At 25, Nicole Liu has left her job as business analyst at management consulting firm McKinsey & Company to start up her own fertility empowerment company, Kin.
The move comes less than a year after Nicole joined Startmate’s startup program in 2019, with Kin filling a need in the market to provide women with an online medical support network with a qualified fertility specialist, connecting them to information about their reproductive health.
They’ve also created Australia’s first subscription service to the contraceptive pill, delivered direct to your door.
Venture capital fund Blackbird Ventures has invested in the startup with $1 million in funding, with accelerator Eucalyptus also backing the business, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
I spoke to Liu to ask her about her journey from aspiring investment banker to passionate, feminist businesswoman.
Why did you start Kin?
The idea for Kin started when I was misdiagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and told I might be infertile. It brought up a tonne of questions that I really struggled to get straight answers for. I had talked to some friends about it and noticed that they also had questions about their fertility and some had even experienced their own fertility struggles.
The weird thing was that we never really talked about it. I had never heard about polycystic ovary syndrome until I was diagnosed with it, yet, I later found out that 1 in 10 women in Australia have it! What I realised was that fertility and reproductive health isn’t really talked about — there’s still a stigma associated with it. Instead, a lot of us go through really isolated experiences.
So Kin was created to de-stigmatise the conversation around fertility and reproductive health, by empowering women with trusted information and better access to women’s healthcare. Just thought it was about time that there was something that put a spotlight on women’s fertility and reproductive health.
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Our boxes might be simple but it’s what’s inside that counts. ✨⠀ ⠀ One of our first Kin patients sent us this pic of her Kin box and we thought it was so pretty we’d share it with you all! If anyone else has pics of their @kin.fertility packaging, send them to us via DM, we’d love to see. ☺️
Take me through the steps from the gem of the idea for Kin to where it is now.
Well, when I was misdiagnosed with PCOS, like any millennial I consulted with Dr. Google for answers. But, I was left with way more questions than answers. So when we started Kin, we were really focussed on creating trusted information that took the medical information and made it easy to understand and actionable so that women could make empowered choices about their reproductive health with the right information. We brought together specialists and doctors and medical research and talented writers to turn evidence-based information into fertility guides that sounded like you were talking to your girlfriends.
That got a lot of engagement and really great feedback, so we decided to start tackling issues that were stopping women from feeling like they could be control of their reproductive health.
We decided to start at the start of what we see as the fertility journey — which really begins when you have your first period and start thinking about contraception. Based on our team’s collective experiences of being on the pill and how much of a struggle it can be, we started designing the service to make it as easy as possible for women while keeping all the necessary frictions there to ensure its safe. For example, ensuring the doctor can engage with each patient.
What was the investment/funding procedure like?
We approached Blackbird VC and a startup incubator called Eucalyptus who were really supportive of the idea and have been really great partners. I had previously worked in venture capital, so it was super interesting to be on the other side of the table.
So how does Kin work?
You go online to Kin and complete an online health assessment consisting of 40-plus questions. Our doctors review that information and engage in a text-based consult through our secure chat platform, where they can ask and answer any questions about your contraception. If it’s safe for them to be on the pill, a script is written up and then we work with our partner pharmacies to ship that to their door.
— Nicole Liu (@nicoleeeee12312) May 1, 2019
Tell us about Startmate Fellowship you participated in last year.
The Startmate Fellowship was a program to help people working in corporate learn more about startups, with the goal to move into a role in a startup. I was part of the first cohort! We met and learned from a bunch of people in the Australian startup world and got to go to San Francisco to learn from really great startup investors and operators there too.
What were some of the skills you noticed were useful from your history working in corporate advisory?
I think I learned a lot about structured thinking and breaking down big problems into smaller parts to solve. Like for Kin it was “how do we de-stigmatise fertility”, and then thinking through how we break that down and tackle each part. I was surrounded by people who tackled problems and managed teams and change all the time and I learned a lot through osmosis that way too!
What does a typical day look like for you?
It changes week to week. The mornings are checking out what the metrics are telling us. We send emails to customers to get feedback, and I read and respond to them to figure out how we can improve Kin.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to a young startup with an idea?
Trust your gut. If you find there’s something you’re really passionate about, you should definitely go for it. If you’ve got enough conviction as to why you want to do something, it makes a huge difference. Also make sure you surround yourself with a great team.
What mantra do you tell yourself when things are getting tough?
Not really a mantra, but I try to hold onto the good times! There’s always ups and downs but you learn a lot going through the challenges and coming out the other end. I like to remind myself when things get challenging that it’s just a blip on the timeline and the tough times are just a part of the journey.
What do you do to wind down or de-stress?
I’ve taken up boxing classes and have taken a lot of my stress out there!
This article was first published at Women’s Agenda.