IDA TIN, CLUE: “THERE HAS BEEN AN EXTRAORDINARY BLIND SPOT AROUND FEMALE HEALTHCARE”
Health & Nutrition
Words: Florence Robson
Danish entrepreneur Ida Tin is Co-founder and CEO of Clue, the world’s leading science-based and trusted female health and period tracking app – and now a Conduit Connect company. We caught up with Ida to learn about the role of technology in empowering and educating women, her strict stance on data privacy and raising funding as a female founder.
You are widely credited with coining the phrase ‘femtech’. What do you mean by it?
I came up with the term because I could see a big uptick in companies working on solutions to support women’s unique needs, typically in areas where there had previously been very little innovation. The term encompasses a pretty broad spectrum of products and services, ranging from breast pumps to sex toys to DNA prenatal testing to period tracking to Kegel exercises. One of the benefits of having the term is that it gives more visibility – people start to see that all of these products are connected and belong to a single, enormous category.
Why is femtech so important?
It’s interesting why we even ask that question, as we’re talking about half of the population. Do you want people to live more fully and not suffer from pain and disruption? Yes, of course. Femtech is important culturally, physically, and economically. On a macro level, issues related to female healthcare control so many people on the planet, impacting the economy of every country. Until recently there’s been an extraordinary blind spot in the world around female healthcare.
You founded Clue in 2013. What led you to develop and launch the app?
It was a combination of factors. I couldn’t find a method of family planning that worked for me and, also, I knew on a deep level that supporting women to have agency over their own bodies was a really valuable, meaningful thing to work on. I kept thinking: why has nobody looked at this? Where are all the big diagnostic companies in this area? We’re exploring space, we’ve invented the internet and yet when it comes to family planning we’re still doing the same thing we were doing 70 years ago. I really wanted to make a dent there and create something data-driven.
What makes Clue different from other period tracking tools out there?
A few things: our stance on data privacy; being female-led, inclusive and non-gender normative. We invest a lot into making sure that everything we do is scientifically valid and based on collaborative research. We also create a lot of educational content. Ultimately, we have a deep-rooted concern for our users.
You’re very vocal about not selling users’ personal data. Why is that so important to you?
Clue was actually almost fully GDPR compliant before that even became a legal requirement. It’s always been a part of our DNA. Sometimes it would make it easier to compete if we were more aggressive and cared less about data privacy, but we want to look our users in the eye and feel good about what we do. However, it’s incredibly complicated navigating big data and I’m learning every day.
It’s also a big task to explain data privacy to users. I think that we have big problems in the technology industry and there’s a lot going on that shouldn’t be regarding the use of personal data. To build a sustainable company you have to honour people’s trust and continually earn it every single day with every decision you make.
Do you see any differences in users across different countries?
I think we have at least one user in every country on the planet! On some level people have different questions in different countries – for example, someone in India may ask ‘What is a period?”, whereas someone in Germany may not – but, on the whole, our users have the same essential concerns. “Am I healthy?” “Am I normal?” “Is my cycle ok?”.
What impact do you want Clue to have?
There are two main strands: one is to educate people, help them to collect data and advocate for themselves and their health. The other one is cultural: how do we talk about these things? Have we designed a world that makes it easy to have this biology? I hope we can be a progressive voice in this and bring science to help eliminate some of the myths and misinformation that is being put out there. There was a recent survey that said on 34% of all websites talking about birth control, there are factual mistakes. There is a huge need for providing trustworthy information. We have three million people a month consuming our educational content, which I think proves there’s a real hunger for accurate sources and unbiased information.
What’s been your experience of being a female founder in tech?
It’s hard to talk about this because I don’t have a benchmark – I don’t know what it would feel like if I was a man or talking about another type of product. But what makes it difficult sometimes is that what tech investors value can be so narrow. There’s an emphasis on the numbers and nothing else, and I’ve found that very frustrating. Everything we’ve spoken about – data privacy, content, cultural impact – often doesn’t count for anything when it comes to writing a cheque. I’ve actually raised all of our funding so far with a male Co-founder and I’m not sure I would have raised the same had that not been the case.
There was a big push after the #MeToo movement to bring on more female partners in fundingbut the problem is that they often don’t have power in their organisation. Female entrepreneurs are matched with female partners and they might love the idea but then they can’t move it along within their organisation. This will change in the future but we’re still at an early stage of the process.
What impact has the COVID-19 crisis had on female healthcare?
It’s a very difficult time for female health and safety. The UN recently released some research that revealed the potential ramifications of COVID-19 globally on the rights and health of women and girls. It’s having a huge impact on everything from FGM to domestic violence to child marriage. Clue and our mission always felt relevant but now more than ever it feels vitally important.
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