Digital fertility app Clue wants to take family planning “way past the Pill”

Nina Fowler 2013-06-03 13

Ida Tin

Upcoming app Clue is a fertility-tracking tool that could blow rivals out of the water, judging by the founding team’s pitch last night at tech event hy! Berlin.

The app – submitted to the iTunes App Store and due on the market in a couple of weeks – helps women keep track of their monthly fertility cycles. Take a few seconds each day to note relevant info (a range of factors, not just when menstruation starts and stops) and the app will show where the user is at in her cycle. 

Clue

Yes, there are plenty of cycle-tracking apps already on the market. But, as Clue designer Mike Lavigne (ex-Frog Design) put it last night, up until recently they’ve tended to take design clues from My Little Pony – pink, flowers and overall not great.

Also, Clue’s algorithm, developed in tandem with a local university, is actually customised to each user’s cycle. “We’ve had a lot of doctors involved from engineering backgrounds, model experts, and also fertility experts as well,” Lavigne said.

Clue’s five-person team is led by founder and CEO Ida Tin (pictured above) with business partner Hans Raffauf, probably best-known as a co-founder of hy! Berlin. The company recently closed a seed funding round including Hoxton Ventures‘ Hussein Kanji, and former Immobilienscout CEO and COO Arndt Kwiatkowski and Marianne Voigt.

Glow

Could quantified fertility tools replace the Pill?

Digital or quantified fertility is becoming a hot topic. Last week at All Things Digital’s annual conference, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin revealed his latest project – a free iPhone app called Glow, similar to Clue, but geared towards those trying to get pregnant.

The basic principle here is the same whether you’re trying to get pregnant or avoid it. Conception can only happen in a fertile window of variable length close to the time of ovulation, which can be predicted by factors including menstruation timing, core body temperature and cervical mucous quality.

It’s hard to accurately measure these factors, which is why the “rhythm” method and other calendar-based family-planning methods are often considered unreliable compared to condoms or the Pill (here’s a 2008 study to back that statement up).

It can work though – and work well. A 2002 Georgetown University study found the “standard days” method is over 95 per cent effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly. The university has since developed the method into trademarked tool CycleBeads and digital app version iCycleBeads.

Meanwhile, the UK tech company behind DuoFertility – a calendar-based smart device plus software kit to help couples conceive – found in a 2011 peer-reviewed study that the product could result in higher pregnancy rates than IVF for women aged up to 45 years.

Clue versus Max Levchin’s Glow – “I’m a hardware girl”

Tin is confident Clue can become a market leader. What does she think about Levchin’s Glow? “It’s amazing that someone like him has taken this on – it’s educating the market and the investors so I think that’s excellent,” she said.

But – “What he’s doing is working with the temperature method or looking at cervical fluids. Those are fine technologies but what we really need is a breakthrough technology, a truly high-tech accurate method for family planning, so we can get way past the Pill.”

To that end, her company’s working on a stealth hardware product to take Clue from a tracking app to a fully-fledged family planning tool. “Levchin himself is not a hardware guy. I’m a hardware girl and we’re building this technology, and that’s the big difference.”

She’s also astute enough to recognise women’s desired outcomes change throughout their lives, from the onset of menstruation to menopause – and is positioning Clue as an all-purpose tracker able to build long-term relationships with users: The market for women desperately trying for a child, that’s a very lucrative market. But really what we want to do is take women by the hand, from the onset of their journey, and all the way through.”

Image credits:
Ida Tin photo and screenshots via Clue
Max Levchin presenting Glow: All Things Digital 

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