‘I felt an irresistible urge to be among the creators’

16 Aug 2023

CEO and co-founder Frances Abeton. Image: Whyze Health

Frances Abeton tells Vish Gain how she went from a college student studying business while working full-time to becoming CEO and co-founder of Whyze Health.

“Witnessing how businesses were the architects of change, I felt an irresistible urge to be among the creators, shaping the landscape of industries,” Frances Abeton, CEO and co-founder of clinical trials platform Whyze Health, tells SiliconRepublic.com.

“This fascination made me realise that leadership was the bridge between innovation and impact. With a deep-seated aspiration to become a leader, I envisioned a role where I could inspire and unlock the latent potential within individuals.”

Abeton is a well-known name in the clinical trials space in Ireland. Through Whyze Health, co-founded by leading radiation oncologist Prof Frank Sullivan, she is trying to digitise the clinical trials process and improve Ireland’s abysmal performance compared to other small countries.

But her story as a leader in business started long before Whyze Health – a recent Start-up of the Week – was founded in 2021.

“My journey from college to becoming an investor and eventually a CEO has been shaped by determination, hard work and the invaluable opportunities that came my way,” the entrepreneur and angel investor says.

“Balancing the pursuit of education and the responsibilities of life, I embarked on a unique path. With the soaring cost of accommodation in Dublin, I had to make a tough choice: I enrolled in a business degree programme part-time while working full-time to cover my expenses. This decision allowed me to pay the bills while investing in my education.”

Entering the world of investing

Abeton then went on to work in various executive roles, notably head of business improvements at O2 Ireland, formerly known as Esat Digifone, which launched one of the first mobile services in the country.

“The organisations I worked with recognised the importance of education and invested in my growth,” Abeton says. “Through their support, I went on to complete an MBA programme part-time at Smurfit Business School, a transformative experience that expanded my horizons and equipped me with the knowledge to navigate the complexities of the business world.”

Abeton became an executive director at PLC Partners for two years, eventually joining Vision Consulting in its executive management in 2007. In May 2012, Abeton made her CEO debut by taking the helm at Firecrest, a clinical trials technology company.

But it was entering the world of investing that turned out to be a real steppingstone for Abeton to go on to found her own company.

“Venturing into the investing world, I was at the start-up landscape’s forefront. This role offered a unique perspective, enabling me to discern which companies held the potential to drive significant shifts in various industries,” she says.

“Being an investor opened doors to exploration and learning, unveiling the power of strategic decision-making and the far-reaching impacts of innovation. Transitioning into the role of a CEO was a natural progression.”

Today, as CEO of Whyze Health, Abeton wants to bring technology to clinical trials in the hopes to solve the dual problems of digitisation and awareness. The platform is aimed at both patients and physicians and uses data to provide individualised insights into health progress as well as access to the latest treatments.

‘Solidarity among female founders is at the forefront’

Abeton’s business acumen is complemented by Sullivan’s four decades of research and practice in healthcare, both in Ireland and the US. As well as adjunct professor of medicine at the University of Galway, he is also a founding director of the university’s Prostate Cancer Institute.

Other than the support of her co-founder, Abeton recognises the role other Irish founders have played in her entrepreneurial success.

“One of the most remarkable aspects of this journey has been the unwavering support from fellow founders who have traversed the start-up landscape before me. These seasoned Irish entrepreneurs serve as beacons of wisdom, offering insights and guidance that have proven invaluable,” she notes.

“As a female co-founder, I’ve witnessed first-hand the tremendous strides the support system has taken. The traditionally male-dominated entrepreneurial sphere has evolved and the solidarity among female founders has risen to the forefront. The network of mentorship, encouragement and shared stories has created an empowering tapestry that extends far beyond gender, united in the pursuit of common goals.”

Now, she hopes other young aspiring business leaders, from healthcare and beyond, will make the most of Ireland’s robust ecosystem and gain entrepreneurial success. The first step, according to her, is to “identify a problem you’re truly passionate about solving”.

“Building a business requires dedication and your genuine enthusiasm will sustain you through challenges, working endless hours and bringing true excitement,” she advises, adding that one must never stop learning, because the entrepreneurial journey is “filled with uncertainties”.

“Failure is not the end but a steppingstone toward success. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks and when setbacks occur, treat them as valuable lessons that help refine your approach.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic