Being an advocate for women’s bodies’ is no small feat and at just 25, Nicole Liu left her job as a business analyst and launched her own start-up, Kin, a fertility empowerment platform that gives online medical support with qualified fertility experts. Nicole’s own personal experience with a misdiagnosis of an all-too-common reproductive condition polycystic ovary syndrome
(POCS) started her on a course to find out more about her reproductive health – the problem was she couldn’t find the answers to her burning questions. And after talking with friends, she realised that most of the women in her circle also had unanswered questions about their fertility and their reproductive health.
Kin was born to normalise the conversation around reproductive health and give better access to healthcare for a simpler fertility journey. This incredible platform connects Australian women with information about their reproductive health so they can make empowered choices.
The Kin platform offers information and services on contraception, fertility, conceiving, pregnancy and postpartum and in case that wasn’t enough they even have an Australian first subscription service that delivers your contraceptive prescription straight to your door. Game changer!
With the slogan ‘We Exist to raise the standards of reproductive health, for people with ovaries’ we knew this was a brand we wanted to get to know more, but we also wanted to know more about the women behind the brand, Nicole Liu and open the conversation around why reproductive health is a taboo subject and why Kin is so important for women Australia wide.
Tell us more about where you grew up and a little more about your career background prior to Kin?
So, my parents are first generation immigrants and growing up, they always owned and ran small businesses for a living – we owned a computer company, an Italian fast food franchise, a curtains business and an embroidery business. Growing up, I always used to help them out where I could, and I remember I used to think it was so exciting getting to build things for other people.
Because of the like volatility of owning a small business, my parents actually always wanted me to get a more stable, high-paying job.
So I started out interning full-time in various Investment Banks and I had just assumed that it was what I was going to do after University. I had studied Finance, I was challenged on the job, I thought I would learn a lot!
But I always loved tech and startups, so I think in the last year of University, I just wanted to scratch that itch. Was fortunate enough to get an internship in a Venture Capital company – they invest in startups. And I just fell in love from there – the energy people have, the passion, all the things they have to think about to build something from essentially nothing and just the really amazing things that technology was able to do.
Ended up in Management Consulting for my graduate role, in a firm called McKinsey. Here, you’re constantly thrown into situations where there’s this big hairy problem, and you don’t know anything, but it’s your job to figure it out. And I think the attitude of being able to “figure it out” and being comfortable not ever being the expert has been really helpful!
After a few years working in consulting, I wanted to go back into startups. And that’s when I started Kin!
When did you realise Australian women needed a platform like Kin?
When I was 24, I was misdiagnosed by a doctor with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and told I was going to be infertile (in those words!).
I wasn’t even sure that I wanted kids at that time, but to feel like I didn’t have the option was really scary. It led me down the deep rabbit hole that is Dr. Google, but that left me so much more confused than I already was.
When I went to a Fertility Specialist to understand more, the Specialist told me that in fact, my results didn’t show that I had any indication of PCOS, and that even if it did, it didn’t imply that I had PCOS.
When something weird happens to you, the weirdest thing to hear back when you tell someone about it is “me too”. But that’s exactly what happened. My friends started talking about how they know a few people that went through the same thing, how after at least 10 consults, they got diagnosed with Endometriosis and more.
And this experience showed me that there was such a stigma attached to our reproductive health and we don’t really talk about it at all. And this lack of conversation was leading to very little research and awareness around women’s reproductive health. And that in turn, was leading to people suffering in silence and isolation.
I got angry enough about the problem to do something about it. So I got started working on Kin.
Why is Kin so important for Australian women?
When it comes to women’s fertility and reproductive health, a lot of the times it can feel like such a black box. Not having the language, the tools or the education to advocate for yourself and your body can really lead you to feel not in control of your own health.
Kin is trying to change that.
How important was it for you to build a brand with purpose?
Becoming trusted with someone’s health is such a privilege and a huge responsibility. When you build a brand that solves problems for women and their fertility and reproductive health, if you aren’t going to build the brand with purpose, you probably shouldn’t do it at all.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of launching a start-up?
Focus more time on the problem, before the solution.
Most people who want to launch a start-up already have an idea in mind. It’s really exciting to focus on the solution and dream big. It’s this vision that makes for great entrepreneurs.
But make sure you spend doubly as much time on the problem. It’s incredibly easy to have a an idea around a solution that you try to retrofit into a problem, rather than a problem that’s trying to find a solution. You don’t want that!
How difficult is it to get funding? And what advice can you give to female entrepreneurs who are thinking of undertaking the process?
I think everyone’s experience of this is honestly quite different.
I would say have a North Star vision for what you want to achieve in the long run, but then focus narrowly into what you can prove out today.
Your grand vision will likely take multiple big steps, and involves multiple assumptions about how things operate, how customers think and what they want. For investors, you want them to buy into your vision, but then give them as many proof points for them to credibly believe that the thesis you have built your company on is directionally correct.
Focus on those metrics to bring to the conversation.
If you could have a billboard with anything on it, what would it be and why?
There are enough billboards out there trying to get you to be more, do more, get more. Once in a while, it would be nice to just stop and enjoy where you’re at in the moment.
What is it about Stella you love most?
I love that Stella is tackling inequities and gender bias in how products are created – not only in insurance, but empowering women and progressing the conversation more broadly.