Our Bet on Menopause: Welcoming Kindra to the FFF Portfolio
Jun 15, 2021
Since inception, Female Founders Fund has been tracking and investing behind both technological and business model innovation in women’s health. While there has been medical advancement in birth control and fertility options, not all areas have seen equal investment or innovation. Over the past twelve months we have seen an increasing number of startups in the menopause space, yet in our due diligence we found a surprising lack of existing research on what consumers want and need. To better understand what consumers were looking for in menopause products and services, we did a survey of 250 women and learned that women lacked adequate information, community and products that addressed their symptoms effectively (read here for full study). Our hope was that this information will help us find a founder and solution to back. We were thrilled with the inbound interest from various startups innovating in the menopause space after we published our survey. After speaking with nearly every player in the space — operating businesses that ranged from telehealth, to supplements, to hardware — we are pleased to announce our investment in Kindra , a company creating a new category in health and wellness with personalized regimens, scientifically-proven and consumer-tested estrogen-free products for women on their menopause journey. We were drawn to CEO Catherine Balsam-Schwaber ’s ability as a leader, as well as the efficacy and research behind Kindra’s products. From our survey, we learned that women are concerned about hormones and have a hard time finding products that work. Of all the products that we looked at, Kindra had the most extensive scientific research going into product development, patents, and studies to support product efficacy. Women want science backed innovation and solutions that work, and we are excited to see how Kindra continues to pioneer in the space, creating the superior solutions that women need and deserve. We recently sat down with Catherine to hear a bit about her experiences building strong brands prior to joining Kindra as CEO, how she’s thinking about harnessing the power of the menopause market, Kindra’s potential to drive social change and empower women, her long term vision for the brand, and more. Read the interview below. Catherine, can you share a bit about your experiences building strong brands and businesses at NBCU, Mattel and iVillage prior to joining Kindra as CEO? The key to growing a business and building a brand is having true empathy for and a dynamic understanding of your customer. I have been incredibly fortunate in this regard. My work has beautifully aligned with the stages of my life. In my 20s, I worked at MTV. I joined NBCUniversal’s iVillage in my late 30s as I was trying to get pregnant and had my amazing twins. When the kids were young, I started at Mattel. Now, as I enter my 50s, I am on a mission to change the way we think about menopause. What inspired you to jump on board to spearhead the Kindra team? 6,000 women reach menopause every day, but that potential market is currently confused, frustrated, and very under-served. We can spend 40% of our lives in peri-post menopause, yet 90% of doctors have limited or no menopause training leaving many women both physically and psychologically left to go-it alone. That’s more than a strategic market opportunity; it’s an unacceptable societal issue. I’m a life-long women’s health advocate. As the granddaughter of a war-era nurse and the daughter of a glass-ceiling-shattering doctor, I feel destined to carry the torch in my way. Kindra is my way. How would you describe Kindra? Kindra is a [not-so] radical approach to self-care in menopause. We started Kindra with a seemingly simple mission: empower people who experience the hormonal changes of menopause to care for their bodies — naturally, safely, and holistically. What does that look like? Research-backed, plant-powered, estrogen-free essentials that do what they promise. A nuanced approach to non-toxic ingredients and intuitive design. A digital community, filled with demystifying resources, shared stories, and the support of dedicated women’s health experts
Kindra is scientifically-driven support, made by women and tailored to you. Where do you see a unique opportunity to create a new category within women’s health and wellness? If 6,000 women reach menopause every day, yet many women remain frustrated and underserved, how are you thinking about harnessing the power of this underserved market? This isn’t a unique, niche opportunity. It’s a clear and gaping hole in the marketplace. We’re talking about a phase of life half of the people on the planet will go through. Serving people in menopause is a health and wellness category that should have always existed. I don’t think of it as new; it is wildly overdue. The reason that it is so wildly overdue is NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT IT. When we stay silent, everybody loses. Half the population is going through a shared experience they are not encouraged to actually share. So how do we harness the power of this underserved market? Get women talking. Get physicians talking. Get health and wellness experts talking. Galvanize the communities that will not only understand the message that menopause is important, but distribute this knowledge and Kindra can serve as a conduit. Yes, we’re offering up science-backed solutions for your body, but we’re also offering a kind of support, knowledge, and encouragement that can only be found through the power of community. The key to tapping into the enormous potential of the menopause market is to demystify, destigmatize, and normalize what is only perfectly natural. That’s just step one! Step two? Navigate how the lack of support and solutions in menopause is creating larger issues for women, when they are truly reaching their prime. Kindra is here to help solidify that roadmap, while bringing immediate go-to market solutions: education through product, empowerment through community. Kindra was formed through a unique partnership between M13 Launchpad and Procter & Gamble Ventures. Can you share more on this relationship and what role P&GV has played during Kindra’s early-growth including product development, fundraising, and marketing? Thankfully, P&G Ventures recognized this massive market and started developing our innovative, targeted products years ago. Their work gave us the unique ability to launch with proven products that deliver what they promise. Effective products alone don’t reach hearts and minds. P&G Ventures’ strength is in creating proven technology that matters to women, M13’s strength in reaching consumers one-on-one. Our combined powers really created a force that propelled Kindra into where it is now, very quickly. The union of M13 Launchpad, P&G Ventures, and our Kindra team is the engine that made it possible for Kindra to hit the ground, not just running, but sprinting into the market. And when we think about this ‘market,’ there is a lot of white space to keep growing given the length of the menopause journey and the lack of support or options for people in the throws of it. Think of menopause as a root, or a new template for a woman’s changing body. Re-learning our bodies inside and out before, after, and during this transition provides the foundation for immeasurable growth and understanding in health and wellness. The long-term value of our customers is clear. We are continuing to find vital new ways to serve them together. Kindra pursues a direct to consumer strategy, with standalone products as well as monthly subscriptions. Is there an opportunity to expand revenue avenues in partnership with medical providers or businesses in the future? Absolutely. We’re on a mission to serve people in menopause. That means meeting her where she is, but also empowering health and medical professionals with the tools and education to provide impactful choices and support for their patients. We are eager to work with health and wellness partners to offer our products, tools, and knowledge. If it helps her connect with trusted solutions when she needs them most, we’re all about exploring every opportunity. In fact, we continuously create easy-to-share, downloadable content for our customers to share with their physicians. Whether it is background information on ingredients, published clinical studies, or consumer research, we want our customers to feel empowered to share their regimens. Ideally, a Kindra customer will say to their physician, “I started this new, personalized regimen to help manage my menopause experience, how will this work with my current health plan? They sent me this information to share with you.” This is what we mean by Kindra being a conduit — easy, direct, targeted solutions, empowered by community and strengthened by the medical experts. Alongside the products, Kindra serves as a comprehensive platform for menopause education, support, and community. Can you share more on your vision for the content and community side of Kindra’s business? What is exciting to you about the potential to use Kindra as a platform to drive social change and empower women through this life stage? As we continue to build a deeper relationship with our community, one thing is crystal clear to me. Menopause is more than an opportunity to get back in touch with the changing needs of your physical body — it’s THE moment many people come to head with a habitualized over-functioning, people-pleasing, superwoman complex. It’s almost as though her body is delivering a wake-up call, and to answer the call means to actually put herself first — sometimes for the first time in her life. I know just how hard that is for any woman. It’s also mutually beneficial for all of society when women put on their own oxygen mask before jumping to assist others. As we look to answer the questions and concerns that get highlighted through community conversation, customer service feedback, and our personalized quiz that advises on tailored product regimens, we can identify new areas of focus to develop best practices for the physical, mental, and emotional shifts that happen in menopause. We’re not here to help her get by; we’re here to help her grow and thrive through this midlife awakening. Kindra is focused on providing every customer with a unique tailored routine to fit their needs. Why is it important for Kindra to take a personalized approach? Menopause is intrinsically personal. No two bodies menopause the same, so it’s important to have solutions tailored to you. It’s not so much about your period ending (the literal definition of menopause); it’s the hormonal fluctuations before (perimenopause) and after (postmenopause) that one day event that can prove uniquely challenging to solve for. There are technically up to 34 of those challenges (we don’t like to call them symptoms, because menopause is not a disease) you might face during menopause, so we developed a dynamic personalized quiz to help you assess which natural shifts are giving you the most trouble, understand where you are on your journey, and get the targeted support you need right now. Personalizing our approach is not simply a nice-to-have quality in our business; it is essential to really helping people experiencing the hormonal shifts of menopause in a meaningful way. Even better, we learn from thousands of customers who take our quiz just what interferes with their health, wellness, or day-to-day life the most. In turn, we take this valuable feedback to heart in our product development testing. Being able to discern across a wide age group, as early as 35 and even further along in the journey at 65+, is paramount to formulating products that target a very specific need. For one woman, vaginal dryness may be the primary concern, but for another, it could be sleep-disrupting night sweats. Kindra has the know-how and products to address this. What current products does Kindra offer? Alt to above product intro: Kindra’s line of estrogen-free essentials are formulated with clinically-studied ingredients and potent yet safe botanical extracts to provide full-range relief over time. We developed three supplements that can be taken independently or as part of a regimen to deliver a marked improvement in hot flashes, night sweats, libido, and energy. The formulation required years of trial and error, consumer testing, and adjustments in ingredient ratios to deliver the best, non-synthetic, natural supplement for menopause. We were meticulous in development down to the capsule selection — vegan, gluten-free, free of toxic fillers. The Daily Vaginal Lotion has a cult following for good reason — it is formulated with super nourishing plant extracts for immediate hydration and relief from vaginal dryness (95% of women reported an improvement in hydration after 1 day of use,) plus skin-critical vitamins to help rebuild the skin moisture barrier over time. You might wonder why we are talking like it’s a skincare product — well, the decline in estrogen during this transition can result in thinning, dry, intimate skin. Rather than just provide temporary relief, we wanted to ensure we had a product that supported healthier intimate skin. Any product innovations on the horizon you are excited about? We are really excited to bring the patented, innovative lotion applicator to the market. It was designed by a team of researchers who meticulously considered every element — from the specific angle of the tip for precise lotion application where dryness persists at the vaginal opening (introitus), to the slight impressions on the sides for finger placement. Why? It was important feedback in consumer testing with menopausal women that arthritis and osteoporosis can contribute to trouble holding things sometimes (partly due to, again, the decline in estrogen). The redesign prior to launch ensured this was considered — so the applicator is easy to hold, mess-free and precise. We listen, we formulate or design, and we produce. We have curated nearly 15 bundles on our online store. That way, our customers can choose exactly what they need, whether they are experiencing fatigue, low libido, vaginal dryness, or hot flashes. Some customers start with just one product, but pretty quickly jump to a bundle depending on their need. All these details add up to making safe, effective, empowering options truly accessible to everyone we’re on a mission to serve. As we look to expand our product offering, we are working closely with our rich community to further understand what they need most. With so little in the way of viable solutions on the market, finding thoughtful, innovative new ways to support her is our highest priority. How do you see the menopause market evolving in the next 5 years? What role do you see Kindra playing in the growing landscape? First, I am thrilled to think that we are focused on building a “menopause market.” Supporting women’s health is critical at all stages of our lives, but we know these later stages have not always received the attention they deserve. The menopausal transition can be challenging, but with more companies entering the space, we’re poised to see a boom in innovation and new support mechanisms created for people experiencing the hormonal changes associated with aging. For Kindra, we are poised to drive innovation and conversation around what has historically been a complicated, taboo topic for people to discuss. We plan to continue to push the envelope on wellness in this phase of life.Over the next 5 years, I believe the market will be a much more seamless integration between all kinds of modalities of care in women’s health. We love connecting with our customers directly and bringing impactful solutions right to their doorsteps, but we’d also like to see the conversation at the forefront in this age group in medical practices, wellness clinics, integrative medicine outlets, and any larger marketplace that can provide easy access to resources and product. Stay tuned; we’re just getting started. What is your long term vision for Kindra? Kindra is the overdue menopause aisle. For us that means delivering education, community, and products that ACTUALLY work as demonstrated with clinical studies, consumer testing, and community feedback, to support a time in our lives when we need to find new ways to manage our changing bodies. For the business, we will seek out new ways to deliver on this mission, including products to further support areas of the underserved need and community tools that can offer even more personalized support. We are not just developing products for the sake of expanding our product line — we are going narrow and deep here — less really can be more — even in menopause care. But there’s a bigger key to really unlocking innovation in the long term. We’re not just building the menopause aisle; we have an opportunity to redefine menopause itself. Why do we even call this time in our lives menopause? It’s much more about hormonal shifts over time than menstruation ending. The #1 thing women love most about reaching menopause is no more periods, but that welcome change doesn’t mean the journey is over. Even the language itself is undeserving us. We are more than our periods and fertility. We must be, since we live a lot longer than men. I look forward to forging new pathways to understanding and communicating this incredible right of passage in our lives, and in doing so, expanding the market to better holistically support the whole person. How are you thinking about building out the early team at Kindra? As we continue in hyper-growth mode, we are focused on building a passionate, best-in-class team to support our ability to deliver for our community and customers. We look for super sharp builders of missions, movements, and solutions. Empathy for our community is a must. A curiosity and thirst for knowledge, and how to bring this to market in a meaningful way is critical. Remember, our market is still nascent, AND menopause left ignored can have echoing adverse effects on a woman’s health. We feel a responsibility to not just build a brand, but remain humbled by the continuous uncovering of new information and the incredible integration with scientists and physicians who can help us get to where we need to be — menopause as a pillar in the conversation of women’s health. Our key hires are in Partnerships, Lifecycle Marketing, Design and Operations. You can find all the opportunities on our jobs page . Please consider joining us on our mission to change the change. It’s a good one.