Just put this in your back pocket. You never know when you might need it.

FertilityIQ, a startup launching on February 17, has a very specific goal: To help women and couples who want to have a child find the fertility doctor who is best-suited for them. FertilityIQ has what's become an unusual business model, too: They're collecting data, and eventually, they’re going to charge people to get at it. (The founders say they haven't set a price point yet.)

No ads, no lead generation. "We want to be seen as completely neutral," says Deborah Anderson-Bialis, who co-founded FertilityIQ with her husband, Jake Anderson-Bialis.

Finding a fertility doctor should not be so terribly hard. But think about what a hassle it is to find, say, an orthopedist. If you need an orthopedist, you can at least email everyone at work, and also ask your dad about that guy who helped him when he slipped on black ice last year. But are you really going to email everyone at work that you're trying, but unable, to get pregnant? Are you really going to entrust yourself to the spotty information available on most doctor-review sites?

Sure, there are groups of women at elementary school drop-off and in moms' groups who will happily discuss fertility treatments in all their gory detail--but generally, you won't find those women until after you've had your first child. And, yes, the CDC releases data on the success rates of various fertility clinics--along with a big disclaimer that that data shouldn't be used to compare clinics. Some clinics, after all, maintain high success rates by turning away the most challenging cases.

Not surprising, then, that half of women undergoing fertility treatments say it's the most stressful time of their lives. Or that only about 29 percent of IVF (in-vitro fertility) cycles succeed.

After suffering failed fertility treatments themselves, Jake, who'd been a partner at Sequoia Capital for about five years, and Deborah, who'd co-founded a non-profit to work with girls in refugee camps and later started a service to help people in the midst of divorce, figured this was a problem that an entrepreneur--or two--ought to be able to solve.

So far, the couple have persuaded about 1,000 women who have had successful fertility treatments to rate their doctors and clinics. This is not a simple one-to-five-stars thing. Instead, FertilityIQ asks women to fill out an 80-question assessment, which takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. Then they try to verify that the women really were patients of the doctors they’re rating.

Eventually, the couple want people to be able to go to FertilityIQ's site and search for other patients, in their geography, with their same diagnosis and of about their same age, and find out which doctors successfully helped them have a baby. "In each geography, there are a handful of doctors of last resort," says Deborah. Prospective parents can also find out which doctors are more likely to turn down patients. There is no way for doctors to respond through the site, and the co-founders aren't planning to build one.

An Unusual Partnership

The division of labor for this company isn't what you might expect. Deborah had worked in product and customer service for Rise Labs, a company that makes a nutrition app and provides nutrition counseling. So it made sense for her to head up the design and building of the web site.

That left Jake to have hundreds of telephone conversations, mostly with women he didn't know, about their fertility treatments. "It was really hard to find people to do the assessments," he says, although it's getting easier as word-of-mouth grows. When I ask if it might have gone more smoothly if Deborah had reached out to the women, Jake says, hopefully, "Maybe [the women] found it … endearing?"

The couple say data from FertilityIQ helped them find their current fertility doctor--their third--and Deborah is now seven months pregnant. FertilityIQ, at least, can claim one success story right out of the gate.

 

Published on: Feb 17, 2016