This interview was originally featured on HIStalk. I forgot to post the last 5 interviews when they were originally published on HIStalk, so they're here all in one big chunk. Moving forward, I'll make sure to post interviews as they're published.
Paris Wallace is founder and CEO of Ovuline of Boston, MA.
What does Ovuline do?
Ovuline uses data to help women conceive and have healthier pregnancies. Women share their key health information with us, both from what they observe as well as data they gather from wearable health tracking devices. We take that data and analyze it with machine learning algorithms and clinical guidelines to help them achieve their fertility and pregnancy health goals.
Is your system an expert system, a data-driven system, or some combination of the two?
Some combination of the two, but we’re mainly data-driven. Our systems use machine learning algorithms that analyze a large set of data based on all of the information Ovuline users share about their key health indicators. This is coupled with an analysis of their own personalized health information that comes from quantified self devices such as FitBit or Withings. Users also share their fertility symptoms with us, so we can further analyze that data using our proprietary technology.
All of that information is processed along with clinical guidelines to make accurate and personalized predictions about their fertility cycles.
It’s a three-step data process: quantified self devices, what women observe about their own symptoms, and what our machine learning analyzes from the millions of data points of women who are also trying to get pregnant. I suppose you could say the big data combined with the small data –personal information — and clinical guidelines are what make up our system.
Ovuline is intended for pre-conception and post-conception.
That’s correct. We launched our pre-conception – SmartFertility — product in September 2012 . We’re launching our pregnancy module in fall 2013.
What are some the tips and suggestions you give women?
We collect a variety of information from health and wellness data points, including menstrual cycle, cervical fluid, basal body temperature, nutrition, weight, sleep activity, and so on. All of this information — again, coupled with the large sets of data we’re analyzed in the “baby cloud” as I like to call it — allows us to recommend the best time for women to have intercourse to conceive. The women who’re actively using Ovuline conceive three times faster than the national average, two months versus 4-6 months.
Do you have different pricing plans for pre-conception, post-conception, and monitoring?
Although we sell fertility kits and quantified self devices to help our users record their data more accurately, right now we’re really focused on customer and data acquisition. We’re ultimately a data company. We find and build preparatory algorithms based upon the data that users share with us that improve the user’s experience.
Right now we don’t have anything – including charging for our service – that’s going to block people from sharing their data with us, because we ultimately think it’s going to be good for us and good for them. We are exploring opportunities with various partners that will help us monetize, but right now we’re just trying to create amazing user experience and demonstrate the medical efficacy of what we’re doing.
How do you acquire customers?
Word of month is the #1 way we acquire customers. They’re also finding us on the Web because so many women are looking for a solution to this problem and until now there was no way to provide this in-depth level of analysis. The technology didn’t exist, and even as it emerged, this is the first time anyone has applied it to the fertility and pregnancy space. We’ve also been around for long enough that now we’re getting a lot of organic traffic, in addition to app store downloads.
Have you looked at any of the healthcare app store prescription platforms, such as Happtique?
We’re aware of them and exploring partnerships that make sense.
Do you have interesting insights about your data?
Fifty percent of fertility treatments are not needed. Conceiving is often an issue of timing, as 30 percent of women have irregular cycles. One of the big public health issues around infertility is that it is almost taboo to talk about it. In general, I think any insights related to this space should be shared. We need to talk more about the tools and resources to help women conceive more quickly that don’t cost thousands of dollars.
Is there any other part of your business that you’d like to share?
We’re on the vanguard of supporting the Fitbit and Withings APIs to integrate their data into our database. We’re taking quantified self to the next level and trying to answer the question: what does all of this data mean to me as an individual, and how can I act upon it?
How did you get into this business?
This is my second company. My first company was a molecular diagnostic company called GoodStart Genetics. GoodStart creates fertility diagnostic so parents can foresee if their children are at risk of being born with a recessive genetic disorder. I started GoodStart in 2008 during my last year of business school. I built GoodStart for four years. I designed the product, launched it nationally, grew the team, raised venture funding, and hired the former CEO of LabCorp to run it. GoodStart is doing incredibly well and continues to grow.
The experience at GoodStart ultimately gave me a pretty deep passion for women’s health, specifically fertility. It’s a unique place in medicine where you have an acute issue with a positive outcome, so there is positive reinforcement to do an action as opposed to negative reinforcement. It’s incredibly rewarding to able to help people achieve their dreams of starting a family.