kegg device and accompanying app enable users to view results on the cycle graph and as a daily … [+] fertility score
In summer 2017, Kristina Cahojova was struggling with tracking her irregular cycles. Yet, she didn’t want to be treated with hormones, a method mostly used by both women and health professionals. After having a few conversations with doctors and fertility experts, she realized that they all had the same answer – she was advised to look at her cervical fluid pattern and start monitoring it, by using tissues or fingers. This is because monitoring cervical fluid gives women the best likelihood of natural conception and is the key sign to knowing your fertile window and peak fertility. It plays a critical role in fertility and pregnancy because sperm can’t survive in the vagina unless cervical fluid is present. Unfortunately, to sense cervical fluid you have to go into the vagina and be user-friendly. And most importantly, you have to be accurate in your predictions.
At that time, there was no technology that could objectively help to track something so important, yet, private. There were several fertility trackers on the market, but, to avoid societal taboos of “going into the vagina”, these devices relied on secondary sources of information like temperature tests to assess the fertile window in retrospect or predict its likelihood in the future. Cahojova was frustrated and angry that there weren’t any practical solutions to her problem. So she set out to make a product that would help her and other women out there who were experiencing the same issue.
Kristina Cahojova is the founder and CEO of kegg
kegg Unique Sensing Technology
She founded Lady Technologies, Inc., a femtech company that seeks to improve the lives of women through the use of technology, and this year the company launched kegg, a 2-in-1 fertility tracker built to detect a woman’s fertile window by sensing changes in the vaginal environment and cervical fluid, which can also be used for pelvic floor exercises.
So how does it actually work? “kegg is sensing the electrolyte levels in the cervical fluid to detect the hormonal switch from estrogen to progesterone dominance that accompanies ovulation. A minute electrical impulse at a specific frequency is emitted from the gold plated electrodes on the kegg and received by the other (this process is then reversed). By sensing the changing trends in the impedance, we’re able to detect the hormonal change and make a prediction for the user. The entire process takes approximately two minutes daily,” explains Cahojova.
This approach has been proven successful at detecting ovulation for decades, except it wasn’t applied to humans but rather farm animals, especially dairy cows. This makes kegg the only intuitive fertility tracker on the market that measures electrolytes of cervical fluid to predict a woman’s fertile window earlier and more accurately compared to devices monitoring secondary fertility signs like temperature and urinary hormone levels.
“Our typical customers are women in their reproductive age, most of them are in long-term relationships or married and likely to have been actively trying to conceive for more than three months. 47% of them are using kegg for reproductive purposes and half of those are trying to conceive their first child, while the remaining are already mothers. Our customers have experience with body basal temperature charting for ovulation tests, but what they like about our product is the convenience of kegg over other methods that either need to be worn throughout the night or used more frequently”. Now that the product is available through the company’s e-commerce store, it has seen daily user retention to be around a whopping 70%. Impressive indeed.
FDA-registered kegg is the first device that combines fertility tracking with pelvic floor … [+] exercising
kegg Hardware Is Hard And Expensive
Last month, kegg announced it has closed a $1.5 million seed round from institutional investors such as Crescent Ridge Partners Ventures, fermata, and SOSV.
And although being a woman raising money for medical hardware that goes into the vagina and vibrates is hard, to say the least, Cahojova’s secret sauce for successful fundraising was also her company’s unique selling proposition. “You have to understand that cervical fluid is famously called the fifth vital sign because it holds a key to natural birth control, fertility management, infections, etc. If we could get cervical fluid data daily, we could avoid many unnecessary IVFs, many women could rely on it to avoid pregnancy naturally”.
Investors know this and they are very interested in innovation in this space. From Cahojova’s experience when pitching to investors, the big question for them was not the size of the opportunity, but if women really use something that goes into the vagina on a daily basis. “And the answer to that question was (and still is) yes, they would because it’s user friendly and it gives an instant insight crucial to understand fertility better”.
Expansion To Asia
At the end of October, kegg launched in Singapore and their next market will be Japan. Why Japan? Well, Japan is a lucrative market for many reasons: it’s characterized by an aging population and a very low birth rate. The share of elderly people as a percentage of the working population in Japan is already one of the highest in the world, whereas the fertility rate is among the lowest, implying that the age distribution of the population will shift rapidly in the coming decades. In 2014, the government launched new regulatory procedures at a national level aimed at innovative medical devices. Singapore, too, has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, and as more women enter the workforce, the number of births has declined and the childbearing population has aged.
And although the Asian femtech market is still underdeveloped and many companies are reluctant to enter due to cultural, linguistic, and institutional differences, fermata – one of the kegg’s investors, is very optimistic when it comes to the future of this new emerging market in Asia.
Inside New Stand Tokyo – Fermata’s femtech store in Japan
“Our aim is that, through our platform, we can provide a range of services for femtech companies to approach the Japanese and Asian markets, primarily pioneering companies who share our vision of transforming the taboos women face into an exciting culture of self-care. Despite the growing number of potential startups in this field, I think there is still some level of hesitation observed among the investors. Mainly because female wellness and sexual wellness are still being considered as a big taboo in Japan,” Amina Sugimoto, co-founder and CEO of fermata, shares with me in an email.
“The daily habit of knowing and predicting our unique cyclical rhythms can empower women at every stage of their lives to live with less stress and more confidence, which is precisely why we decided to invest in kegg, one of the best tools for self-monitoring of a woman’s hormonal cycle we’ve seen out there. Following the global femtech trends, we expect to bring in more data-driven products which serve in your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause in near future at fermata Singapore’s marketplace. Therefore, we make sure that every company we choose to partner with are creating products that are effective, safe, and most importantly, fun to use,” Naomi Tanno, Country Manager for fermata Singapore, ads.
Apart from kegg, fermata’s portfolio companies include Joylux – a company behind women’s menopausal health products and Lilu – a startup that invented hands-free pumping bra with built-in breast massage.
After series of events where several global companies exhibited their femtech products, fermata’s team learned that majority of potential customers wanted to physically touch and experience the products, before committing to purchase, which is the reason why they added the online shop to their website stocking products from many other female health companies such as DAME, Elvie, Bloomlife, Lioness, and many more.
Huge interest in fermata’s femtech store, by both media and consumers, obviously means that the era of female health and wellbeing in Japan and Asia is yet to come – and the first step towards that is investing in companies such as kegg and helping them expand to the new markets. Let’s just hope local regulators will follow that lead, too.