In support of Startup Grind’s Female Leader Month, we are featuring female innovators and founders throughout the month of May. We are proud to share these stories about women who are disrupting industries and changing the world.
Women’s fertility is rarely given the same attention as other areas of women’s health – and women’s own understanding of their fertility typically happens only when they’re having trouble conceiving.
Enter Modern Fertility. Founded by Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy, this startup offers the first comprehensive test women can take at home or in a nearby lab to monitor fertility. By taking a proactive approach, Modern Fertility wantsto give women tools and information to better understand and manage fertility before it becomes an obstacle.
LIFT Labs: Give us the Modern Fertility elevator pitch.
Afton Vechery: Modern Fertilityis a women’s health company focused on making fertility information more accessible for women earlier in life. We take the same fertility hormone tests offered in fertility clinics and make them available to women at a fraction of the cost. We see ourselves as a fertility education platform. We want to transform fertility into something that is proactive as opposed to reactionary. These tests are typically done in an infertility clinic, when women or couples are having trouble getting pregnant. We want to get to women earlier, so they can have this information and make the decisions that are right for them.
LL:What led you both to found Modern Fertility? What’s the inspiration behind the service?
AV:Years ago, I was working for a private equity firm investing in a network of fertility clinics and labs. Through that process I learned the business and science of fertility, and also the emotional aspect. I was talking to couples going through the process and the biggest thing I heard was, “I wish I would have known, I wish I would have had more information.” We realized fairly early that women wanted more information and more tools to make the decisions that were right for them. We see a world where fertility testing is as routine as a pap smear and women are re-testing with us every year and understanding their own fertility curve. We want women to use that data to make the decisions that are right for them.
LL: Who are some other leaders that inspire you and why?
Carly Leahy: I personally like to talk about my first boss ever, who taught me what it meant to be the kind of woman who lifts other women up. She also taught me the ins and outs of an organization, and how important it was to advocate for myself. So, although she isn’t a high-powered CEO, she really made a lasting impact on me.
AV:Howard Schultz, the former CEO and now Chairman of Starbucks, and Anne Wojcicki, the CEO of 23andMe. Howard has taken his position as a leader to impact so much positive change for so many people. And Anne, I just respect so much. I was at 23andMe before starting Modern Fertility. Coming from a male-dominated industry like private equity to a company with so many female leaders really allowed me to be my authentic self in the workplace. It is so valuable in terms of growing as a leader to be able to have those types of examples around you.
LL:What’s a lesson you’ve learned from founding your company that’s been the most impactful in your life or career?
CL: When you have big challenges ahead of you and see yourself tackle those challenges, you gain this new threshold for problem-solving that you may not have even known you had before. Then you truly can begin to apply that framework for problem-solving, even outside of work. I think having started this company and having tackled challenge after challenge that comes with that, it’s really empowering to know that for the rest of your life, whatever comes at you, you’ll be able to use those lessons and to apply it to other big challenges.
AV:I think one of the things we’ve also learned along the way, is that it’s important for founders to have a growth mindset, but it’s also super important for employees of early-stage companies. Surrounding yourself with people like that has been really powerful.
LL: What advice can you offer to future female leaders?
AV:This is something we both agree on and have both been told throughout our careers. People are going to tell you that you should be patient, you should wait your turn with your career, take your time. Our advice to that advice is do not listen to it. I think there’s been too many times where both of us have been told, “Whoa whoa whoa, you’ll get there.” And I think if we had heeded that advice, we wouldn’t be doing something that we believe so passionately about.
LL:What’s your current go-to business or personal podcast?
AV:For me, I really enjoy storytelling, I think it’s an important skill in business, and I really am just touched and moved by hearing other people talk about the way that they’ve experienced life. For me it’s This American Lifeand The Moth.
CL: I’m a little more practical with my podcast choices. I like listening to podcasts about business and psychology. I love Invisibilia, it’s about the hidden forces in your mind that affect human behavior. And then I love the StartUppodcast, even though it hits too close to home sometimes. I love that stuff!