Since launching Kin Fertility at the beginning of 2020, entrepreneur and founder Nicole Liu has been on a mission to work collaboratively with people skilled in health and tech to get the best outcomes for her customers. Liu describes it as like being an air traffic controller; leading a vision, pulling all the right people and resources together and directing them to make sure it’s going to plan.
As Liu tells Shirley Chowdhary in the first episode of Season 5 of The Leadership Lessons podcast, one of the most critical lessons she’s learnt since founding Kin Fertility is that she doesn’t have to be an expert when it comes to reproductive health or tech to be a successful businessperson in the health tech space.
“Initially, I did not think I was the right person necessarily to build a health tech company, but I think what I realised early on was that I didn’t actually have to be,” Liu shares.
“If you can bring in the team to help guide the insights, the decisions you make and the execution that you do, you don’t have to be the expert. You just have to make sure you lead the vision and pull everything together. I almost feel like, I’m the air traffic controller more than anything else.”
Liu founded Kin Fertility because she had observed a need for women to be able to talk openly and take control of their reproductive health and fertility.
At age 24, she had been incorrectly diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and told she could perhaps be infertile. A specialist later told her she didn’t have PCOS, but the experience had been confusing and isolating for her, at a time when she hadn’t even begun to think about whether she would have children.
“I just realised a lot of people would, for example, go through infertility and just not really have a support system to talk to. Part of this journey with Kin is really, like, how can we normalise this conversation? So we become more aware of the issues that are possible, so that we can seek help from the community and medical community when we need it,” Liu says.
As a health tech company, Kin Fertility helps women navigate the different stages of their reproductive lives with online tools, offering a contraceptive pill subscription service that uses telehealth technology to connect women with doctors.
“In a nutshell, at Kin, we essentially want to empower women to really take control of the decisions that impact their reproductive health and their fertility, and their bodies,” Liu says.
“I think the big thing for us was that, you know, this journey, we spend most of our lives trying not to get pregnant, and then, for a lot of people that sort of shifts, and we potentially think about getting pregnant and it becomes very overwhelming and very all-consuming.
“And that journey is not always straight forward, and I don’t think we’re really set up for knowing that all the time. What Kin’s trying to do is trying to be a partner and a guide throughout that whole journey, no matter which part you’re in.”
Speaking on the podcast, Liu shares her refreshing perspective on what it takes to be a leader in a start-up company like Kin Fertility, offering that she’s never tried to be someone she’s not.
“I don’t know how not to be [myself], if that makes sense,” she says. “It’s really exhausting not being yourself however many hours of the day that you work.”
“I’ve always really valued building really strong relationships with everyone I meet whether that’s going to be my friend, my colleague, my investor.”
Liu says that she likes to have fun, be happy and motivated at work, and it helps if you’re around people who care about you as a person.
“Not just you as a business, or you as a leader, or you as a colleague,” she says. “I want to create these connections because that ultimately makes life richer.”
Liu also thinks opening up conversations about being authentic at work gives others permission to do it as well. And being open and authentic is at the heart of what Kin Fertility does, working to remove the stigma that is so often associated with women’s health.
“When we don’t talk about it, society at large, doesn’t recognise it as a big problem,” Liu says. “Investors at large also don’t recognise it as a big problem and I think the more we talk about it, the more innovation, research, and actual solutions will get built to these problems that we so clearly feel.”