By Lisa Suennen

First Posted at Venture Valkyrie on 8/25/2013

Lisa Suennen, The Venture Valkyrie

Lisa Suennen, The Venture Valkyrie

No one should be surprised that fertility is a burgeoning area of activity for iPhone and other app providers.  I mean, seriously, the love affair that so many people seem to have with their phones would suggest that human/iPhone spawn are not too far down the line.  All I can say is thank God that butt dialing can’t cause pregnancy.  Yet.

But for now, the fertility action on cell phones is still about human-to-human interaction and there have been an increasing array of offerings in this arena.  An article earlier this year in MobiHealthNews mentioned several companies offering services that track physical parameters of fertility and provide tips on how to increase chances of pregnancy, other than becoming a high school student.  Kindara, Ovuline, DuoFertility and others are out there combining sensors, iPhones and the maternal instinct in the hopes of helping people create the families they will, one-day, curse under their breath at Thanksgiving dinner.

The quest

In fact, an entire consumer-focused technology ecosystem is developing around human development.  Today I even saw an Indiegogo campaign from the Baby Quest Foundation, an organization that is helping to provide financial assistance to those who cannot afford the high costs of procedures like in vitro fertilization, gestational surrogacy, etc.

But my favorite entry into this race so far is a company I just read about called Glow.  Brought to us by one of the PayPal founders, the company is piloting a very comprehensive approach to ensuring that 1+1-3.  Here is a description from a recent article in Time:

Glow has “his” and “her” modes and collects information concerning factors such as menstrual cycles, cervical mucus and physical and emotional states. (At the moment, all the data it collects concerns the woman who hopes to get pregnant; the company plans to add factors relating to the male in the equation as well.) The app provides advice about how to maximize the chances of pregnancy, going beyond the technical issues to involve features like the ability to order flowers or make a reservation for a nice dinner. 

Do these flowers make you feel fertile?

Now if you, like me, spend any time thinking about consumer engagement in healthcare, you have to love the extra touches here.  I am not sure that there is great body of scientific articles behind the idea that flowers and a nice dinner will advance the cause of getting your mate pregnant, but you gotta give these Glow guys an A for effort.  While the hard science may fall short, there are centuries of qualitative experience that suggest that flowers, a nice meal and paired wine can improve your chances of having sex, which is, as I understand it, rumored to increase your chances of pregnancy.  And this is important, because Glow’s CEO states in the Time article that the company’s goal is to double its customers chances of getting pregnant.  As such, if I were in charge of product development at Glow, I would add a coaching feature to the app that helps the male participant remember to say things like, “Wow, that outfit makes your butt look so small.”

The Glow app aims to use “big data” to aggregate information from its users to create an ever-smarter product.  As more and more people use Glow and report their medical parameters and pregnancy outcomes, the system will continue to refine its advice to amplify the odds of success.  Or so it claims anyway.  Allegedly they are going to continually improve this feature by way of passive sensors that “could collect pertinent data without users having to enter it in,” which sounds a little kinky if you ask me.  Maybe they will do a deal with the earlier version of the FitBit, which accidentally published its customers’ sex habits to a publicly readable dashboard.    I’m not sure if the risk of streaming your sexual activities onto the cloud is a security nightmare in the making or a monetizable back up revenue stream, but either way it is worthy of further discussion.

Fertility treatment?

And while stopping short of a money-back guarantee, Glow also features a quasi-insurance financial product to help you pay for a back-up plan (e.g., IVF) in case the whole flowers, dinner thing doesn’t cut it.  According to Mike Huang, Glow’s Founder, “We want to be the first insurance company that everybody loves.”

Wow, now that is a lofty goal.  Doubling the rate of successful pregnancies is one thing, but causing consumers to love an insurance company?  I’m not sure there are enough flowers and fancy dinners in the world to check that particular box.  They may need to add a jewelry section.

ps-I forgot to mention another new entrant to the space which I shall not name.  Taking it to a whole other level, this is a website for genetic testing to make sure you are “genetically compatible to mate” and which helps you be certain that the “man/woman you want to date is not related to you.”  Perhaps this risk of unintentional incest is a bigger problem than I thought.  They suggest that you “…send us your and your mate’s DNA and we will do the autosomal analysis and give you either the green signal or the STOP signal.”  I hope the results come back before you pay for the flowers.