Kindara Founder Shares 5 Pearls Of Wisdom (Lessons Learned)
By Kati Bicknell (Co-Founder, Kindara)
I’m the co-founder of Kindara. Our mission is to provide women with a full solution (hardware, software, support and education) that makes the Symptothermal Method of fertility management easier than ever before.
We graduated from the New York Spring 2011 Founder Institute at the top of our class, and recently closed a Friends and Family round of funding. I’m a member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research and one of the few women in the country being trained as a Fertility Awareness Educator.
I studied art at notoriously liberal Bennington college, where I was encouraged to think outside the confines of a typical college curricula. Collaboration ruled the day, and by the end of four years I had worked on projects with students of many disciplines.
This experience of wearing multiple hats laid the groundwork for me as an entrepreneur. Now, on any given day I may be researching, copywriting, art directing, evaluating feature sets, pitching investors, reconciling the books, or any number of troubleshooting and problem solving activities.
I was working at TED.com when I had the idea for Kindara. Being exposed to so many brilliant people, day after day, led me to believe that with the right team, and enough passion, it was possible to turn world changing ideas into reality.
The idea for Kindara came out of my own search for non-hormonal, side-effect free contraception. A friend lent me “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler, a book about the Symptothermal Method of fertility charting. I learned that when used as contraception, the Symptothermal Method can be up to 99.6% effective, that’s as effective as the pill. I decided to start charting my cycle, and was disappointed with the lack of sleek, easy to use fertility charting software.
I brought this problem to my co-founder Will, an entrepreneur and mechanical engineer I met at Burning Man in 2009. After talking it over, we realized that there is a huge opportunity to create technology that gives women better results with their fertility, whether they want to avoid or achieve pregnancy.
We spent that winter researching the fertility space. We validated our idea by researching the current solutions to the problem we were trying to solve, and evaluating where they fell short. We searched US patents, to see if our innovations might be patentable and did lots of brainstorming on how to give women a seamless experience managing their fertility.
In summer of 2010, we quit our jobs and began working on Kindara full time. In fall of 2010, we brought on a CTO to build out our web application and a graphic designer, both of them worked in exchange for equity in the company. (This did not work as well as we had hoped. Turns out friendship and excitement are great motivators, but they do not pay the rent. We had to let both of them go off to greener and more immediately lucrative pastures in 2011)
In March 2011, we were accepted into the Founder Institute incubator in New York, graduating in June at the top of our class. This experience proved to be very valuable, and we made great connections to mentors, advisors and investors.
It’s been an incredible journey filled with ups and downs. When my co-founder Will told me about the Lean Startup movement, essentially: “the reason nine out of 10 startups fail is because they build a product nobody wants” I realized that we had built the charting software I wanted to use, assuming that it was what everyone would want to use, and that this does not a sustainable, profitable business make.
It was humbling to go back to the drawing board, but luckily our customer development process validated our theory that women want an effective, side-effect free way to manage their fertility.
If I could impart any wisdom to someone considering doing their own startup it would be this:
- Maintaining balance in your life is important. Left unchecked, the business WILL consume your entire life. Make a point to see your friends, relax, and think about things other than the business or you may go insane (making you ineffective in aforementioned business)
- Be committed but flexible. Have your end goal in mind, but be open to new ways of getting there.
- Make sure you have excellent and clear communication. This is in regard to your co-founder(s).
- Get and stay organized. Our team uses the Getting Things Done approach, and Workflowy to keep everything running smoothly.
- Ask for help. Reach out to people who have expertise in the area you’re interested in.
As for us, after graduating from the Founder Institute we closed a Friends and Family Round in November and used December and January for Customer Discovery. Our next milestone is to raise our seed round so we can implement our plan and make a difference for millions of women.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Kati Bicknell co-founded Kindara in 2009 with William Sacks. Kati is fiercely committed that women have access to safe, effective options to manage their health and fertility. Previously she worked for TED.com. In her free time she enjoys yoga, art, and dance. Kati currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her on Twitter at @katibicknell.