Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
Lea von Bidder is the Co-Founder and CEO of Ava Science, Inc. Prior to joining Ava, for which she also serves as Vice President of Marketing, Lea co-founded L’inouï, a premium chocolate production and retail chain in Bangalore, India. She also spent time working for the marketing division of Procter & Gamble in Frankfurt and for a strategy-consulting boutique in Paris. Lea holds a Master’s degree in global entrepreneurship from EM Lyon in France, Zhejiang University in China and Purdue Krannert University in the USA. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of St.Gallen and HEC Montréal in Canada.
What is your idea / project and how did you come up with it?
A few years ago my co-founder and his wife were trying to have a baby. They weren’t particularly in hurry but they wanted to make the most out of their chances. So they started looking at all the methods out there for tracking your fertile window. However, they quickly realized that all methods out there antiquated, unreliable and highly inconvenient. My co-founders wife didn’t want to pee on a stick 10 times a month or wake up daily at 6am to take her temperature. She wanted to know her fertile window, but not at that cost.
As we are a team of founders of medtech, wearable and sensor companies we decided to look into the issue. We started to dig deeper into the science of menstrual cycles. Asking ourselves: How could find an easier, more reliable way to detect a woman’s fertile window? We looked at hundreds of clinical papers, spoke to dozens of fertility experts and finally started our first clinical study in March 2015.
The study confirmed our technology. Ava is the first easy and accurate way for women to track their menstrual cycle and detect their fertile days. It is a sensor bracelet which, worn only during the night, uses novel technology to detect hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle. Giving our users a convenient and highly accurate way to detect the fertile window earlier than other methods.
We have since presented our research at many important OB/GYN conferences, registered with the FDA as a medtech class one device and have already started our second clinical trial this summer.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
We are a team of four co-founders, taking care of all important aspects of our business.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
It took us around 2 years to get to market. We have been selling Ava for half a year now in the US.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Ava is, in it's core, a data science company. What our team has managed to prove is ground-breaking.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder in the country you live in?
Too few female founders is a global issue. We need to support and promote female entrepreneurship and change those statistics. Switzerland, where we started the company, sadly has almost no female founders. Moving to San Francisco has definitely helped me find female founders that inspire me and that I look up to.
As for being a founder in the women’s health space: I think it’s the best thing on earth. I get to combine my passion for women empowerment and entrepreneurship every day.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
My proudest moments are when women reach out to us who got pregnant using Ava. I couldn’t be more excited about each of them.
What are your projects you are currently working on within your company?
Ava will be available in Europe very soon. We are in the middle of our second clinical study which will give us even more insights into menstrual cycles.
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech and IoT industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I think we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in wearables so far. Most of the medical applications of wearables are still in their infancy and will hit the market in the coming years. And that is where I see the wearable market going. Ava is on the forefront of that movement.
Why is #WomenInTech movement important to you?
It’s 2017 and we have all hoped that women inequality is something we learn about in history class by now. Turns out, we are still not past it. In tech, as well as in many other areas, we still see too few women succeeding and too many prejudices and obstacles thrown in their way. And not having women in tech has bigger consequences: Tech is the main driver for innovation and research today and we need women in tech to make sure resources are flowing into women related topics, such as women’s health. An areas which has seen almost no innovation in years and critical research has been long overdue.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Let’s have coffee! Getting to know other female founders has been very inspiring to me and I would advise anyone to build that network.