Kirsten Green, the founding partner of VC firm Forerunner Ventures, has become a household name in the startup world with her investments in trailblazing consumer brands like Dollar Shave Club, Glossier, Outdoor Voices, Away, and Warby Parker.
But her latest bet extends beyond the typical retail world: Modern Fertility, a women’s health startup that’s making fertility hormone testing more accessible. Green and Forerunner led Modern Fertility’s $15 million Series A round, which just closed, and Green is joining the company’s board as part of the deal. (Modern Fertility has now raised a total of $22 million.)
The investment from Forerunner in the femtech space signals that the same trends Green has sought out and cultivated in the retail world—cult-like brands that develop long-term relationships with consumers—are poised to reshape women’s healthcare. “Kirsten has invested in these companies that have really changed consumer behavior,” says Afton Vechery, Modern Fertility’s CEO and co-founder. “She has fundamentally shifted consumer brands.”
The investment also highlights the ways startups like Modern Fertility are attempting to turn women’s reproductive health into a less taboo, more mainstream wellness issue that can be tracked and monitored just like sleep and nutrition. The company’s mission, says Vechery, is to “integrate fertility into broader women’s behavior and culture.”
Green says she’d been meeting with a lot of women’s health companies and pro-actively sought out Modern Fertility, which was not looking for funding. “Over the last 18 months, we have been spending more time on thinking about the evolution of healthcare and health and wellness,” Green says. Green saw investment opportunities emerging as people have become more pro-active about their health but are also dissatisfied with the current healthcare system and services that exist, she adds. Like her investments in the more traditional consumer space, Green saw Modern Fertility as having the potential to create long-term relationships with women, who are “going to be interested in how their bodies evolve over time.”
Modern Fertility, which was started in 2017 by Vechery and co-founder Carly Leahy, provides an at-home hormone lab test that would normally be conducted at a fertility clinic when a woman is struggling to get pregnant. It makes those tests available to women earlier in life at a lower cost. “We in society today are so focused on preventing pregnancy instead of planning for it—it’s this almost immediate transition and it’s a total black box,” says Vechery. “We’re really transitioning the conversation to how can we think about fertility in a preventative care context proactively.”
One of the main areas the new funding will go toward is research. Because the healthcare system treats women only once they have a known fertility issue, the majority of research is done on women diagnosed with infertility. By attempting to get women to think about their reproductive health earlier, the startup hopes to instead track the fertility of women who don’t necessarily have issues—what Vechery calls a “a new area that is largely under-researched”—and as a result, discover better predictors of fertility. To do so, Modern Fertility offers customers the ability to opt in to clinical studies, where their anonymized data is analyzed by its team of fertility doctors. This information will feed into the company’s product development as well as produce academic research that Vechery says she hopes can move the reproductive health industry forward.
Vechery says that the fundraising process was very different than when she was raising her seed round and fertility and women’s health wasn’t yet a hot area. “The industry understands that women are just a massive part of commerce,” she said, “and investors are paying very close attention.”
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