Biotechnology & PharmaceuticalsView profile
We caught up with Tess Isabelle Cosad, Co-Founder & CEO at Béa Fertility. Béa Fertility is the first clinically-validated, at-home fertility treatment, launching soon.
The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with great potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.
Tess Cosad: I’m Tess, I’m the Co-Founder and CEO of Béa Fertility. Béa Fertility is a fertility company that is building at-home fertility treatments. Our mission is to provide access to fertility care for everybody. Our approach to that mission is to develop evidence-based, clinical treatments and adapt these so that people can use them at home.
We raised our first funding round in April 2021, totalling $1million, from Angels and VCs, plus an Innovate UK Smart Grant from the UK Government.
What makes us unique is that we are very clear on what our aims are from a product development perspective. You will only ever find us working on products that are evidence-based, accessible and affordable. If there isn’t peer-reviewed scientific evidence behind the treatment, we won’t take it forward. If we can’t ship it to your door (i.e., make is accessible), we won’t build it. And if we can’t find a way to make it affordable, we won’t work on it.
There is an ecosystem of products and services that surround fertility and conception, but very few products actually address the issue, and that is why we developed hardware to solve the problem of getting pregnant. Our users are in a vulnerable position and I think it is really important for this sector to recognise that and to protect users as much as possible.
Tess Cosad: My co-founder David, is a clinical embryologist and he had been working in fertility clinics for about 10 years on Harley Street. David saw thousands of people come through the door who maybe weren’t ready for IVF or who had been waiting for years for treatment. He started thinking about what people could do at home, before they stepped through the clinic doors. There was very little on the market, and so he began to work on developing a device based on an old clinical treatment called intracervical insemination (ICI). I met him a little while later, and in early 2020 we decided to create the company and raise investment to bring the device to market.
Tess Cosad: David and I have made two hires recently, a UX researcher and designer, who will be the driving force behind defining the hardware product experience, and tying that into the digital health experience. We’ve also found a third co-founder who will come on board in a technical role, as CTO/CPO.
We are surrounded by some incredible advisors; our board is fantastic and our investors are all very supportive. At the moment, a critical challenge we face is making sure we use our investment responsibly, creating a delicate balance between burning cash too quickly on headcount, and sustaining the existing team as we take the device through regulatory approvals. But we are excited about George, our new-co-founder and CTO/CPO, who will really bring the digital health experience to life.
Tess Cosad: This is a fascinating one for us, because there are two sides to our product: there is the hardware treatment that we are shipping, but there is also the digital health experience that we are delivering. I think it is absolutely critical to build a digital healthcare experience to support people and hold their hand as they go through their treatment journey with the hardware kit.
What that means is we have the complexity of hardware and software, and not only that, but medically regulated hardware. We can’t iterate on the hardware once we get it approved, so we have a very rigid product development cycle there, balanced out with a very flexible iteration and development cycle in the digital health experience.
Finding out how to combine the development cycles of hardware and software – and how to leverage the flexibility of the software to make up for any of the inflexibility of the hardware – is an interesting challenge.
We did a tremendous amount of work to identify the needs in the fertility market – to see what needs are being met and what needs are not being met. Where are treatment waitlists, who is on a waitlist, how can we best serve these people – identifying where we can help and what we can do.
One of the reasons we developed a complete treatment kit is because there is more to fertility treatment than just artificial insemination. There is a timing aspect, testing, diagnoses and support. The treatment kit we have built includes LH (ovulation) test strips, two insemination devices, hCG (pregnancy) tests, semen collection pots and a digital health experience to support users as they go through their treatment cycle.
I think the significance of the digital product is that it gives us the opportunity to contribute to an updated fertility education movement, addressing misinformation and lack of understanding around fertility. Infertility used to be largely discussed as a women’s health issue, but we need to start addressing that because all the scientific evidence shows that infertility is 50/50 male/female factor.
Tess Cosad: Principally, one of the barriers that we are facing now is Medical Device Approval. Our regulatory pathway is straightforward, but it is still a barrier as a huge amount of work goes in to securing a CE mark (EU) and FDA approval (US).
My interpretation of ‘potential’ is developing better products to better serve our users. And for me, that means elevating the conversation around what we are building, from just talking about hardware to instead talking about a digital health platform that drives access to healthcare in all areas of reproductive health. I think there is a tremendous amount of potential to think about building a digital health platform that is on a mission to democratise access to areas of healthcare that we might traditionally perceive as taboo.
Tess Cosad: Be structured and organised. It’s not original advice, but it served me well. Keep a spreadsheet of everyone you have spoken to, and how the conversation went. Be targeted in your approach, do your research before opening your round, know who you want to talk to, and ideally have meetings lined up before you officially go out to raise. And keep going; fundraising takes tenacity. You will get a lot of ‘no’s’ but keep pushing forward as there will be someone that sees your vision, and when they do, you’ll know they’re the right fit.
Also, when your fundraising, just remember why you’re doing it. As much as you can, stay connected to your users and your mission, and don’t give up.
Thank you for sharing and best of luck for the rest of the year!