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Picture copyright: Ivary
Austrian startup founder Silvia Hecher set up Ivary following her own experiences with fertility issues and her work within the medical profession as a journalist and fertility coach, finding that “it was difficult to get good advice from doctors”. This lack of good advice for women encouraged Silvia to do something about it.
Silvia found that many women are misinformed about or overestimated their fertility, asked the wrong questions, or relied heavily on a gynaecologist’s opinion. To tackle this, she teamed up with an in vitro fertilisation (IVF) specialist from her previous job as editor-in-chief of a leading Austrian portal on medicine and healthy lifestyles. Her background is in information management and public health, so together they made a strong and knowledgeable team, and the idea for Ivary was born.
“Initially I started working as a fertility coach because I wanted to increase my knowledge and help people find information that they were looking for,” she added.
Growing up to 10 employees, Ivary focuses on informing women about their ovarian reserves – the number of egg cells left in the ovaries. This is the foundation of fertility. As there is a significant lack of knowledge, Silvia concluded that there was a gap in the market and a need for something to address this important topic.
“We did a lot of market research and found out that while the average age for women to be able to have children is 41, there’s issued variability in terms of menopause. Some women enter menopause in their late 20s, while other women start menopause in their mid-to-late 50s even early 60s and we felt that there was a need to educate women about the variability of fertility but also make it measurable for them,” said Silvia.
A problem she discovered while fundraising for the start-up was that, at most events, those representing venture capital funds were men who knew nothing about ovarian reserves. This could have caused an issue for moving forward. But Silvia said that it “is a worldwide problem and one that affects not just women, but men ultimately”, and this helped attain support.
What does entrepreneurship mean to Silvia? For her, it “allows you to grow and pushes you to grow much faster on a personal and non-professional level than you could (otherwise) possibly have.” She thinks this is especially the case when launching a start-up. She is ‘boggled’ by the amount of perfection and correctness necessary to maintain while progressing with a new business. Thus there is a constant debate between what is good enough to put out on the market.
She does argue, however, that a key thing she has learned is to “build something that people need, but also want, something they’re willing to pay for.” If it is not needed, not wanted, it may not succeed.
Silvia was concerned that people who found start-ups do not have children, and that having children has made it tough to manage everything. But, “I can just encourage women to go find partners that encourage what they do and support them in their professional lives”. This, she believes, is key to maintaining a successful company. As well, she recommends budding entrepreneurs to “do something that your passion is with” and to listen to the market – find out what people want and what people need before you start building something.
Ultimately, her advice would be that women should not be scared to start something, and Silvia “would be happy to see more women to have and start their own things. If it doesn’t work, learn from it and try again.”