We caught up with the femtech entrepreneur who has successfully raised $30 million in venture capital since launching her company in 2013.
Ida Tin is the reason why 5 million women in over 190 countries are having intimate conversations about their period with their smartphone. As co-founder and CEO of Clue, a mobile app that calculates and predicts a user’s fertile window, period, and other important reproductive health data, Tin is determined to help women plan their families with accurate, predictive, and easy-to-use technology.
Check out our interview with Tin below.
I read that you led motorcycle tours around the world, wrote a book about your adventures, and eventually went on to start your own tech venture. What led you down this road?
Personal experience was really the reason I developed Clue. Reproductive health is an incredibly foundational and central part of our lives, but there’s a real lack of clarity for women on this generally. That starts the moment a woman has her first period and manages that part of her life and continues as she chooses if and what birth control method to use. When I was about 30, the pill wasn’t working well for me, and I realized there had been little innovation in this space for the past 50 years.
Reproductive health is something that concerns both men and women. It is an instrumental part of both mine and Hans’ life, as my partner, and now the father of my children. He was, and is, as passionate about Clue as me. Therefore, it seemed natural that he would be part of this venture.
What have you learned since launching your venture company? What were some of the surprises?
The biggest challenge since Clue's launch directly relates to the lack of resources women have when it comes to their health, whether due to a lack of scientific research or due to societal taboos. This is still a very new space with a ton of potential because every woman in the world faces the realities that come with menstruation, fertility, and overall health. Many people don't have the tools to discuss this fundamental and important part of life. Some even considered it "niche", or avoid the subject altogether.
Paving the way for femtech, an entirely new space in the tech community, and opening up the dialogue globally has been one of the biggest—and most exciting—challenges we've faced building Clue.
There are a few well-known names (VC firms and tech companies) supporting Clue, how does that influence the design/data component behind the Clue platform?
Our VC’s support the end goal of what Clue is trying to achieve, and whilst we take into account their thoughts and ideas around the design of Clue, we tailor the app to the needs of our users, meaning we are able to deliver the best, most personalized experience for each and every person.
What are your primary objectives in helping women keep track of their menstrual cycles?
When I dreamed up the idea of Clue, I felt that there had been very little innovation in family planning since the pill came out. I was wondering how it could be that we managed to walk on the moon but that most women still don't know which days they can or can’t get pregnant. I personally needed such a tool to manage that very important part of my life. I was also convinced that many other women would find an app like Clue not only very useful but also very empowering.
With Clue, users can track their period, fertile window, PMS, moods, pains, symptoms, exercise, medication, birth control usage, and more in order to gain a better understanding of their own patterns and personal trends. Our algorithm predicts your cycles based on your own data, not on a set number or global averages. So Clue is accurate and becomes even more so the more you use it. I strongly believe that Clue is not only a vital educational tool, but also incredibly empowering.
How are you sharing data collected from users with the greater public health community? Can you point to any examples of how others (researchers, institutions, etc.) have benefited from the data your company is providing?
We currently partner with Stanford, Columbia, University of Washington, and Oxford University to help advance female health research. By partnering with these scientific institutions and researchers, we are giving them access to our global user base and allowing them to ask questions and make conclusions, which can then be tested further and used for education purposes worldwide.
For instance, Clue and a researcher from the University of Oxford have launched a joint project to empower women to acquire knowledge of their own bodies. The project aims to bring anthropology to women and show that variation is “normal”— and to research how a more refined understanding of the premenstrual experience can be harnessed to improve women’s health.
We have an incredibly active and vocal user community. Feedback is that people use and love Clue because of the wealth of informative, unbiased medical information available both on the app and on our blog. We listen to our users and we endeavor to answer their questions. For example, recently, a lot of users wanted to know whether menstrual cycles really do sync. Taking this on board, we conducted a scientific study into cycle syncing, so as to be able to answer this question. (They don’t sync).
Lastly, what is the next evolution of Clue? Where would you like to see its influence years from now?
Clue’s ongoing goal is to continue advancing research into female health and to make basic information about reproductive health more accessible.
As already mentioned, we have partnerships with the University of Oxford and Stanford University to help advance research into female health. We are also working with Columbia University and the University of Washington.
We listen to the needs of our users and in May 2017 we launched our smart pill tracking technology, following a huge volume of helpdesk requests for advice about taking the pill, and what to do if one is missed. This sizable update offers users medically validated advice on what to do if they miss a pill or take it too late, based on the type of pill that they are on: combined or progestogen-only. It also offers improved bleeding prediction for pill users, allowing greater insights to be gained.
In terms of immediate plans, we are planning to grow to over 80 people by the end of 2018, specifically on our engineering team. We launched an online store to sell our branded merchandise because we find that people love the Clue logo and the look of our brand. We are also beginning to explore ways to make Clue a sustainable business, which includes various experiments to make money.
Thank you to Ida Tin for sharing her goal for Clue to provide both data and empowerment for all women in various stages of family planning. To learn more about Clue, please click here.
Health tech is a rapidly growing field, and we're passionate about featuring the female perspective in this industry. If you'd like to read about more badass women in health tech, be sure to check out a few past installments of this series by clicking here, here, and here.
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