Rate this post

TEXT ALBERTO GAYO | PHOTOGRAPHS WOOM, ISTOCK

Technology and innovation supporting fertility. Risk and passion for launching into the femtech market and revolutionizing women’s health. In just five years, WOOM, the mobile app created by Laurence Fontinoy and Clelia Morales, has more than 1.5 million registered users across 9 countries in Europe and the Americas and has helped more than 100,000 women get pregnant. In its aim to improve people’s lives by helping them meet their challenges, universalize access to this type of service and break taboos about women’s health and well-being. MAPFRE has partnered with them so that more and more women can benefit from this technology.
The life of a startup company is regarded as a thrilling birth. There are difficulties, nervous moments and excitement. There are frustrations as well as immense joy. Such is the story of WOOM, the project that Laurence Fortinoy and Clelia Morales, launched in 2016 with the intention of providing AI-driven fertility advice to any woman wishing to become pregnant. Today, after five years, the joy of that call still resounds in their Madrid office, that of the first user of the app who announced to them that she was expecting her baby. Her name is Isabel and she lives in eastern Spain. “The screams could be heard all over the place. That mother still sends us pictures of her daughter every year”, says Laurence.

Only five years have passed and at the international level, WOOM is considered one of the most reliable and successful technological tools in the field of reproductive health. More than 1.5 million registered users in 9 countries in Europe, Latin America and North America confirm its success. More than 100,000 reported pregnancies attest to its worth. In the midst of the health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this startup in the femtech sector secured an injection of 2 million euros in a fundraising round. With a staff of 22 workers and a subsidiary development company in Bulgaria, its goal was to impact the lives of women through technology. And they have succeeded. This ability to transform and help people achieve their goals is what has led companies like MAPFRE, in this case through its insur_space program, to collaborate with WOOM so that its innovations can touch even more women.

But what is WOOM? We are talking about a technological solution based on artificial intelligence. With professional advice —developers, engineers, data science experts, doctors and psychologists— it allows women to keep track of their menstrual cycle and calendar, maximizing their chances of getting pregnant. “Not only does it help increase the odds of success, it is a daily partner for women in terms of health and wellness, and it facilitates relationships between women from different parts of the world. In fact, we have created a global community with more than 50,000 monthly comments, the most active in Spanish on women’s health”, explains Clelia. The app helps users make decisions based on self-knowledge of their bodies and lifestyle habits, and shortens conception times.

35 % of WOOM users are in Spain, another 30 percent in Mexico, 20 percent in the rest of Latin America and 15 percent in the US and UK.
«We have created a global community with more than 50,000 monthly comments, the most active in Spanish on women’s health»

An increasingly smart algorithm

A predictive algorithm trained and fed with data obtained from more than 100 parameters related to the life of each woman is used to determine how long her menstrual cycle lasts, when her period is due, when premenstrual syndrome begins and what her most fertile days may be. It also provides advice on changes in habits related to sports, nutrition and sex, which can improve the reproductive health of the women involved. The algorithm we use now”, says Clelia, “has been perfected, it understands when your period is early or late. It doesn’t know when it happens, but it takes into account your entire history to make the best prediction. Now we have so much information that we gather the cleanest and purest data. The algorithm has gotten a lot smarter.” Contributing to this “intelligence” have been AI and data science health specialists from Silicon Valley (California, USA), the home base of the most important startups as well as tech giants. As no two women are alike, one of the many virtues of WOOM is that the dozens of parameters used by the algorithm allow highly personalized content to be sent, and not only relating to fertility, but also about exercise, nutrition, mental health and sexual health.

Laurence Fortinoy and Clelia Morales, entrepreneurs behind the WOOM project.

According to the latest reports from the Spanish Fertility Society, about 800,000 couples have difficulty conceiving. It is within this scenario, in which thousands of women want to have a child but encounter problems, that companies such as WOOM have found a niche. The importance of the data collected by Laurence and Clelia is making it possible to discover and delve deeper into the factors that influence menstruation: “We are beginning to realize, for example, that stress, unless it is chronic, may not necessarily have much of an effect. One of the main conclusions of our studies is that most women do not have 28-day periods. The normal menstrual cycle lasts between 17 and 35 days. Only 17 percent of women have 28-day periods. This information normalizes many women’s concerns. The other major accomplishment of our study is that the conclusions of our data are aligned with scientific research.”

From big corporations to setting up a startup

Back in 2006, Laurence and Clelia were working together at eBay Spain, one of the pioneering global e-commerce platforms. The former as the marketingdirector and the latter as the communications director. “We realized that we worked very well together”, the two admit. Laurence, born in Belgium but closely linked to Spain since she was a child, left eBay to start working at Google. In 2015, her professional path once again crossed that of Clelia, a native of Honduras. “Again it was a revelation. The two of us had been working for large companies for more than 15 years and we both wanted to do something new. Clelia wanted to develop a project linked to wellness and I, from my own experience, wanted to link my future to fertility”, says Fortinoy. “Leaving the community of a large corporation that treats you very well is not easy, but we had to move forward and I haven’t regretted the decision I made for a single day”, adds Morales. Clelia acknowledges her partner’s perseverance and Laurence her partner’s intuition.

hey both left their good jobs in readiness for entrepreneurship. As shown by the latest report from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, a research project that evaluates entrepreneurial activity in each country, in Spain 9 women start up businesses for every 10 male entrepreneurs. In 60 percent of cases, a lack of support in the social and family environment, a low profile, work-life balance or barriers to investment lead them to abandon the entrepreneurial process prematurely. “Any entrepreneur starts from a problem they have seen or an issue for which they believe they have a potential solution. As entrepreneurs, at WOOM, empathy has been fundamental because 99.9 percent of our users are women. Clearly we have a good understanding of what they are going through and we started with fertility because we had just been experiencing that stage ourselves. Now we are addressing menopause because there is also a lack of information; we want to help women to go through this stage in a positive way, to live it naturally and without taboos”, Laurence explains.

hirty-five percent of WOOM users are in Spain, another 30 percent in Mexico, 20 percent in the rest of Latin America and 15 percent in the USA and the UK. “There are women from all socioeconomic profiles”, explains Clelia Morales, “because WOOM is a massive tool that is available to any woman who has a smartphone. Half of our users have a fertility challenge, it doesn’t mean that they are undergoing fertility treatment, but that they are taking longer than normal to get pregnant.”

Clearly we have a good understanding of what they are going through and we started with fertility because we had just been experiencing that stage ourselves. Now we are addressing menopause because there is also a lack of information

That empathy is undoubtedly one of the skills of female entrepreneurship, which in WOOM‘s case is added to passion, creativity, organization and tenacity

“When we started we hadn’t even made a PowerPoint”

WOOM’s startup was supported and mentored by SeedRocket, the Google Residency accelerator and The Venture City, investors active in software. “When we started we hadn’t even made a PowerPoint. We applied to SeedRocket, and now we’re mentors for them. We were chosen for the entrepreneurship campus from among more than 200 startups. It was like a birth, in nine months we had launched the product”, remembers Laurence. SeedRocket was very important when it came to launching the app, “that’s where we did our first investment round, a lot of serial entrepreneurs came in and helped us create the product.” Clelia Morales recalls that with Google Residency they perfected the app and with The Venture City they further professionalized WOOM’s growth.

The first pregnancy reported by one of the users of the digital app was also the first exciting milestone. When they learned that they had more than 20,000 women registered and 500 had reported their pregnancies, the founders realized the real scope of their project. “Another accomplishment was finishing the first algorithm with our first engineer and the physician Isidoro Bruna, medical director of the fertility centers at the Hospital de Madrid group, member of the Board of Directors of the Spanish Fertility Society, and today still chief medical officer at WOOM”, recalls Clelia Morales.
“The main difficulty a woman encounters when starting a business is investment and finding capital. Our product is aimed at women, and it also deals with menstruation and its symptoms, but the venture capital world is 97 percent male, meaning that sometimes they don’t understand what you are doing and its importance in the market. Our mission was to make them see this, and that’s why we carefully targeted the people we were going to sit down and talk to. We decided to seek investment from female business angels and funds focused on healthtech and femtech”, says Laurence. Empathy is undoubtedly one of the skills of female entrepreneurship, which in WOOM’s case is added to passion, creativity, organization and tenacity. “At some point you have to take a risk and step on the gas. If you move forward, you lose your fear”, they say.

The venture capital world is 97 percent male, meaning that sometimes they don’t understand what you are doing and its importance in the market

We decided to seek investment from female business angels and funds focused on healthtech and femtech

WOOM AND MAPFRE

“Profitability and growth are fundamental in any startup. It’s what differentiates tech startups and that’s why you have to look for the best allies.” In this context, WOOM and MAPFRE have sealed a strategic alliance, offering a greater commitment to the insurer’s female clients together with a more personalized service. “We are at the pinnacle of innovation in the field of women’s health. The most exciting thing is that there will come a point where WOOM will be able to take the pressure off doctors’ offices and hospitals with its service. The impact will not only be positive and personal for the woman, but for the healthcare system thanks to innovation.

Five years ago we didn’t think that everything would accelerate so fast”, concludes Laurence.

WOOM will initially be available to MAPFRE clients in Mexico and the Dominican Republic XXXXXXX. Many readers may wonder where the startup’s name comes from: WOOM. The first two letters stand for woman and the last two, read back to front, are the first two letters of mother. If to this fusion we add the fact that the uterus is also known as the womb, we have the perfect name.
Share This