Lauren Berson originally left Andreessen Horowitz to help Weight Watchers move past weight loss. What the growth strategy expert didn’t know, however, was that she would soon find inspiration for her first startup, digital health company Conceive.
Upon joining Weight Watchers, Berson spent time looking at user forums with content ranging from transformation photos to someone telling the community about their plans for a walk later. She noticed there was a “beautiful, palpable, ongoing experience” of people supporting each other, she says. One that led to accountability and, eventually, results.
At the same time, Berson was trying to get pregnant. She and her partner spent three years trying to conceive – a period fraught with failed treatments, loneliness and miscarriage – before having their daughter, who is now two and a half.
Conceive, launching today, is a digital fertility program taking a page from Berson’s professional and personal playbook. She started the business to connect some of the most motivated people – people who want to start a family – with each other, with suppliers, education programs and coaches. The goal is to ensure that underground communities experiencing one of the “most complex patient journeys” have a better map, she says.
Conceive’s 8 week “trying to conceive” program is different for someone who is having IVF for the first time or someone who is just starting to talk about having a family. Users are paired with a program and coach that matches their needs, taking into account factors such as geographic location, duration of their trials, and diversity.
The program costs $549 and some scholarships are available. Berson explained that she intentionally started with the direct-to-consumer route because she didn’t just want to serve people who were “lucky enough to work with an employer who” offered fertility benefits. Ultimately, the company plans to monetize through affiliate relationships with consumer products or diagnostic companies, as well as relationships with clinics and employer plans.
While Concieve’s mission – to help people get pregnant and support them through the bumps along the way – isn’t uncommon, integration is. Berson said often fertility specialists will give out a very standard playbook for people to use to piece together other conditions, specialists or doctor’s advice they’ve received. Expectful, a VC-backed women’s health company led by Nathalie Walton, has a similar vision. Both companies want to provide holistic care to families.
“You piece together this kind of shit show along the way and cover it up with critical decision points that may actually be misdiagnosis or mistreatment,” Berson said. “There are a lot of makeshift approaches in this area [such as ] solve with IVF, which as we know is a $20,000 band-aid, 20% in effectiveness.
Conceive isn’t just about helping women better understand their bodies and fertility, it also sees men as part of the equation. “I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility only to discover years later that my partner had a varicocele,” a condition that can cause infertility in men, Berson explained.
So far, Berson thinks his company’s beta cohort of 11 members has been impressive. She says 54% of members became pregnant, 36% understood new diagnoses and 90% felt supported on their journey to pregnancy. The biggest hurdle for the startup going forward will be expanding that pool of people who trust it and thoughtfully creating cohorts that have the aforementioned results. Scale and success, here, is a sensitive topic.
“We can’t commit to everyone getting pregnant, but there are so many different things we can commit to,feeling supported, feeling nurtured and feeling guided,” Berson said. “What we’re really looking to do is produce pathways and protocols.”
The company does not build alone. To date, the company has raised $3.7 million led by Kindred Ventures and with participation from Founder Collective, Great Oaks, over 30 Angels, including the founders of Natalist, Tia, Forward, Cityblock and Pillpack. The cap table is predominantly female and 42% of investors identify as BIPOC.