidence that their personal information is stored securely and that only they have access to it.
Furthermore, we plan to integrate AI into our platform, harnessing the power of the latest technological advancements. This will enable us to enhance the user experience, provide more personalized recommendations, and stay at the forefront of innovation in the field of sexual health.
Looking ahead, our vision for Sequoia Health in five years is centered around the impact we aspire to have on society. We envision having saved at least 10,000 relationships or marriages by offering evidence-based advice and resources to men in need of assistance with their sexual health challenges. We anticipate increasing the average duration of sexual intercourse by at least 40% and the average frequency of sex by at least 50%.
Furthermore, we aim to diagnose and address 5,000 problems at an early stage, enabling better management and prevention of more severe conditions. Ultimately, we seek to improve the overall quality of life for men by fostering a better understanding of and proactive management of their sexual health.
By striving towards these goals, we aim to make a substantial positive impact on individuals, relationships, and society as a whole.
At the end: Which 3 tips would you give to future founders?
1. Make sure you do market research – 95% of startups close due to insufficient development of hypotheses at an early stage.
2. Don’t be afraid to try. If you want to live a life you haven’t lived before, you have to do things you haven’t done before.
3. Keep going. Keep going, even if no one believes in you and the team, even if they laugh at you and don’t take you seriously. Keep going even if you want to quit. Often innovators stop one step away from success due to fatigue and misunderstanding, but pioneering efforts and developments pave the way for others to follow and ultimately achieve success.
4. Get enough sleep and take time to rest. Success won’t matter if you are chronically tired or unwell. Any startup is a marathon. Spread your energy around.
Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.