The journey of a diagnostic lab test usually begins when a doctor prescribes it to a patient. What follows are multiple trips by the patient to deposit their sample, collect reports and then have them deciphered by the doctor. Bangkok-based startup Yesmom has compressed the lengthy process into a single end-to-end solution that allows patients to access lab testing without leaving their homes.
Pioneering DIY Fertility Tests in Asia
“Traditional lab testing is reactive. It’s typically required as a result of having symptoms or certain clinical criteria,” explains Peter Macquart-Moulin, Founder & CEO, Yesmom. It also involves multiple touchpoints that make it time-consuming and expensive. In addition, the lab reports are complicated and often not actionable. “We want to redefine the laboratory testing experience by making it accessible, affordable and easy to use,” says Peter. “With our tests, we want to provide people in Asia easy to understand information that helps them take proactive control of their health.”
Yesmom currently offers two hormonal tests – a fertility test and a PCOS test. A user can order the test from Yesmom’s website, healthcare and telemedicine providers or a medical marketplace. They receive an easy-to-use home test kit that contains everything they need to collect a finger prick dry blood sample. It is then discreetly picked up and taken to a certified lab. The user receives their results online within a few days. It includes a detailed report that translates what the various ranges mean for the patient and in the context of their health goals. “We look at ovulation, menopause timeline, ovarian reserve, polycystic syndrome, thyroid function and what these mean. Whether a woman is actively planning to start a family in the present or thinking about it for the future. We also look at whether egg freezing and preserving fertility is a viable option for them,” explains Peter. They can share the report with their doctor for further consultation or access Yesmom’s telemedicine partners.
The startup began its journey in femtech with a health tracker app. They converted self-reported symptomatic and lifestyle data into meaningful insights for the user’s sexual and reproductive health. “It was also equipped to detect patterns indicative of medical conditions like PCOS and endometriosis. It was popular and doing well,” says Peter. The team decided to narrow their focus when they recognised that a majority of the users were on the app because they were trying to conceive. “We were exploring to go beyond self-reported symptomatic data and look at biomarker testing. It became a natural progression for us that our first step would be fertility and its early stages,” says Peter. They started by providing hormonal testing in which a phlebotomist visited the patient’s home to collect samples. Yesmom then converted insights from the patient’s hormonal levels into meaningful information about their fertility. “It was similar to what our app was doing but going further by using biomarkers to test eight hormones,” explains Peter. It’s been about six months since self-sampling kits replaced the phlebotomists.
Moving Towards Market Expansion
Now that Yesmom has the expertise in dry blood sampling, the startup aims to diversify into other types of health screening. “It’s amazing to have this capability that allows people to take a diagnostic lab test from home with just a couple of drops of blood. We can now offer cardiovascular, diabetes, allergy and metabolic tests,” says Peter. Considering the current brand identity is specific to fertility and maternity, the startup plans to launch a new brand in January along with its first non-hormone test. “The new brand will be much more expansive in terms of what it offers. We will continue to focus on women’s health, but we’re also transforming ourselves with the aim to become a market leader in personal health home testing,” says Peter.
While the potential of the new tests has the founder-CEO excited, Yesmom is also set for geographic market expansion. “We were planning to be in Malaysia and Singapore six months ago but the fourth wave of COVID in Thailand has postponed that to next year,” shares Peter. The startup plans to cover the Southeast Asia market over the next few years. “We had to pull out of India because of COVID, but we’re definitely interested in going back there in some form,” he adds.
Journey to HealthTech Entrepreneur
Peter started his career in strategic risk consulting but harboured entrepreneurial ambitions. After about a decade of working, he studied MBA at IE Business School in Madrid. “I’d dreamt of starting something of my own for years but never had the courage. The MBA gave me skills but more than that it gave me the confidence to take a stab at building something,” he says. Peter moved to Bangkok and joined Santora Nakama, a venture builder, as an Entrepreneur in Residence.
He was interested in the parenting space but didn’t have a plan at the time. “I spent a few months interviewing hundreds of women in Thailand and a broad spectrum of the medical community. It became obvious that women were lacking quality information about sexual and reproductive health,” says Peter. “It was a real pain point with real consequences to their health and well-being. It was a source of anxiety for most of them in starting a family and something that transcended socio-economic groups,” he adds. On getting the green light to make the pivot, he says, “It was quite progressive of them. About five years ago, femtech wasn’t a thing yet, and the HealthTech surge in Southeast Asia hadn’t occurred.”
The ability to empower people to make informed decisions about their health is what Peter finds the most exciting about working in HealthTech. “As exciting as my last industry was, there’s nothing like being able to have a real and measurable effect on people’s lives. Healthcare is amazing for that,” he says. Recollecting the early days of Yesmom, he adds, “Thousands of women have contacted us to tell us how we helped them start a family after years of trying unsuccessfully or helped them learn about a condition they didn’t know about, and that was affecting their quality of life. It’s ultimately that impact which you can see that makes it worthwhile.” He’s also excited by the industry’s yet to be tapped potential. “We’re just scratching the surface. Every new product that we or others launch increases a population segment’s access to healthcare. The real excitement is that we’re just at the beginning.”
If there’s anything he could do differently in his startup’s journey, it would be to “start with a smaller and more easily achievable solution and build towards the difficult solutions,” says Peter. Offering dry blood sampling from the outset had the startup solving several peripheral problems. “When we switched to home testing, we started in a region where there were no labs doing it, none of the equipment was registered, and we had to arrange the correct logistics,” shares Peter. “We were trying to solve a consumer problem but had to solve numerous ecosystem problems to bring the solution to market. That’s a lot to do for a startup but we made it through.” The experience led to an important learning about working in HealthTech. “Your product doesn’t exist in isolation. You have to rely on the ecosystem,” he notes.
Sharing learnings from his experience as an entrepreneur, Peter lists some of the job’s top struggles. “It’s very easy to second guess yourself, compare yourself with another company when they’re succeeding on a path that you didn’t want to take,” he says. “The key is to stay the course, trust your instincts and believe in your vision.” As a founder, it’s often difficult to let go once the team starts growing. “In the beginning, you’re the jack of all trades by necessity. I sometimes need to remind myself why I’m hiring amazing people. It’s because they can do it better. It’s tempting to want to get involved in every detail, but if you do that, you become a hindrance rather than an enabler,” notes Peter. He also highlights the importance of accepting failure as a part of the process and staying emotionally detached from it. “There are so many high highs and low lows on this journey, and it can take a toll on you personally if you’re not careful. It can cloud all aspects of your life.”
Importance of Connections for a Startup
Spending time with his family helps the entrepreneur unwind and disconnect from the stress. “It helps put things in perspective,” says Peter. “There’s no better reset than when I’m with my son, exploring the world he’s creating with his imagination. It forces you to disengage. I think it’s very healthy to be an entrepreneur and have a family.” The book he would recommend to entrepreneurs is The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, a recommendation he received from one of the partners at Santora Nakama. “It explores the psychology of being a CEO when things don’t go according to plan and what it takes to be a good leader,” says Peter.
The entrepreneur has benefited greatly from being a part of the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort. “It’s been like oxygen for us,” says Peter. “Having someone championing our successes, facilitating connections and putting us on the map. That exposure and support have been very meaningful for us.” It has also helped the startup build strong relationships. “So many people have reached out to me after they saw that we are a part of the Cohort.” Besides financial support, Peter believes connections, too, are important for a startup. “It can be very lonely as a company, particularly in the early years. There’s so much you can learn from being connected to other people who have tried, failed and succeeded. You can avoid repeating the mistakes of others.”
About Galen Growth’s 2021 HealthTech Cohort
Yesmom is part of the Galen Growth 2021 HealthTech Cohort, the only acceleration programme built to scale digital health startups to be the next generation powering healthcare innovation across the globe. For more information, visit Galen Growth’s HealthTech Cohort webpage or read this article on the launch of the Galen Growth’s 2021 HealthTech Cohort.