In our “Starter Story” series we invite femtech founders to share their stories of how it all began. How did they come up with the idea? Where did they meet their cofounders and what was the hardest part of going from 0 to 1?
In today’s Starter Story we get to share DigiD8’s founding story as told by co-founder Barghavi Govindarajan. DigiD8‘s mission is to eradicate barriers to health-informed life planning. DigiD8’s flagship product Hey Period launched last month.
When did the idea for your startup first come up?
In 2017, my husband and I found out that our child may have been accidentally exposed to a contagious, chronic bacterial illness. The quarantine period that ensued and the frantic search for information on diagnostic tests, prophylactics and symptoms to watch out for convinced me beyond doubt that there are few things as tumultuous in a parents life as the experience of caring for a child’s health. It was also clear that even within the strongest of marriages, an apparent loss of control can wreak havoc and put relationships under duress. We got lucky it was a temporary, rocky period in our lives. I came out of that year stronger but very sure that preventive health is underrated. Given the dimensions of life that are adversely impacted, every person on the planet deserves to be able to deploy their sharpest judgements in planning for and protecting their or their families’ health, thereby their relationships, mental health, productivity and life. The problem is, we don’t know everything we could know, even with “Dr. Google”. While we may or may not act differently given additional information for a number of reasons, it is blasphemy if — in 2021 — we do not have timely and contextualized access to knowledge that already exists out there. Closing the knowledge gap and contextualizing actionable health related information is what digiD8 is about.
When and how did you take the decision to take the plunge and turn your idea into a business? How did you meet your co-founder?
I was once at a social event attended by illuminary figures from the Harvard-MIT community (my alma mater) including Dr. George Church, a legendary Geneticist, serial entrepreneur and investor with a vision for how life science research and molecular technologies can transform the world to be safer, healthier and happier. It did not take us much time to uncover synergies in terms of how we wished to build a nimble, modern platform that taps into molecular biology and accelerates the impact of preventive health for a variety of consumers. Within a year of the first meeting that seeded our conversations, we incorporated digiD8 with planet-scale ambitions.
What were the biggest challenges for you personally and your company going from 0 to 1?
At its inception, we focused on seamlessly integrating DNA sequencing and related analytics to enable daters/ singles to discover prospective partners with lowest risk of severe genetic disease in their future (biological) kid. While we continue to believe (and have already successfully launched starter apps to solve this problem) that this is an important, socially impactful proposition, we were quick to learn that our solution does not offer equal value to the entirety of our target population. A big challenge we tackled early on was validating the serious assumptions embedded in our idea for the app. We also learnt that women cared more for de risking their choices in the long term but also lacked more in terms of decision support. This epiphany helped us tune into our early adopters’ pains more closely. We did not really see traction until we broadened our problem statement to embrace the real pain points faced by our target audience such as expanding and elongating the options for fertility and rapidly accessing privacy-aware, personalized guidance for questions in the whitespace between personal health and a second dimension of life. Last month we launched our flagship product Hey Period that strives to bring personalized knowledge and Fitbit-like but biomarker tracking capabilities for menstruators to quantify their period health.
Do you have any advice for others, who are just getting started?
As my experienced co-founder often reminds our team, Perfect is the enemy of Good Enough. I would advise fellow entrepreneurs to inculcate a bias for action and move as quickly as possible when navigating ambiguity. It is commonplace to struggle in self-certifying one’s own decisions whether with hiring or product assumptions or marketing copy. A misstep, if it occurs, only makes you richer with experiences that help make the subsequent move more informed and impactful. Inaction is the only event that costs us entrepreneurs the most.