Liesel Vaidya is the co-founder and CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of Leda Health Corporation. Liesel's story is one of passion, drive, and an unwavering commitment to making a positive impact on the world. From her early years, Liesel was highly involved in creative fields and extracurricular activities, which likely helped to nurture her curiosity and ability to think outside of the box. Through Leda, Liesel aims to disrupt the industry bringing a revolution in digital health and sexual assault awareness.
How was your transition from Nepal to the US?
I completed my undergrad in Computer science at the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York which is shockingly just 20 minutes away from Toronto. I imagined big streets with flashing lights but to my dismay the part of New York state I went to, invited me with harsh winds and an unbearable cold. Everything was very different there but spending four years in Buffalo definitely acquainted me with this new environment. It was also during this time that I began to appreciate the diversity and growth opportunities that New York City had to offer.
What work did you do before you were involved with Leda Health?
After graduating from university I worked as a technical project manager at a startup Iyanu, a software company that bridges employers with Nigerian engineers. I came into contact with Madison who was also working there. Leda was never planned, the idea grew between Madison and me throughout our work together. We both felt strongly driven towards the cause and thus the concept behind the company was conceived.
How difficult was it for you and your partner, Madison in the initial stages of Leda Health?
The initial stages were very difficult for Leda, since we didn't have sufficient expertise or backing. The project was still in its infancy and a lot of structuring was required to outline the framework of the company. We even faced a lot of criticism from several stakeholders including those in government which goes to show the sensitivity around the spectrum of sexual violence.
Could you talk about what Leda Health works to provide?
Leda provides a spectrum of tools such as early evidence kits, emergency contraceptives, STI testing, toxicology testing kits and other tools to aid victims in the aftermath of a sexual assault. It is a B2B company which means it does not sell directly to individuals but it partners with organizations such as universities and sororities to ensure their services are readily available to those who need them. Leda also offers a 24/7 virtual Care Team comprised of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners to provide guidance and support. Leda also holds educational workshops to help educate and increase awareness about several topics surrounding sexual violence.
How does Leda work for sexual assault victims?
Over 70% of victims don't go to the hospital to seek care or police to report for a plethora of reasons including fear of not being believed, needing time to process what happened as well as a lack awareness and education on the resources available to them . Leda wishes to create an increased access to private and accessible resources that are easy to use that meet the needs of the 70%. The convenience of Leda's resources is incredibly accessible in emergency situations, with discreet packaging and on-demand delivery options available. They even have smart lockboxes available on select partner locations that use an online platform to allow access to time sensitive resources and kits, while creating a digital chain of custody to aid in legal processes.
Apart from Leda health, any other projects you are currently invested in?
I have been so ingrained in Leda that I don't have time for other projects, I wouldn't even consider that in a bad way because I'm doing something I'm really passionate about and have the drive to do on a daily basis. Leda has the potential to help so many lives and being part of making an impact is something I strive for.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Leda Health's operations and mission?
Leda was just beginning during the onset of the pandemic, I and Madison faced several hurdles while fundraising from venture capitalists and numerous problems building and hiring a suitable team. The pandemic halted most of our projects and also impacted production.
Could you share any success stories of individuals or communities that have been helped by Leda Health?
Leda has partnered with university organizations in several states in America. Leda also provided it’s resources at a music festival with over 12,000 attendees. This comes to show, how available Leda has become in communities spreading the notion against sexual violence. Recently, we got to work with Ukraine while the war was ongoing. It was such a heartbreaking experience learning about the conditions people were living under. We actively worked with NGOs and INGOs to provide resources to sexual assault victims during the war. We are proud we were able to help with the supply of our early evidence kits and emergency contraceptives for those impacted.
How can people support the work that Leda Health is doing?
Leda works to increase access to resources for the 70-90% of victims who do not access care following an assault. One of Ledas goals is to spread awareness among communities and create a strong foundation for support against sexual violence. Individuals and local communities can work from the ground level and help create an environment where it is safe to talk about sexual violence and normalize the topic. Leda hopes that by increasing access to resources, it creates a psychological deterrent which ultimately decreases the rate of sexual violence and wishes in the future that the company doesn't even have to exist.
Do you have plans on extending help to Nepal? Or doing any projects in Nepal.
I would certainly love to extend help back in Nepal but the circumstances and the infrastructure are two major roadblocks for successfully integrating Leda into the country. The country still has a long way to go in terms of creating widespread educational awareness and tackling sexual violence with multidisciplinary stakeholders and official backup, a project such as Leda would be obsolete in this context. The country is yet to mature in terms of normalizing awareness around this topic, building infrastructure for adequate resources and providing accessible follow up care such as mental health resources.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to make a difference in the world?
I advise young entrepreneurs to find issues they are passionate about and just go out and take the next step. There is a distinction between thinkers and doers; be the latter. Spend your time out of your comfort zone, get exposure to topics that drive your curiosity and accumulate experiences. Just like how we started Leda with little to no backing, and how we just played our cards and ran with the project. Every single seed you plant today will help you grow tomorrow.
How do you manage work and play? What do you do during leisure time?
Work can stretch long hours and can be very exhausting especially due to the sensitive nature of my work. I take my weekends off to unwind. Which basically entails practicing breathwork through yoga and meditation while also spending a considerable amount of time outdoors immersing in new experiences. Apart from this, I enjoy spending time with my niece and usually have long talks with my family back in Nepal.
"Leda hopes that by increasing access to resources, it creates a psychological deterrent which ultimately decreases the rate of sexual violence and wishes in the future that the company doesn't even have to exist."