Biotechnology & PharmaceuticalsView profile
We caught up with Abi Hannah, Co-Founder & CEO at Fertility Circle, a new kind of fertility platform.
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.
Jazz @ADLIB: Can you please introduce yourself, what Fertility Circle does, what stage you are at currently and what makes your business and offering unique?
Abi: I’m Abi, Co-Founder and CEO of Fertility Circle, the trusted fertility champion for the 1 in 6 women who struggle to conceive. Our app offers education, experts, community, and emotional support. We are different because we focus on the holistic and emotional health side of fertility issues. This is frequently overlooked as people are focused on the obvious physical outcome of getting pregnant and having a baby. However, struggling to conceive is hugely stressful and lonely, and it’s really important to support mental, emotional and holistic health as well.
We partner with more than 50, world-leading fertility experts to ensure that everything we are putting out there is based on really good research and evidence. Our experts rotate week on week, providing information on a range of clinical areas.
We launched the app in October last year and we are really pleased with our progress to date, with more than 7000 downloads and an average growth rate of 40% month-on-month.
Jazz @ADLIB: Can you share the story behind the origin of Fertility Circle and Service?
Abi: Fertility Circle was born out of my own experiences with fertility issues, we were trying to conceive for about 3 years, which is pretty short for some people, but it was a real rollercoaster. It was a very stressful, lonely and pretty traumatic period of my life. I did a lot of research but, even after doing all that, I still made some really poor decisions that will have lifelong health and fertility consequences for me. I knew there had to be a better way and that is how the idea of Fertility Circle came about.
I was then incredibly lucky to get pregnant via IVF, for which I’m eternally grateful, and I had my daughter three years ago. I met Karen, our second Co-Founder, through Mums’ Groups where we connected over our fertility struggles and decided to start building something together. I come from a very corporate background in management consulting and private equity, and Karen from a creative and design background so we felt well placed to build something together. Our third Co-Founder, Jo, has a background in investment banking, business development and entrepreneurship and is incredibly passionate about Women’s Health. We met eight years ago on a leadership programme and have pulled each other into projects and side hustles ever since. We’re a well-oiled machine and really enjoy working together.
Jazz @ADLIB: Speaking of People, can you share some challenges you have faced, are facing or are anticipating around scaling and growing your team? Do you have any top tips you could share with those businesses faced with the same issues?
Abi: There are the three core Co-Founders, and so far we have collaborated with advisors, consultants, interns as well as ad-hoc support from specialist agencies. Hopefully we will be able to leverage our network to expand the team. We’ve participated in three different accelerator programmes, both here and in the US, and have a lot of contacts through that to help us find brilliant people. Also, COVID has changed the way we are looking at recruitment, we are now open to much more flexible working, remote working and we are relatively agnostic in terms of where people are based, allowing us to resource from a wider pool of people. However, as part of a small team, it’s essential that values are aligned, and skillsets are complementary.
Jazz @ADLIB: Moving to Product, what has been your approach to understanding and implementing product market fit or sales cycles?
Abi: Initially our concept building was around our own ideas about what we needed during our personal fertility journeys, but of course, that was not enough to build out a product. So, we did some surveys and focus groups with our growing social community, and we recruited a user panel to scope the app with us.
We always make sure that our community is at the heart of everything we do – there’s no point building something if it’s not what people want.
We also built a Clinical Advisory Board who were essential in our early stages.
We have regular Advisory Board meetings, and check-ins with our ‘Resident Experts’ (a group of more than 50 world-leading fertility experts) so they can provide feedback and really be involved in driving the direction of the product.
Jazz @ADLIB: And then Potential, can you share some challenges or barriers you had to overcome to create a product with potential?
Abi: Probably the biggest challenge for us is that none of us come from a tech background, so there has been a lot of learning as we go. But as much as I love learning there are limitations to my knowledge, so we have worked with external companies who have helped us lead on that.
Jazz @ADLIB: Investment can often be a challenge for start-ups & scale-ups. Do you have any piece of wisdom you could share around best approach?
Abi: We are going through an investment round currently, and we’ve actually been really blown away by the response. We have had mostly positive experiences with investors, and we have had a lot of people who want to get involved.
My advice would be just to start. It’s tempting to try and have everything perfect for when you go to market but investors don’t need, or expect, perfection. If you’re an early-stage start-up, they know that you’ll be iterating and evolving as you go. It’s worth having those early conversations with investors to ‘warm them up’ for future interactions. Additionally, if you have any friendly investors that you have a good relationship with, you can test your pitch with them and ask for their feedback. They’ll likely raise questions or give you guidance on things you’ve not thought of. And finally, think about how you structure the round. There are lots of options for this so it is worth exploring options before going to market.