Female Founder Spotlight: Jemma Redmond of Ouro_botics
“That’s when I started dabbling in bioprinting. It was pretty wacky.”
According to the US Department of Commerce, women are vastly underrepresented in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) workforce. SOSV wants to change this, and promote the fantastic work of our female founders so they can inspire others.
Jemma Redmond was founder and CEO of Ouro_botics, a HAX alumni. She made her mark in the biotech world by developing an affordable modular 3D bioprinting platform. Sadly, Jemma passed away last year, and our community is still mournful. She shared her thoughts with us in an interview in 2015, which we want to resurface and share with others.
“Apple wouldn’t be Apple without the hardware. So we’re making the platform that people will use to do their various applications in the future,” explained Redmond. With a lower cost to bioprinting, researchers and students can have better access to the technology, which they can use to make lab-grown meat, implants, human organs, textiles and more.
“At Ouro_botics, we are focusing on getting the bioprinter ready,” said Redmond. “It’s going to be called the ‘Revolution’ 3D Bioprinter, and it should be ready in the near future.” There will likely be a Kickstarter in the future as well.
Originally from Dublin, Redmond was unique character with an undeniable passion for her work. We asked her some questions about her journey as a female founder.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How long have you been interested in science and technology?
J: I’ve always been dabbling with stuff. I used to get into a lot of trouble for breaking things, taking things apart. So I’ve always had an interest in seeing things work. One time I got suspended from college for crashing a network. I’m a very curious person. I was interested originally in physics, so I started off in electronic engineering. I did a bit of programming, and designed my first robot based around how I would think. Then I went on to do applied physics at Aberdeen, and I was totally interested in quantum mechanics. I got into physics, and realized that physics could actually be boring as well. Then I got really interested in the biology side of things, because I have some personal interest in that area. There are a number of reasons I got into the field, but — I found out I couldn’t have children. I have some differences in my body. I was trying to find solutions to the problem. I was trying to see if I could actually fix things, or re-generate tissue. And that’s kind of how I got into bioprinting. I came across this field, and it was like “Wow, you can actually grow tissue.” You can do a lot of things. I started building my own machines on my kitchen table. I used to put them on top of my cooker and use the heating stove to keep them hot, and then use the hood above to keep the fumes out when it started smoking. It was quite dangerous, actually. That’s when I started dabbling in bioprinting. It was pretty wacky.
Have you faced any challenges in your career due to your gender?
J: Yes. It’s hard to get listened to. You feel like you’re talking sometimes, and no one is paying attention to you. And suddenly the ideas are circulated again by somebody else, and then, “Wait a second, I said that. Like, two weeks ago. Hello.” That happens a lot. That’s kind of hard, not being taken seriously. There’s a bias there that you can’t seem to shake off. So you have to work a lot harder to get noticed and to build credibility.
Do you work with a mix of men and women?
J: At the moment, yes. Generally on the engineering and science side you’ll find more men. I think a lot of women get put off from science and engineering because they’re told they’re not good enough. If there aren’t many others doing it, women might feel they’d look a bit strange when they do it. Getting ignored, and lack of confidence, I suppose is part of the problem.
Based on all the experience you’ve gained, what advice would you give to women who are just entering a similar field as you?
J: I would say have faith in yourself. Don’t get pushed around so much. Show confidence. I also think women should be more supportive of each other, instead of being derogatory towards each other, because that’s a big problem. It erodes confidence. It’s just better to build everybody else’s confidence up, because you can build your own that way. So I’d say be confident, and try not be be nasty to other people, because it will always come back at you. It’s kind of like karma, right?
Follow Ouro_botics on Twitter @Ouro_botics.
Originally published at sosv.com on September 18, 2015.