“You need to be bold and brave and understand your user. Give the tools to the user so that they can be as vocal as they want to be.”
Women often suffer in silence about health issues such as infertility and endometriosis, explains Clelia Morales, co-founder and COO of WOOM to Michael Matias
I'm originally from Honduras. I left when I was in my early 20s, and I lived in London. I started off in consultancy. I was always in marketing and comms, and this is how I started at eBay Spain. My last role was marketing director for south of Europe at eBay.
Then I did a 360. You've got such great experience and such great opportunities and career that it was time to give back. I believed we could do something specifically around women's health.
How did this process look before you decided to go into women's fertility?
This is not something that happens from one day to another. I was even working with a coach. I did have some struggles, some with health. I realized how important it is to keep a balance in your world. I touched base with my co-founder. We worked together at eBay in 2006. She was going through the same process. She was very focused on fertility. It really resonated because I did have some challenges when trying to have kids. This is why we started WOOM.
How did you know what your solution would be in this space?
We definitely had this vision of making WOOM an international company and a women's health company. But we needed to start it somewhere and at some point. We decided to start on fertility's pain. It was very challenging. It was just both of us. We presented at an accelerator called SeedRocket. We won third place out of 200 startups. For us, it was critical to be near a strong ecosystem that helps us. We needed to create the company, find engineers, and find people for product. Lucky enough, there were some people from our past at eBay who joined us from a product standpoint. We found some engineers and our investors.
What are some of the biggest health challenges women are facing that are either not spoken about or I don't really know because I don't experience them?
It is a space where we're beginning to see some important movements and topics. But definitely, it is an under looked space. Let's take an example of endometriosis. Endometriosis is a medical condition suffered by one out of 10 women. It takes between eight to 10 years to be diagnosed. Mainly because, on one side, we suffer more in silence. We think it's normal. On the other side, nobody's actually paying attention. When you try to have kids, then you realize you've been suffering from a very painful medical condition. Somebody could have done something before.
In the case of fertility, specifically, it is definitely a taboo. When you actually break your leg, you tell the story to everybody. When you can't have kids, you suffer in silence. Nobody talks about it. It's, of course, a common situation. Basically, we want to bring down the taboos on fertility.
We wanted to create something that can help empower a woman to understand her body faster and to either to conceive naturally or help her make the decision to see a fertility specialist. Usually, this decision can take up to three years. But the faster they do it, the higher their chances of having a successful pregnancy. This is our mission: help women understand their bodies better to make decisions and see a doctor in case it's needed.
From a product perspective, what are the big steps that you're taking to remove this taboo?
Consumer behaviors will take time. But at WOOM, what we do is data science. We gather data that is related to a woman’s cycle, to a woman’s lifestyle, and some biometrics. In the case of fertility, we also gather male fertility data, which is critical. With all this data, we provide very intelligent algorithms. Our calendars forecast periods and fertile windows. But we also have calendars that are able to forecast the menstrual cycle of women with long cycles. This is thanks to technology and machine learning. It’s also having very personalized content. With all the data we have, we provide content depending on the goal of the woman.
The core of what we do is the community. We have a community of women within the app. It's anonymized. We know that because of the topic, a woman would rather talk to another woman going through the same situation than her best friend. It's connecting women who are going through similar situations as you are.
What are some things that surprised you about the behavior of users on the app?
The level of education we have around our sexuality and our cycles. How do I get pregnant? How can I prevent a pregnancy? It seems very basic. But again, nobody talks about them. In recent years, things are changing.
From an ecosystem perspective, I didn't think it would be too hard to talk to first investors. And then you realize 95% of them are male and we're talking about the female part. It's very difficult to talk to an investor about cervical fluid because they won't get it. That's been a challenge. But things are changing. The market is moving.
What was the reception like as you're raising funds for this product and you're telling people what you're working on?
I think things are changing. But at the beginning, we had so many reactions. I remember the moment when we had the first user who wrote to us that she got pregnant when using the app. It was like a huge party at the office. Still, we receive pictures of the baby. Now, she's four. "Yeah, I got pregnant by WOOM." It's so funny to listen to that. It's amazing.
One of the areas that we think there's a need for support is menopause. Not every woman would be challenged by fertility. But we all are going to go through menopause.
If you have to give a piece of advice to someone who's working on any subject that is taboo or not easy to speak about, what would you say to this entrepreneur?
I think you need to be bold and brave and understand your user. Give the tools to the user so that they can be as vocal as they want to be. Community, to me, is key for that topic. It's always good to listen. We listen to the community; we listen to the emails. We listen to everything that they tell us, and we try to provide the right content for that.
Technology is such a powerful tool that it's our responsibility to use it correctly. Help your users across this journey within their time, within their means. Never stop listening. Give something back.
As a kid, what really fascinated you?
One was athletes. I was always fascinated at watching the Olympic games. It's amazing to see how athletes perform. When I was a teenager, it was the human mind. I read a lot about that.
What is something that inspires you in your day-to-day life?
I'm literally obsessed about how our human body works. I'm trying to optimize my health and my body. In the past two years, I've been really obsessed about achieving the right balance as a human being overall: mental health, your hormones, your body, how physical activity affects you, how what you eat affects you. I'm fascinated about the reaction of the body when you actually make this optimization.
Choose a few words to describe yourself.
Focused, resilient, and persistent.
Michael Matias, Forbes 30 Under 30, is the author of Age is Only an Int: Lessons I Learned as a Young Entrepreneur. He studies Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University, while working as a software engineer at Hippo Insurance and as a Senior Associate at J-Ventures. Matias previously served as an officer in the 8200 unit. 20MinuteLeaders is a tech entrepreneurship interview series featuring one-on-one interviews with fascinating founders, innovators and thought leaders sharing their journeys and experiences.
Contributing editors: Michael Matias, Megan Ryan