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August 8th, 2011


A Global Strategy with a Woman at the Helm


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Global StrategyI have now been in the investment business for over 15 years, and boy have I seen some shockers!  More about that subject another time. So when a friend of mine called me and said he was really excited about a brand new company that had developed an amazing product for women suffering from Dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cramps – for those not in the know), I thought he was joking.  This was coming from a 60 year old, traditional investment banker, as male as they come, and he was singing the praises of this new company. I thought this is either too good to be true or it’s a gimmick.

I decided to look into it further and had a an initial glance at the business summary and thought this looks pretty interesting on the basis it does what it says on the tin.  I also thought it must be a phenomenal bunch of women that had gone through this pain to understand how to develop the product.  Can you imagine my surprise when I was told the team was entirely male?  Not only was the team all male, but they were involved with the Marines, and designing motorbikes!  Now my interest was really piqued, how could a team of men come up with such an inherently female product?  As I got to know the team I began to understand why.

ROBRADY is a design company, not just a normal design company, but one that really thinks outside the box.  When Dr Stephen Lee approached them with what is now the Ziivaa belt, he had the technique but no real concept of how to design the device to be the most effective in capturing the technology and also allow ease of use.  ROBRADY’s team of designers, engineers, and visualists not only conceptualized the technology into a product but created something that would be easy to use and really effective; they refer to it as “humanizing”.

I had several meetings with the team, and as I got to know Rob Brady and Dr Stephen Lee, I also began to understand that these guys were pretty special, and it struck me that these men had really thought about the product, how a woman could most effectively use the product and how best to look at it from a design perspective.  Initially I thought I would be embarrassed talking to a group of men about something quite personal like menstrual cycles and the level of pain etc., but there was absolutely no awkwardness and the conversation was not only matter of fact, but refreshing in its content.

I was hooked!  I wanted to try this for myself; I haven’t suffered from really severe cramps, but enough on a monthly basis to feel uncomfortable, lethargic and unproductive.  I got one of the first prototypes and it really does work.  Simple and easy to follow instructions, no chemicals, no wires, and really effective technology that creates a solution to an age-old problem.  Yay!  I no longer need to take painkillers, try herbal medicines that tasted vile, or sit for hours with a hot water bottle feeling sorry for myself.  Wearing the belt for 15 minutes, I was ready to take on the world again!

I liked Ziivaa as a company and the people behind it so much that I wanted to be involved and be able to contribute my international and start-up experience to the company and the team.  In July 2010 I became an advisor to the company, the first female to be involved with Ziivaa at that level, and was proud to be working with such forward thinking men.  We all frequently encounter the chauvinistic male dominated culture in the corporate, venture capital and technology space, so to see this new company taking a novel approach in developing a great product was very refreshing.  More than that I love working with a group that is so open and forward thinking in trying to fill a gap in the market where no such solution exists.

What is even more intriguing is that Ziivaa has developed a product that solves an age-old problem and is in a very unique position to bring women of many ages and cultures together on a platform that has a single common denominator.  At the same time it can become so much more in terms of connecting with others around the world, sharing opinions and knowledge on culture, politics, health, and lifestyle.  The community element of Ziivaa is an exciting piece of the story that is unfolding as we speak.

Ziivaa launches commercially in the fall of 2011, it’s a company that has the adrenaline and power of the electric superbikes that ROBRADY designs, but the elegance and charisma of the women that will become the company’s powerful foundation.  One thing is certain, we all subscribe to the “25/8/366” philosophy, and Ziivaa will be a name to watch out for in the very near future.

Shimi Shah is the Executive Director of Ziivaa, LLC. She has been actively involved in fund management and venture capital for nearly 15 years. Shimi has spent over 10 years in venture capital in the US, Europe, and the Middle East. She has managed significant investments and portfolios, with several board seats. Shimi worked as a director at Partnerships UK plc (PUK), a UK Treasury entity in London for over three years. Prior to this, Shimi was Chief Investment Officer at Hanson Capital, managing an Anglo-American technology fund of over $100m, which focused on making investments in Silicon Valley and across Europe. Shimi is an active member of the Young President’s Organisation (YPO).