Written by Andrew Seale
We’ve surrounded ourselves with technology to help us make decisions. Apps tell us the quickest routes to get where we’re going, others tell us where to stay or what to eat. And yet knowing our ability to have a child and when our bodies are capable of doing so, somehow falls short of that list.
“We are the most ambitious generation with the most access to data at our fingertips, and yet with arguably one of the most important decisions of our lives, we're going in blind,” says Alyssa Atkins founder of Toronto fertility hormone testing startup Lilia.
Atkins, a graduate of the Next 36 entrepreneur leadership program, came up with the idea after wading into the fractured world of fertility. Her decade-long relationship had just ended, her career was starting to take off, and she witnessed a friend going through early menopause.
“All of a sudden I started to think about my fertility… I hadn't really ever done that before,” says the 29-year-old. Atkins struggled to find information and clear answers surrounding her options. The testing moved at a glacial pace with three in-person visits over three months (it took her the same amount of time to launch Lilia, says Atkins). “What I started to realize is this space has really been neglected – so now I'm building the solution I wish existed for me.”
Lilia plans to launch an at-home test for measuring hormone levels to help women measure their ovarian reserve, and assess key fertility elements like the success of both egg freezing and IVF. The test will also predict the age of menopause. But Atkins envisions Lilia as a resource and space for people to talk about experiences that are so often viewed as taboo.
“More women are pursuing their careers and waiting longer to get married, if at all,” says Atkins. “As a result, we’ve taken a reactive approach to fertility instead of proactive and things like egg freezing aren't really talked about as much as they should be.”
She sees it as a larger opportunity to not just give women easy access to testing but “galvanize a generation of women to be proactive about their fertility.”
Investors seem to agree with her vision. Atkins says she raised $800,000 in five weeks, including buy-ins from big names like Clearbanc president and co-founder Michele Romanow, the Hustle Fund, Panache Ventures, Ramen Ventures and Dot Health chief executive Huda Idrees.
“The other cool thing is our angel investors are a 50-50 male-female split, which was important to me,” says Atkins. “You don't often see investors making big bets on a solo non-technical female founder who hasn't launched yet…that was a really cool thing for Toronto.”
It’s still early days for the startup but Atkins is already thinking about the global potential.
“If you look at Japan five per cent of births there are from IVFs, in Australia, three to four per cent, and in Canada and the U.S. it's one to two per cent,” says Atkins. “So this is not just a North America problem we're solving, it truly is global (and) my intention with Lilia is to be the defining fertility health company globally.”
Photo credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)