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Removing the Infertility Stigma Through Data with Dr. Amy Divaraniya - Honest Ecommerce Ep. 164

Dr. Amy Divaraniya is the CEO and Founder of Oova, a women’s health company. She has more than 10 years of experience as a data scientist and has both led and published original research in the areas of personal genomics and biomarker discovery. 

Her solid understanding of biology and being able to apply complex analyses have led to innovative projects in the healthcare space. 

In 2017, Dr. Divaraniya chose to pivot her career as a data scientist and devote herself to improving women’s healthcare. 

After facing her own struggles with conceiving her son, Dr. Divaraniya decided to build a solution to help women having difficulty getting pregnant. 

Today, she and her team have built the first at-home test, Oova, that measures multiple hormones through urine samples and provides personalized results and insights on a woman’s fertility. 

As a response to COVID-19, Oova has done an early release of their product. Oova has resonated with many women and clinicians and is now being adopted by fertility clinics and hospitals across the country. 

In This Conversation We Discuss: 

  • [00:00] Intro
  • [01:39] The idea of building a brand
  • [03:23] Finding a solution and a market
  • [03:49] Removing stigma by providing data
  • [05:30] From idea to prototype
  • [07:40] Passionate in solving the problem
  • [08:41] Sponsor: Electric Eye electriceye.io
  • [09:01] Sponsor: Mesa apps.shopify.com/mesa
  • [09:45] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.grsm.io/honest
  • [11:12] Sponsor: Rewind rewind.io/honest
  • [11:44] Sponsor: Klaviyo klaviyo.com/honest
  • [12:31] The pandemic changed Oova’s business model
  • [14:48] The B2B2C approach is similar to using influencers
  • [15:07] Going the organic route
  • [15:54] Educating people about new products/new vertical
  • [17:14] Oova’s unique marketing mix
  • [18:38] What would Dr. Amy tell herself
  • [19:57] The value in smart people
  • [20:40] Truly believe in what you’re making
  • [21:22] Where to find Oova

Resources:

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  Transcript:

Chase Clymer  

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Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

It's not about having fancy marketing or the best branding. It's about having something at the core that actually works and solves a problem.

Chase Clymer  

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, a podcast dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And I believe running a direct-to-consumer brand does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. 

On this podcast, we interview founders and experts who are putting in the work and creating real results. 

I also share my own insights from running our top Shopify consultancy, Electric Eye. We cut the fluff in favor of facts to help you grow your Ecommerce business.

Let's get on with the show.

Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I'm your host Chase Clymer. 

And today, we're welcoming to the show, Dr. Amy Divaraniya. She is the CEO and founder of Oova, an at-home diagnostics company bringing clarity to the complex world of fertility. 

Welcome to the show, Amy.

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Thank you so much for having me.

Chase Clymer  

Oh, I'm excited to dive into this. This is a really interesting product. And, surprisingly, we've had a few products as of late that were in the sex realm. 

So I'm gonna have to ask Nikki if she's going down a rabbit hole of products in that area. But I'm excited to dive in here. So before we talk about the product and all that stuff, take me back to... You're a doctor, obviously. 

Take me back to the history (of Oova). What was going on in your life that read... That led to building a brand?

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Sure. Well, I guess I should caveat everything with... If you go back to me and undergrad, I never thought I would be in a business setting. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah?

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

So I avoided every business class like the plague. I'm like "No one should ever trust me with their money." This is... I'm headed to med school. That was my plan. But for some reason, I can never get myself to go to med school. 

And I ended up going after my PhD and doing things a little differently. But during my PhD, I realized very quickly that getting pregnant wasn't what my health teacher said. 

It's not like you have sex and you're going to get pregnant, it was the complete opposite for us. That being said, I  anticipated my journey to parenthood to be a little complicated, because I've had irregular cycles my whole life. But I didn't expect it to be as difficult as it was. 

And fast forward 18 months, I luckily conceived my son, but those 18 months of the most devastating of my life. And the worst part was, I didn't learn anything new about my cycle at that time. 

After using all the products that were available at your local drugstore, all I really learned was that I had irregular cycles. And I knew that going into my journey. 

So what I noticed was that the piece of information that was really missing from my dataset was understanding my hormones, because that dictates everything in our reproductive system. 

My journey also opened up my eyes to the fact that women with irregular cycles have no solutions outside of two. The first is chance. And the second is going through invasive treatments. 

And if you didn't want to go through invasive treatments, you're really left with nothing to help you. And I wanted to change that. So fast forward 3 years. Here we are with Oova, where we have an at-home diagnostic that is designed for women with irregular cycles.

Chase Clymer  

I've done this interview probably dozens of times --founders interview-- and the most common answer to the question of "Where do you get the idea for this product" is  "There was a problem in my life and I realized there wasn't a solution on the market." 

When you experienced this problem, were you looking around for solutions? Within doing that, did you realize there was a market for the product as well?

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Yeah. I think it kind of brings me to one of the core pillars of our company, which is destigmatizing infertility. 

So when I was going through my journey, I was pretty open about it because I didn't know what to do. Dr. Google can only answer so many questions before it drives me crazy. And so I started talking to some of my closest friends. 

These are people I talk to on a daily basis in some form, right. And as I was opening up about my struggle, one of my closest friends said "Well, we're going through IVF. We just aren't... We just started our second cycle." 

And I was like, "How did I not know this? Nobody talks about infertility." And no one talks about these issues because they think it's so personal. But because we're not talking about it, it's also stigmatizing it and not raising awareness to how common it actually is.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Now with the efforts to destigmatize this, does that play into your marketing with the product these days?

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Yeah. So the... Like I said, it's one of the core missions of our company in how we destigmatize it and for me, the way to go about it is by actually empowering women with data. 

I think the reason that things get stigmatized is because people just don't know enough about it. And it's hard to advocate for yourself if you're not informed about your own body. 

All you can do is say "I'm going through infertility and I don't know why." It's hard to talk about it because the other person doesn't know what to offer you in return to help you. So what Oova... 

What we're trying to do is really empower women with data, so they can finally understand what's happening internally. And through those conversations about education... I'm pretty educated.

I have a PhD in Biomedical Sciences. But to be honest, I am an expert on fertility because I had to teach it to myself. 

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. 

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

We don't learn [about] this stuff in school.

Chase Clymer  

Now with this product, it is interesting. It's a smart product. It links up with your phone. 

So what was the journey like from the idea of "Can we build a product that solves this problem that so many women experience?" to get a prototype? What did that look like? 

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Alright, so it was actually quite funny. I went into a conference room with my now advisory team. And I was like, "Alright. Look, I am struggling like crazy with this and I don't know what my solution is. But I don't want another woman to go through the exact same thing. So let's set the pillars of success." 

So the first thing was the product had to be quantitative. It could not be a binary yes or no [nor] a smiley face/blinking smiley face. It had to be a number. 

The second thing is it had to be done non invasively. So no blood tests. It had to be done with urine, ideally. 

The third piece was that it had to be clinically tested, then... So if you took your results to a doctor, they should be able to understand what was going on and take the next step. 

The fourth piece was that it had to be done in real time. So no mailing of samples, it has to be done in the privacy of a woman's home. 

And the last piece is that it has to be personalized. I didn't want to... I wanted to understand what every woman's unique fertility profile was because they truly believe that every woman is different. And we shouldn't be compared to standard thresholds. 

So all 5 of those pillars are pretty crazy to strive to achieve even any one of them. But I was like, if we don't check off all 5, I'm not moving forward with Oova because I didn't want to be a subpar product in this market. So we hit the ground running. 

I started taking my background in data science. So like I had the data component covered. We brought on an engineer to help with the technology side of it. 

And I also identified a contract manufacturer to help think through the biochemistry. And with all of that within, I want to say, 6 months, we had a prototype with the concept that we could actually do it. 

Not that it didn't work to like the standard that I wanted to work at yet. But we could get there. And that's really what steamrolled us moving forward with the company.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. I think that something I really want to highlight here is that you were motivated by solving this problem. And it was very passionate to you. 

And I think that that's what separates a lot of entrepreneurs that succeed from those that fail. You got to... It's got to be passionate about what you're trying to solve.

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Absolutely. Yeah. It's a business at the end of the day. But there's a reason that I am answering every single support ticket because I genuinely care about our users. I want to make sure they're getting the brands that they're paying for. And also it's a learning opportunity for us. 

"What are we doing wrong? What are we doing right? How do we iterate? In what direction do we iterate?" So it is a passion. 

And it's, I think the pandemic probably highlighted this for everyone to roll out a bed and walk into your home office and sit down here at your desk for like 12 hours a day to work on something. You need to be passionate about it.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Sitting here at my desk in my home office, very passionate about interviewing entrepreneurs. 

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Chase Clymer  

So you get this prototype. Obviously, there's probably some iteration upon it, but you finally decide that, "Alright, we're gonna take this thing to market." How do you get the word out about this product?

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Sure. So I just had to get the word out. This is a very interesting story, because it's not the way I anticipated it to go, I guess it's the caveat. So it took me 3 years to get to a product that we can actually put on the market. 

And in those 3 years, while we were developing, I was talking to whatever clinician would give me the time of day. I didn't care what kind of doctor they were, how many patients they had or anything. Any doctor that would give me five minutes of their time. 

I was asking them what kind of data they wanted to see, how would they want to visualize it? What would be important for them? What can I do to instill trust in my products so that when a patient comes to you, you would look at that information? 

And so when the pandemic hit, honestly, the last week of March, we were supposed to kick-off several clinical trials. But New York City shut down and so all of our trials are forced to be postponed. 

But what that also created was this dynamic where fertility clinics were also being forced to shut down because fertility treatment was viewed as an elective procedure during the pandemic. 

So all of a sudden, you had all these families that were left hanging, not knowing like, "Okay, when is my procedure going to get picked up again? Why is it postponed? What do I do in the meantime?" 

And so, clinicians actually started reaching out to us to see if they could do any remote hormone monitoring using Oova. And so we quickly pivoted, and our whole business model was thrown out the window. 

We were always thinking of going direct-to-consumer, but then we instead picked up this B2B2C model, where clinicians could actually recommend the product to their patients, and patients then use the product at home. 

They scan the test at home and then they get the results in our app but the clinician gets their hormone results in their HIPAA compliant dashboard. 

So that was... It was really interesting, because the first clinic that I got on board was somebody that I had spoken with really early on during my data discovery project like 3 years prior. 

And then they reached out and then they started talking to other clinicians about Oova's technology and a group very quickly from there. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, that's amazing. I think that using other people's networks to grow the reach of your product is a fantastic strategy that I think is very underutilized. Well, I guess you could argue that like influencers is almost the same thing.

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

It's an easy target. So I think there's something about organic word of mouth, because you get one person who has had a positive experience and they tell 5 of their friends. 

It sounds very small and like tedious to do but really, it's not. It's about building a quality product. And I think that's where that passion really comes back into play. If you're passionate about something, you're going to put your all into building the best experience. 

It's not about having fancy marketing or the best branding, it's about having something at the core that actually works and solves a problem. If you're not doing that, that's where you really need to rely on heavy marketing and going down that rabbit hole. 

But for us, we honestly just kicked off marketing last month. Otherwise, we wouldn't have spent any money on marketing. It's all been organic for the past year.

Chase Clymer  

That's fantastic. And another thing is obviously, that you saw the gap in the market. You invented a product vertical. This is brand new technology. 

And I think one of the challenges with that is the education piece. So obviously you just kicked off marketing,  how did you approach trying to educate people remotely about what this product does?

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

So we utilize our clinicians to do that. We kicked off with that first clinic. That took off pretty quickly. We're now in over 88 clinics. So now think about yourself. 

If you're dealing with some sort of an ailment or some problem and you go to your doctor, your doctor tells you, "I think you should use a test like this." You have to still go and purchase it. But you're already 75% - 80% sold on purchasing that product. Now you're going to...

Chase Clymer  

Powered referrals. 

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Yeah, exactly. Now you're going to go to the website, just educate yourself on "What exactly am I buying?" and purchase it because your doctor has explained to you what the value is already. 

So where we did most of our education is talking to the doctors and letting them know what they're gaining and what their patient is empowered to do if they use a product like Oova. 

And that's what skyrocketed. So we've gone about marketing and sales in a very different angle than anyone else in the space, which is I think what else would set us apart.

Chase Clymer  

No, I think that this is definitely a unique strategy that I don't think we've covered much on this show before. You just said you just started to kick off marketing recently. So what does that look like? What's your marketing mix these days?

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Sure. So it's really the full gamut. Because we did a lot of testing in December. And I know it's also a weird month to do testing because of the holidays. And I think that...

Chase Clymer  

It's an expensive month to do testing. 

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Yeah, I mean... Well, for fertility, it's really unique. Because the holidays can be a really daunting time, especially 2021. 

Because after 2 years, you have people finally sitting around a dinner table again. And you have that nosy aunt that's like, "Well, why aren't you having kids yet? Why are you waiting so long?" And you have... 

She has no idea what's going on behind the scenes. 

Chase Clymer   

Yeah. 

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

So I think 2021, especially December, was a very trying time for this community. But our mix is pretty, pretty diverse. We have a really small presence on Facebook and Instagram. I think it's a very crowded platform. So we don't go too crazy there. Mostly Google search.

There's a lot of native ads that we're doing. And we're about to kick off some streaming stuff, which is exciting. And trying to do a full spectrum.

Chase Clymer  

I would love to talk more about the streaming stuff. What does that entail?

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Not sure yet? (laughs) I can probably have more information for you in a few weeks.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. I won't pressure you too much there. Now, I think that you're uniquely qualified to answer this, is there anything that you would want to go back and tell your former self, the pre- entrepreneur self... 

Maybe a mistake that you want to avoid or just some other advice that you think that would help you when your younger self and in the journey that you were about to take on?

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

So it's a lesson I learned recently and I really am still learning it and trying to... I keep telling myself, "Okay, no, you need to change this." 

So I wish I would have told myself this 4 years ago so I probably would have been in a much better place today. I wish I would have hired people sooner. I think early on... 

I was so lean on our spending that I was like, "Oh well, this is simple enough. I can teach it to myself. I can do it myself." And you can. We're all very capable as an entrepreneur. You're forced to be an expert in many trades. But it's not the fastest way to grow. 

And it's not the most efficient use of your time. So what I have learned is bringing on experts. Even though it costs you money, it's actually saving you substantially because it's not using up your time and you can focus on all the other things that are on your plate that will actually grow the business

Chase Clymer  

Couldn't agree more. Experts are expensive. Smart people are worth it. But what is priceless is time and is finite, and you can never get more of it. And I think that at the beginning, you should be scrappy. 

But at a certain point, you have to start bringing in people smarter than you to get things done faster. People that have done it before are going to make your business explode.

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Great. And we're seeing it. We're seeing it already. I wish I would have brought these people in 3 years ago because god knows where we would have been today. But everything happens for a reason.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. I can't thank you enough for being on the show today. Is there anything I forgot to ask you that you think would resonate with our audience?

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

I think one thing that I would highly recommend for any entrepreneur who's setting up on this journey is truly believe in what you're developing. 

And I notice a lot of entrepreneurs are looking for the next market opportunity and just looking for a quick win. But to me, when innovation... Innovation is what we're all striving for. Like How do you innovate the best thing and actually move the needle in any space? 

I think the only way that will happen is if the entrepreneur is truly passionate about what they're building. Because then you're in the weeds. You care about what you're putting out there and you're going to move the needle. 

So for Oova, we're super excited that we're actually moving the needle not only in women's health, but also in at-home diagnostics.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I know. Your product, again, it's very intriguing. It's unique. Let the audience know. If they're curious about the product, where should they go to learn more information?

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Go to our website, www.O-O-V-A.life. That's oova.life or follow us on social @oovalife everywhere.

Chase Clymer  

Well, again, I can't thank you enough for coming on and sharing your insights today.

Dr. Amy Divaraniya  

Thank you so much for having me. 

Chase Clymer  

Alright. I can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their knowledge and journey with us. 

We've got a lot to think about and potentially add into our own business. You can find all the links in the show notes. 

Make sure you head over to honestecommerce.co to check out all the other amazing content that we have. 
Make sure you subscribe, leave a review. And obviously if you're thinking about growing your business, check out our agency at electriceye.io. Until next time.