Monday, November 24, 2014
Kindara's Will Sacks On Crowdfunding, Business, and Women's Fertility
Boulder-based Kindara (www.kindara.com) has a hit mobile app, a growing crowdfunding/pre-sale campaign for its new device, and counts over 35,000 users who have gotten pregnant using the company's software. We spoke with William Sacks, co-founder and CEO of Kindara, to hear more about the company, the company's success and experience with crowdfunding, and also hear about the perils of starting a company with your spouse.
What is Kindara about?
William Sacks: We make reproductive health products for women, which help them understand things about their reproductive health, and enables them to get pregnant, avoid getting pregnant, or just understand their bodies better. Our first product was a fertility tracker for iOS, and is also now on Android. That has done really well, and we've just launched our second product, the Wink Oral Basal Thermometer, which lets them take their mouth temperature, which is a proxy for progesterone, and makes it quicker, faster, and easier for them to see where they are in their reproductive cycle. We've helped over 35,000 women conceive, which works out to about 100 women every day. We have something like 25,000 women using our apps to avoid getting pregnant every day. It's been shown to be up to 99.4 percent effective to avoid pregnancy. There's another segment of our users, who just want to understand their body, to understand their cycles, whether their ovulating or not, if they might have a thyroid or progesterone deficiency, and other things.
How did the company come about?
William Sacks: It came about when my wife and I had a conversation about birth control. She had been on the pill, and didn't want to go back on it. She had an IUD, and didn't like that. I didn't want to use a condom, and neither did she. We were at an impasse three months into our relationship. She then showed me books that showed that she could use fertility charting to avoid pregnancy, which I thought was bulls***. She gave me a textbook to read, and I figured out there was an amazing amount of complexity and data around this, and that products out there to understand cycles really are lacking for women. We though it would be amazing if technology could help women understand your body, and for men like me, help us understand women better, and bring couples closer together. We started using that information, and though it would be a cool opportunity to create a company around this concept. I had a background in data monitoring, and had my own health experience with my own back, and I had learned that taking charge of my own health was the key to me improving and getting better. We thought this was a way we could help women do the same with their fertility.
What had you been doing before Kindara?
William Sacks: Before Kindara, I had a lighting distributorship online, where I was selling energy efficient lighting online, and also building automation systems for apartment buildings. Those were for massive buildings, controlling their boilers, fans, heating, and helping them save on energy, electricity, water, and gas. We made a dashboard for those building. Fertility charting is really a dashboard for a couple's fertility, which is so much more interesting than a dashboard for a building and its boiler room. I sold me lighting distributorship to my partners, and started on Kindara.
That's an interesting contrast, did you ever think you'd be heading up a company focused on women's fertility?
William Sacks: No. If you had told me 5 year sago I would be the CEO one of the leading reproductive health companies, I would not have believed you at all!
You recently ran a crowdfunding effort for your second product, can you talk about how that experience was for you?
William Sacks: It all comes down to the lean startup methodology. You need to prove that the software you are building is engaging and compelling, and that women want to use it. If you can't do that, you don't have a company. We spent a year and a half releasing and improving our app, to make it as compelling as we could. That assumption was born out, as it has now been downloaded half a million times. It's now ranked in the top 30 apps in the app store, with a five star review. That assumption was validated. We figure out that okay, this software is compelling, and women do want to use this. There's a market need here. The next assumption, is that people are willing to buy a connected device, which is how we are going to make our money. So, after we validated the software, we needed to figure out if people would buy that device. That' why we did this pre-order campaign. We thought we'd sell a thousand of these and that people would pay for the device. We did that preorder campaign, and it's doing really well. Now, we are able to go back to our investors, showing them that we've validated people want our software, that it meets a compelling market need, and we can validate that people want the hardware, and will pay for the hardware--which provides our revenue model. That's why we did the crowd funding campaign, to help validate the assumptions we had on hand and prove we had a compelling business and problem. We now have a roadmap to replicate what we have done across other women's health challenges.
What have you learned from that crowd funding process?
William Sacks: Press is key. I would recommend anyone working on these to line up some good press, and don't launch until you have that press. I would even say, delay your launch until some good press is lined up. I think that we also had an existing community of users, which helped us a lot. We had built up that community of users and an emai llist of 200,000 names, and that helped us a lot. Once you are in the press, and have a compelling story, that ends up feeding on itself, and helps your campaign, which results in you getting lots of cash on day one, which helps meet investor goal, and continues to reverberate.
What's the biggest thing you've learned so far starting up Kindara?
William Sacks: That's a great question. The biggest thing I think I've learned is to trust myself, and my instincts, but to validate my assumptions. There have been times we've been thrown off the plan we created back in 2010, talking with Kati about this, and where we had the vision of what the company would be. There were times along the way when investors told us one thing, and we told them things to please those investors and advisors, and every time we've done that it's been a disaster. You have to verify your assumptions. Validating assumptions are really important for any entrepreneur.
Another thing, is after I went into business with Kati, it was really rough on our marriage. In February, we figured out we love being married, but we don't want to work together anymore. That was amazing for our marriage. I think with any couple going into business together, you have to figure out if you will work together okay. You have to make sure one person is in charge, one is not. That was a major thing I learned. We both blogged about it on Kindara a few months ago, to help provide some perspective. We decided to not work together to not kill the company. Lots of companies go down when founders can't get along, and that's especially true when you are married. We made it through that, we're married happily, and our investors are happy, and we're proud of that.
I also learned it takes just as much time to raise a large round than a smaller round, and I think going forward next time with a company, we'll be more aggressive on fundraising early.