First-time parents are aging, male sperm counts are plummeting, and baby-making tech is booming.
From at-home insemination kits to “fertility buses,” a new wave of reproductive health startups want to help you have kids.
But beyond the flashy branding and chirpy messaging, can they actually deliver?
Treading cautiously, millennials and Gen Z are delaying family planning.
- Less than 30% of millennials live with a spouse and a child, compared to 46% of relatively aged baby boomers.
- Over half of 23–38-year-olds haven’t tied the knot yet, and those who have got married later than previous generations.
- The average age of first-time mothers has shot up five years, from 21 to 26, as more women look to build their career before having kids.
Last year, birth rates plunged 4% to record lows as Americans put off baby-having, citing job/income concerns as well as the rising expense of having kids. At the same time, increased access to contraception has led to plummeting teen pregnancy rates.
While it’s largely a positive that we’re fixing our finances before raising a child, a new trend is fast emerging.
Fertility funk. Couples who postpone pregnancy are encountering yet another hurdle: fertility itself.
A woman’s ability to get pregnant peaks by her late 20s and declines at an increasing rate through her 30s. Trailing close behind, male fertility (measured by quality and quantity of semen) peaks between 30 and 35.
As prospective parents wait until their late reproductive years to have a baby, a growing number find themselves facing infertility issues:
- Sperm counts across the globe have halved in the past four decades.
- One in eight families have trouble getting pregnant, and the number of couples seeking infertility services is increasing 5–10% every year.
An emotionally exhausting experience, over 50% of women and 15% of men ranked infertility as the most upsetting event of their lives, yet most couples turn to search engines, social media, or even close friends before consulting a medical practitioner.
Enter fertility tech. Accelerated by the uncertainty (and dating hiatus) resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, fertility startups have had a big year.
- Legacy reported a 10x boost in sperm test sales YoY, and Stork Club experienced 5x growth in revenue.
- Maven Clinic just secured $110M and unicorn status, while TMRW Life Sciences ($105M), Carrot Fertility ($75M), and Kindbody ($62M) all led massive funding rounds this summer.
From DTC diagnostics to AI-powered IVF, the fertility landscape spans all aspects of conception. So, who’s who?
Trackers and tests. Mobile apps like Ava, Glow, and Clue help women monitor ovulation cycles and determine peak fertility windows. DTC kits like Modern Fertility, Parla (previously Adia), Bird&Be*, and Oova offer at-home tests to measure fertility metrics like egg count, and all deliver straight to your doorstep for around $160.
Freezing-as-a-service. Another class of startups help with what comes after the test. For those facing infertility or who simply want to save their eggs for a future date, clinics like Kindbody, Extend Fertility, and Future Family are attempting to make the process more accessible and affordable.
Preaching empowerment, these clinics promise women they can have it all — a career now, a baby later… and they seem to be getting through.
- Over 84% of young women would freeze their eggs to “improve opportunities for career progression.”
- 88% of workers say they would change jobs for fertility benefits.
Breaking down benefits. Other companies, like Carrot Fertility, Progyny, and Stork Club, work with employers to help offer fertility benefits. Many provide a platform to guide new couples through the process, demystifing costs and offering education on different options.
Next up, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is getting a makeover. Madrid-based Overture Life raised $15M to sell its IVF box (complete with embryo analysis), while Alife Health raised $9M to optimize IVF using artificial intelligence.
Two to Tango
To date, major fertility players have focused on female-oriented solutions like ovulation tracking or egg preservation.
Yet, men are just as likely as women to be the root of infertility issues, and as male fertility rates decrease around the globe, startups are beginning to heed this historically underserved market.
Spermageddon. Stress and obesity, along with everyday exposure to chemicals like BPA and phthalates, have caused alarming drops in sperm count across Western countries.
Beyond fertility, low semen quantity/quality signal larger health issues like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Meanwhile, cultural stigmas around male health have led to a disturbing trend — over 40% of men wait until a symptom is unbearable before seeing a physician.
Now, testing kit companies like Legacy, Dadi, and YO are pioneering $99 at-home solutions, allowing men to check their sperm speed, volume, and concentration from the comfort of their home.
Coverage concerns. The LGBTQ+ community is contributing to the surge in fertility spending as well. Leading more inclusive services, Mate Fertility recently launched to help LGBTQ+ individuals looking to start a family. Many same-sex couples encounter nationwide discrimination from insurance companies, as most plans only cover heterosexual infertility.
Additionally, transgender individuals hoping to preserve their eggs before undergoing transition procedures often don’t qualify for coverage, with agencies categorizing their need as “social” instead of “medical.”
“It’s much harder for LGBTQ couples and intending single parents to access family-forming care. They’re not going to get that traditional diagnosis of infertility.” – Juli Insinger, co-founder of Carrot Fertility
Takeaway: As the fertility market matures, a diversity of offerings are being developed for a wider base than just women — and rightly so.
In the age of digital health, consumers are accustomed to convenience, abundance, and freedom of choice. Reproduction startups are here to do just that, and they’re probably here to stay.
*Fitt Insider is an investor in Bird&Be. We invest in early-stage health, fitness, and wellness companies. Learn more and get in touch here.
👀 Echelon’s Outlook
A crowded market, at-home fitness is growing increasingly competitive. Hoping to stand out, Echelon Fitness aims to be the most affordable and accessible connected equipment brand.
On the Fitt Insider podcast: Echelon Fitness CEO Lou Lentine joined us to discuss the company’s approach to customer acquisition, talent development, music rights, artist partnerships, and retail distribution — including selling connected equipment at 12K retail locations.
We also cover: Echelon’s plan to launch video game content and strength training equipment. Plus, we get Lou’s take on M&A, raising additional capital, and going public.
Listen to today’s episode here.
🚲 Endurance Tech
Peloton may have pioneered connected fitness, but there’s more to indoor cycling than instructor-led, boutique-style content.
Catering to endurance athletes, innovative hardware and software providers are tapping into a growing market.
- In 2020, cyclists on Strava logged 8.1B miles globally.
- The global bicycle market is expected to reach $92.5B by 2028.
- The average annual household income for IRONMAN participants is $247K.
Leading the pack, Zwift has raised $620M in funding. Popular with serious cyclists, including many professional riders, members use their own bike and an indoor trainer to compete in virtual races on Zwift’s video game-like platform.
Next up? As Zwift CEO Eric Min told us on the Fitt Insider podcast, the company plans to release its own hardware, including a smart bike. Another key initiative, Min hopes to make virtual racing an Olympic sport.
Taking aim at indoor cycling, competitors are raising capital to seize the opportunity.
- Last week, virtual cycling platform ROUVY landed $6M in funding.
- In July, endurance tech company Wahoo Fitness secured a “significant” investment.
- In June, Velocity raised $3.4M for its virtual cycling app.
- Last fall, smart bike maker Wattbike added a $15M investment.
Be on the lookout: Despite only having launched in December 2019, virtual training app RGT Cycling has amassed a loyal following while drawing comparisons to Zwift.
Looking ahead: From personalized apps like The Breakaway and TrainerRoad to Hammerhead’s high-tech bike computers, cycling—and the broader endurance economy—is fertile ground for founders and investors alike.
🛍 Be Everywhere
In an effort to reach potential customers in-person, connected fitness companies are getting creative.
Show off. An opportunity for would-be riders to try its bike, early on, Peloton built its retail strategy around showrooms and mall kiosks. A winning concept, retail showrooms have become a central part of the connected fitness playbook.
Shop-in-shop. Equipment makers are partnering with retailers to display and demo products.
- Connected rowing company Hydrow teamed with Best Buy and Fabletics.
- Vertical climbing machine CLMBR partnered with experiential retailer b8ta.
- Tonal expanded its deal with Nordstrom and tapped activewear retailer Bandier.
- lululemon’s acquisition of MIRROR gives the interactive workout company built-in distribution.
A similar approach, as part of a larger deal that includes exclusive content, FORME’s workout mirror will be sold at Barry’s studios.
Amenities. Whether it’s apartments, hotels, or offices, home fitness brands are meeting consumers everywhere.
- CLMBR is rolling out across Four Seasons hotels and resorts.
- Interactive boxing machine Liteboxer partnered with select Virgin Hotels.
- Pelotons can be found at an estimated 1,100 hotels across the US and Europe.
- Tempo landed a strategic partnership and investment from real estate developer Tishman Speyer.
Along those lines, Technogym recently partnered with Silofit, becoming the micro-gym’s exclusive equipment supplier.
Takeaway: As customer acquisition costs soar, connected fitness brands are taking an increasingly innovative approach to distribution. Next, as more companies target the commercial market, expect to see more high-tech machines popping up in big-box gyms.
📰 News & Notes
- On Running files to go public.
- The big business of brain tech.
- Google shuts down its Health unit.
- Peloton Tread returns with new safety features.
- Bioloop’s sleep coach integrates with WHOOP and Garmin.
- Executive Q&A: Future’s Chris Sherry talks corporate wellness.
- Updated: 950+ job openings at top health and fitness companies.
- Startup Q&A: Cadoo CEO Colm Hayden on getting paid to work out.
💰 Money Moves
- Trifecta, an organic food delivery service, closed a $20M Series B funding round led by Spring Lake Equity Partners.
More from Fitt Insider: What’s Next For Meal Kits
- Salad chain Sweetgreen is acquiring Spyce, a robotic kitchen startup.
- Indoor cycling app ROUVY raised $6M from Pale Fire Capital.
- AMB Sports + Entertainment, the parent company of the Atlanta Falcons, is launching an early-stage venture fund investing into sports performance, esports, and more.
- Dieta Health, a digestive healthcare startup, landed $1.2M in pre-seed funding led by Tom Williams of Heron Rock Fund.
More from Fitt Insider: Gut Check
- TRIPP, a digital psychedelic platform, acquired PsyAssist, expanding into psychedelic-assisted therapies.
More from Fitt Insider: Psychedelic Drug Makers Cash In
- Clean supplement brand Feel added up to £3M ($4.1M) in funding from ITV.
- Global supplement company Glanbia acquired LevlUp, a German esports nutrition brand.
More from Fitt Insider: In Supplements We Trust
- Digital healthcare upstart Soda Health raised $6M in seed funding to eliminate health inequities.
- MiSalud, a digital healthcare platform focused on the Hispanic community, raised $5M in funding.
- Sport Alliance, a German software solution for gyms and fitness facilities, secured a growth investment of €60M ($70.5M) from PSG.
- KARE, a senior care platform, raised $7.85M in Series A funding led by Golden Section Ventures.
More from Fitt Insider: The Senior Care Crisis
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