Helping women track their cycle
Ava's Fertility Tracker helps women who are trying to become pregnant. During the night the wristband sensor measures a woman's body temperature and eight further physiological parameters and can determine precisely which days she is fertile. The user-friendly product has already become popular on the US and European markets. Over ten new pregnancies are registered every day thanks to this new technology. The start-up also develops solutions for the prevention and early detection of complications, has several branch offices worldwide and will engage over 100 employees by the end of 2018.
Ava's founders have proven that an individual's own needs often lead to useful innovations: about four years ago, their R & D Manager Peter Stein (photo right) met today's CEO, Pascal Koenig, for lunch: "At that time, I wanted to become a father. We thought that measuring temperature was the only way to determine which days were fertile."
This temperature measurement method, however, has significant shortcomings as the progesterone increase that occurs following ovulation can only be detected after the fact. Similarly, the ovulation test only indicates the last two days of the fertility window. "We began looking for a more complete, accurate and reliable method," explains Stein. With this goal in mind, he and King reviewed an enormous amount of literature and compiled a list of eight other relevant physiological parameters. For example, a woman's respiratory rate, heart rate, sleep patterns and movement are also important indicators that change before ovulation - and eventually lead to higher oestrogen levels.
With this discovery, the idea for a fertility tracker was born.
For the development of the new product, Koenig and Stein brought the two other founders – Philipp Tholen (foto left) and Lea von Bidder, a marketing expert – on board. Together they designed the first prototype. And it works like this: the woman wears a bracelet on her wrist overnight - it monitors the nine parameters and measures any changes in both reproductive hormones (oestrogen and progesterone). It uses these values and real-time algorithms to determine the five fertile days in a woman's monthly cycle. Every morning the collected data is sent via a smart phone app from the users to the Ava server to be evaluated.
Supported by CSEM and (in the past) CTI
Stein had previously established and cultivated companies, including one that manufactures sensors. He was therefore able to support the development of the wristband and bring out the best in the startup. The CSEM company and the EMPA also provided Ava with technological support. The KTI (now Innosuisse) also helped in the form of subsidies and business strategy coaching.
The Ava cycle tracker is also valued by customers for its user-friendliness. The entire process is free of stress as the bracelet is worn while the user sleeps. In addition, the woman does not have to get up at the same time every day as is the case with the temperature measurement method. The device is personalised for each individual: it identifies their skin and switches itself on and off as needed. This method differs positively from all other conventional solutions on the market. "To-date, no other company has been able to offer non-invasive detection of the fertility window in real time," affirms Stein.
Close to 90% accuracy
It's impressive: clinical studies performed by the University Hospital Zurich and various other clinics have proven an 89% accuracy in the detection of fertile days. The fertility tracker has already resulted in success for several thousand women - over ten new pregnancies are achieved with the help of Ava and reported daily. There are other practical benefits: not only does the tracker enable a woman to become familiar with her cycle and interpret symptoms more confidently, it also monitors her general health based on the nine parameters.
The application has been approved in the US since 2016 and is registered as a Class 1 Medical Device in Switzerland and Europe. Stein is also aware of the growing importance of "real world" data. He finds the existence of regulations exciting and uses the associated data collection and evaluation for targeted marketing purposes.
The company also actively engages in relationship maintenance with its customers. They provide in-depth feedback regarding new developments and enhancements to its tracker via a hotline, a blog on scientific reports and direct Q & A from clients.
Further indications planned
Ava's technology platform is currently being expanded for additional indications. The company's vision is to provide products and services that accompany women through their entire reproductive phase of life. This includes non-hormonal contraception, the early detection of causes of infertility (such as PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome), complications during pregnancy as well as symptoms experienced during menopause. Clinical studies on the respective indications have already been initiated and a helpful pregnancy app has been added to the range of services. "In the future, thanks to the continuous monitoring of the pregnancy, expectant mothers shall not only be more relaxed, but also be able to avoid unnecessary medical examinations and the associated costs," emphasizes Stein.
Branch offices in the US and Asia
Apart from the currently largest market in the USA, Asia and other developing countries also offer huge potential for these products. The increasing demand is allowing Ava to significantly grow in popularity. In order to expand their range of products, the company is constantly investing in additional research and the recruitment of specialists in Zurich. Founded in 2014, the start-up has already created more than 45 jobs there and plans to fill another 20 positions by the end of 2018. Their highly qualified employees come from the fields of medical technology, sensor technology as well as IT with backgrounds in data science, design, digital marketing, etc. Their Scientific Advisory Board includes gynaecologists and reproductive physicians. In addition to the Swiss headquarters, Ava has branches in San Francisco and Belgrade and a further office is scheduled to open in Asia later in 2018.
Ava has already won several young entrepreneur awards. And how is the high-flyer handling the rapid growth and sudden success? "Our current challenge is to bring teams and people together. It is important to maintain the founding culture and spirit, and be able to grow and mature at the same time », says the now two-fold father with a smile.