Misseducated by Tash Doherty
The Surprising Science of Hormonal Health Testing, with Dr. Amy Divaraniya, CEO & Founder at Oova

The Surprising Science of Hormonal Health Testing, with Dr. Amy Divaraniya, CEO & Founder at Oova

One Determined Woman’s Journey To Understand Her Menstrual Cycle

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A few weeks ago, I had a fantastic conversation with Dr. Amy Divaraniya, CEO of Oova, a hormonal health testing company. We talked all about how very few women have regular 28-day cycles (only 13%, and maybe even closer to 5% according to Oova’s latest data!) and what that means for those who are trying to conceive or who are hitting perimenopause.⁠⁠

I love a good #femtech story where a woman brings a product to market to solve her own health issue. Congratulations to Dr. Amy for raising a whopping $ 10.3 million for their Series A. That's big money in femtech! ⁠

Here's to taking our health into our hands, and I hope you enjoy the story!

Listeners of Misseducated get 10% off Oova.

Go to https://oova.life/misseducated and apply the promo code MISSOOVA10 when you checkout.

Episode Transcript

I apologize in advance for typos or misattribution of words. We'll gladly make any corrective updates that you identify. 

[Intro] [Dr. Amy Divaraniya] They say that if you have PCOS or irregular cycles, our data may not be reliable for you. And I was like, well, that's great because we know that 87 percent of women don't have a 28-day cycle. So, who are you trying to solve this problem for?

[Tash Doherty] Hello everyone. And welcome back to Misseducated with me, your host, Tash Doherty. And today my guest is Dr. Amy Diverania, the founder and CEO of Oova. A personalized at-home test to help females understand their unique hormone profile. There's been a lot of talk of hormonal health in Femtech over the last couple of years, and Oova is leading the way in measuring LH, estrogen, and progesterone, three key hormones in the menstrual cycle.

In 2023, Dr. Amy and her team raised a whopping $ 10.3 million Series A, which is big money in Femtech, so we're super excited to dive into all things hormonal health. So, Dr. Amy, welcome to Miseducated. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to talk to you today. You got your PhD from the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai in Genetics and Genomic Sciences.

So what inspired you to get your PhD, and what did you discover in your thesis and your research? 

 [Dr. Amy Divaraniya] Before I did my Ph.D., I was actually working in the industry as a data scientist, and I've been really fortunate in my career to be surrounded by folks who are smarter than me and amazing mentors. I've never really disliked a boss; they've always pushed me.

To be better and move forward. My director actually took me out to lunch one day and was like, Amy, he was so mad. Right. It's really weird to see your manager mad. And it's not directed towards you, but he's like, I want to give you a promotion, but I can't because you either need a PhD or ten years of experience.

And at that point, I only had five years. So he was like, leave here. Go get your Ph.D., and then wherever you go, I'm coming, and I was like, all right, fine. Like, I'll invest in myself. Like, don't invest the time here invested in you and go and get your Ph.D., so I did, and I was really particular about where I wanted to go.

Who I wanted to work with. I was kind of a groupie of my 2 Ph.D. advisors, who were at the time also leaders in the genomic space, very visionary, and I was always that person in the audience listening to the same talk over and over again, just inspired beyond belief. I wanted them to be my mentors, and they both accepted me.

I got into the school. They agreed on my Ph.D. dissertation topic. We kind of hit the ground running from there. And believe it or not, my director that had advised me to do this actually came in as an investor in the company, too. So he did follow me, which is really exciting. But my Ph.D. work had nothing to do with what we're doing today.

It was really looking at genetic networks and figuring out why women or not women, why people were developing certain diseases in the inflammatory. Like, why were you getting lupus over cardiovascular disease when they're so related? What's that trigger that says you're going to get this disease versus another?

And we were able to actually model out various genetic networks by looking at different tissues and health records to validate everything, which is really cool. I had beautiful pictures throughout my dissertation. 

[Tash Doherty] Wow. So, you planned to go back to your industry job when you finished your PhD? 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] Well, yes and no, I wanted to go back to work. I wasn't really in this, like, I need to start my own company mentality at all, but I didn't really want to go back to big pharma because I felt like. Those companies are so big, and you have all these great ideas; you often get lost, and it takes so long for innovation to come to real life. At that point, it's not even innovative anymore.

My plan was either to go into a biotech or startup and my PhD advisors were really well connected there. So they were like, what kind of company do you want to go into? And at that point, I was going through infertility myself. And I was experiencing the gaps in women's health and not understanding what my body was doing.

And so what I unintentionally did was pitch Oova. I basically said, do you know any company that is monitoring hormones, helping women navigate various phases of life, and doing it in a nonblood form? And they both looked at me and were like, no, you need to build that. And I was like, okay, sure.

They're like, I have an investor coming tomorrow, get a pitch deck together, and I'll put you in front of them. I was like, all right, fine. I happily walked back to my desk, Google, like a good student. What is a pitch deck? And I put together an 87-page deck to put in front of this investor. 

[Tash Doherty] 87-pages. That's quite extensive.

I mean, I had just written a dissertation that was hundreds of pages long. So, 87 pages felt like nothing. He was very kind and tore that deck apart with so much grace and was like, you only need these seven slides, Amy. And I was like, Oh, okay. And that's really where it started. Wow. Well, I love the idea of having so many mentors that you can learn from, and he will just give you the honest truth.

Like nobody needs that many pages. This is Silicon Valley. Like people do not have time to sit through hours and hours of research. So that's really amazing.

[Tash Doherty] And so when you talk about your own experience with infertility, because you were trying to conceive like with your partner and was it like a question of like, Do you know anything about, you know, your unexplained infertility? Was it when you were cycling, or did you have PCOS or some other kind of like other condition that was affecting whether or not you could conceive? 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] Yeah. So, I've always had irregular cycles since my first period. It's always been a regular, and I've kind of tried everything like I was misdiagnosed with PCOS for multiple years.

I was put on the hormone birth control, all of that to find out finally with like a sane OB that, okay, having an irregular period is just normal for you. So I kind of accepted that, and I let it go, but when it was time to start trying to conceive, I was doing everything right. I was using my fertility tracking apps.

I was peeing on sticks. I was tracking every symptom like I was a data scientist by training. So like, give me data, and I will find that golden nugget. But there was no pattern to be found in this data. All I was learning was that I'm irregular, and it's so frustrating because my train ride to work every day was literally dissecting all my data.

That's what I would do. Like, no one can sit on the seat. I have my stuff spread out. Like, this is my time to really dig in, and I couldn't find anything. The most frustrating part was when you were looking at the fine print of all these products. They say that if you have P. C. O. S. or irregular cycles, our data may not be reliable for you.

And I was like, well, that's great because we know that 87 percent of women don't have a 28-day cycle. So, who are you trying to solve this problem for? And that's really where the light bulb started coming up. I don't know if I'm ovulating or not. I can't not be ovulating in the 18 months it took me to conceive.

I have to be ovulating much more frequently than I am. And I just didn't have those answers. The breaking point for me was more so sitting on my bathroom floor. After getting another pregnancy test, it was four in the morning. I was bawling and crying, and I had my dad's magnifying glass in my hand, trying to find a double line on a pregnancy test, and I couldn't find it.

And I was like, my Ph.D. work is so innovative, and I'm doing such crazy things, yet I'm sitting here with a 60-year-old magnifying glass, trying to figure out if I'm pregnant or not. It just didn't feel like real life. And there was such a broken piece of the puzzle that I wanted to fix. These are the kinds of stories that I love to feature on this podcast because it's amazing how we now have so many women in STEM, so many women, OBs, you know, women doing PhDs.

There are nice, fancy things that we're all studying and researching. And yet, there's our lived experience of going to the doctor and trying to understand their own bodies. And we're so behind still on that. 

[Tash Doherty] I always get really excited and inspired when I'm like, okay, here's a person who is like STEM, literate, educated, and like enfranchised basically.

Like when you have a Ph.D., or you're assigned as like, you can do all these things and study these things. So that's really great that, you know, unfortunately, you have to take one for the team and put your own body on the line for the greater good. 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] You bring up a really good point. Yes, there are a lot of women in STEM and making moves here, but it wasn't until I started this company that I actually felt like the only woman in a room.

And I don't know if I was just oblivious to it, or I don't know what it was. Still, I didn't feel like I was actually treated like a woman until I started this company in an environment like a group setting; I felt like I was always treated like a person. And now I'm feeling like, oh my God, like I, everyone is looking at me like I am the only woman in a room because I am defending a woman's health issue for a woman's health company being run by women.

[Tash Doherty] Yeah, it's crazy. I've had, um, Anna Lee as well from Lioness on the podcast, and she talks about like pitching sex toys to all male investor panels in Silicon Valley, and I'm like, oh wow, really respect for that girl. Yeah, to be a fly in the wall, right? Wow, and so did you end up discovering, you know, through your data and all your research, like, were you ovulating, or also it randomly, like, through your cycle?

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] So, no, I was ovulating every cycle, but the issue for me was that my luteinizing hormone search was just on the lower end. So when you look at these over-the-counter tests that are available, they're all threshold-based. So my LH just wasn't reaching their threshold. So, I was getting false negatives every month.

So, literally, I was missing my window because the test wasn't reading it. 

[Tash Doherty] That's crazy. Yeah. I've also interviewed Dr. Amy from Proov, and I would love to get into a little bit of Proov as well because it's kind of a similar market. Still, parts of Oova's applications, but yeah, she was just talking again about how, like, even with COVID vaccines, it's like, they were only testing it on female bodies that were, like, not cycling.

This is, again, of course, you're going to have outside effects on people who are cycling, which is the vast majority of people. Still, it's just like a really, a really difficult thing where I think, obviously, because so much of this medical history is like very patriarchal and like driven by men, it's like the added level of cycles is just too complicated, or women were assumed to be like too unintelligent, or we didn't have enough education to be able to figure out our cycles on our own.

So it's kind of just this, You know, clusterfuck medical issues. And I think that's why it's really starting to unravel now. And we have a chance of getting really great gains in this generation of women and beyond, which is awesome. 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] Yeah, no, you bring up a great point. There are definitely those two aspects that you highlighted that women just aren't accepted to be able to handle this data and understand what's going on. But then you go to the other end of the spectrum, right? When your cycle stops. In science, there are very few things that you can say affect 100 percent of a population. Menopause is one. If a woman is to live to a certain age, 100 percent of those women will go through menopause. Yet we know nothing about it.

It is a mystery. I don't understand that. Like, why do we not understand this transition that is inevitable and are able to guide women through that? I understand everyone's different and everyone's going to have different symptoms, but the fact that no one has, there's no holy grail. Like, if I experienced this, it could be X, Y, or Z. There's none of that. And after generations of women going through this. We still don't have any sort of answers there. I think it's completely a disservice to women. Totally. I think perimenopause is a huge area that we need a lot more advancements in.

[Tash Doherty] And I think that's a great segue actually to some of the product questions that I was going to ask you about, and maybe we could give an example of a perimenopause user with Oova so far. So I think it's like digital urine tests; if I'm right, it's like the same test over and over again. So yeah, tell us a bit about the product and like how a woman who's experiencing perimenopause might want to use it.

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] Sure. So I'll explain the product a little bit so people understand what it looks like. I can show it to you, but, um, I can describe it for your listeners. It's a urine-based test, so every kit comes with 30 strips. There are 15 strips to measure luteinizing hormone and progesterone and 15 that measure estrogen.

Each one of our cartridges has a QR code on it, so we know exactly what tests are measuring. You don't need to worry about, like, am I using LH or estrogen? Am I misrepresenting it? We work, we take care of all of it. But you basically provide a urine sample, and then you scan it with your phone. Very similar to how you would do a mobile deposit, right?

You're not entering data in. We get the data directly from the test strip, and then we interpret it all for you and let you know exactly what your hormone levels are every day that you use a test. Now, for perimenopause, we expect you to use it for 15 consecutive days. So we can really understand what your hormone profile looks like.

Oova's forte is not on a single time point measurement. We really value looking at the trend of your hormone over time. Because we're not robots. We don't stay stagnant. We have fluctuation. And you need to understand what that fluctuation is for every woman to really guide her. So what we're looking for on the perimenopause side is 1; how are the symptoms that you're experiencing relating to the hormone levels that you're having?

Is there a hormonal imbalance there? Can we help navigate you by giving you lifestyle recommendations to alleviate those symptoms or not? And really, are you in perimenopause or not? We have so many women who are using our perimenopause kit right now, thinking they are. But when you look at the data, they're still cycling.

It's just Irregular. And yeah, you could say that's a sign for perimenopause, but does that mean I've been in perimenopause for 20 years? No, it's just my norm. Right? So we're really trying to help navigate women through this transition because the biggest issue is that it's so unknown. And we just don't know what's going on.

[Tash Doherty] Yeah. So they're basically maybe experiencing some symptoms, but then they're still cycling, but basically the, I don't know, the hormones are winding down or they're irregular. And so, yeah, that's just helping them to measure that. And so is that also something that you really focus on is not having a threshold for these different types of hormones, just saying like, this is your level.

That doesn't mean you're over and above or below whatever; this is personalized to you as a kind of hormone package, in a way. 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] That's exactly it. So, we don't have a threshold on our test at all. You're getting an actual level of all your hormones every day. We really focus on understanding every woman's unique hormone baseline.

So I get this question all the time. I understand these are my levels, but what's normal? And my answer is always, well, whatever is normal for you, like that 20-day cycle, which is not normal. We're not striving for that anymore. We're not 19, 18, 20, trying to get pregnant anymore. If that was great from the previous generation for us, now we're in our late 20s and early 30s, trying to get pregnant, and we're not following a 28-day cycle.

For the most part. So, how do we really embrace your uniqueness and understand what's happening in your body? So our answer is always like, it may be normal for you. Let's look at your historical data. And then we help women educate themselves on what their body is actually saying. Yeah, and I think that's just so powerful, like, because there's so much, as you've talked about in your experience, like even my experience getting birth control, whatever, and like having painful periods, there's so much shame that is built into like, what is the normal female body doing?

[Tash Doherty] And I just love that, you know, with personalized products like yours, you can just understand and be kind of proud and be like, yeah, I'm irregular and like, this is what happens to me. And like, this is how I deal with it. Or, you know, and then have more personalized, you know, recommendations around like health or nutrition or whatever it is.

Cause you guys have quite a holistic look at the fertility windows and things there. Um, yeah, so that's pretty, pretty crazy. Less shame, less guilt for being a female. Yeah, absolutely. And what I love as well about the product is that, like, you can just tell from the, from how it's made that, like, you don't even have to input any data.

You just scan the QR code. Like, that's kind of cool. I don't know if you can go into the details, but I like how that actually works. 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] Yeah, sure. I'll be honest with you. We had the QR code way before COVID. So when we were thinking about the product learning curve, I was like, people are going to not know how to use the QR code. Well, thank you. COVID everything. Everyone knows what these things are now, and it's not a learning curve anymore, but we basically print a QR code on every cartridge. And we know it's embedded with a lot of data. It's not just there for. Positioning. It actually has data in it that we use internally to help interpret your results.

The test strip that's inside of that cartridge, it's designed to quantitatively measure your hormones. So, the intensities of the lines actually vary based on how much hormone is present in your sample. But I don't want a woman interpreting that by eye. So when she scans her test strip, not only do we understand what hormones she's testing, plus all of the backend information that we need.

But we're able to use our AI and image processing to really fine tune and get to two levels, two decimal places of accuracy in our hormone levels on a daily basis. So there's a lot of going on in that test strip. It's not just meant for you to visually interpret it. Wow. Yeah, that's kind of exactly what we need, though, is that there's the variations of levels, obviously the different types of hormones, but yeah, just having that level of accuracy is super important.

[Tash Doherty] And I mean, I'm also. I've studied a lot of statistics around birth control and stuff. And it's just like, if you're using something over a long period of time, it's like, we just want to remove human error and also make the user experience easier. That's super awesome. And maybe you can then tell us a little bit about the other daily action plan or like tips and recommendations that you include in the app experience. So, for nutritional, emotional, and physical health. Like what does that look like when you're in Oova? 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] Yeah. When you're going through any of these transitions, whether it's trying to get pregnant or going through debating if you're in perimenopause or not, you're already stressed out, right? Like there's some level of stress that is pushing you to buy this product to get some answers. So we're not trying to layer on more work for you or add more to your checklist of things to do every day. But what we are trying to do is, as we're seeing your hormone patterns and understanding what's going on with your body, there are some lifestyle changes that you can implement to reduce some of the discomfort that you're experiencing. So we will try to give it to you in bite-sized pieces. For example, let's look at PCOS, which is a very common and one of the most common diagnoses that we have in our platform. If you notice that you are showing signs of PCOS because your hormones look a little unbalanced.

We're going to start implementing physical activity that is very lightweight. So giving you tips like, let's go for a 10-minute walk after a meal today, right? Or let's stand after eating our meal today for 5 minutes before we become sedentary because you want your insulin to be working; you need it to be like digesting your food properly.

So we start giving you these little habits. That will actually have a long-term impact rather than, say, you need to exercise after every meal. That's not going to happen. So we're really just trying to embrace healthy living and long-term healthy living. Right. 

[Tash Doherty] And do you see any other use cases for Oova, apart from trying to conceive and perimenopause in the future? We can go more into the future unless it can translate in the conversation to more like the business model stuff as well. So, yeah, what are you thinking for more use cases? 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] So women aren't just like baby-making machines, right? Like our bodies are designed to have babies. Yes, but we go through so many transitions from our first period to the last, and it's all driven by hormones. So yes, Oova started with fertility. Yes, we moved into perimenopause, but we're really trying to scale across all the different sectors of a woman's life.

Using the hormones that we have plus additional ones that we're thinking of adding as well. My goal as a company is to ensure that we're providing women and people in general just all the information they need so they can navigate every transition with information and not Google articles. Right. 

I want to be able to empower a woman to advocate for her own health and have that two-way conversation with her doctor, which kind of moves into our business model, but that's kind of the long-term plan of Oova, helping women navigate through every phase of life. 

[Tash Doherty] Totally. And we want more data, and we need more data in order to do that. So yeah, part of your business model, in addition to the kits and stuff that you have, is a membership. So, I didn't look too much into this, but I would love to know what the membership consists of. 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] Yeah. So it's kind of funny. What we ended up doing was we just had our one-time order and a subscription model for the longest time. And we always offered these free consults with our team. If you ever have any questions, feel free to reach out. It was always a console with either our support team or me, but it was a face-to-face Zoom call. Um, and the questions that we got were pretty similar. Can you just talk me through my data?

Like, I understand everything that's happened, but I just need someone to verbalize it for me. So I was like, this is we're onto something because people are using this. Let's embed that into the product because it is so useful and it's such a distinguishing aspect of what we can offer. Since we have actual data, not just a bunch of yeses and nays or smiley faces like we have actual numbers to talk about.

So, with our membership model, what we did was we embedded these consultations that are available to all of our members monthly. We also have events that are. Secure for our members to be able to talk to clinicians in our network about their own data. It's a really safe forum. So, of course, we're always HIPAA compliant, but oftentimes, you don't want to go to your regular doctor to ask certain questions.

So, we offer these events where a patient can log in with one of our providers, and the provider can view their data once a patient gives them access and answer any specific questions they want. We also have office hours with these clinicians. So, if they want to talk to them one-on-one, don't feel comfortable in a group setting.

That's always available too. It's so clear that women are hungry for this information, and they're just not able to get it elsewhere. So if we're able to provide that trusted circle for them, it's an honor to be able to do that. 

[Tash Doherty] Totally. And super cool. And so through your experience, like building the product, like scaling, um, exploring all these different use cases, uh, what are some interesting features or insights that surprised you as you were going through the process?

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya]  Are you talking about building or just like after the product kind of got out there?

[Tash Doherty] Um, let's do building and then one example of, like, an insight from users as well. 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] Okay, so building, I think, it was an assumption for me. So, like, my husband always makes fun of me when I'm like, I think we want to add this feature in here like, how do you know people want this?

I'm like, well, I want it. And I'm assuming 10 other women want it. So I'm going to go with it. And so far, it's been right. So, one thing that I had a hunch about was. People are going to want to compare their data to normal, whatever is normal. So, we added this feature in our report where you can overlay a typical 28-day cycle on top of your own.

But then all the messaging that's associated with that is that it's okay. You're different from this, but this is why, and it's okay, right? So, really trying to embrace the fact that you're not normal. You're normal for you. And I was floored by how many women appreciated that because they felt like they were spiraling and not knowing what was wrong.

Yeah, and there's so many, like, undiagnosed people, even yourself, being misdiagnosed, and it's just like, without any understanding. I mean, the baselines are helpful. Um, but I think it's also the fact that we're not treating women, especially in the ways that you provide people with recommendations and stuff for their health.

[Tash Doherty] It's like, you're not treating them as, you know, different or like, You're just saying this is, you're actually personalizing the experience more. 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya]  Yeah, but it is a fine balance. 

[Tash Doherty] And then what was something that surprised you about either the data or something else that was interesting?

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] Well, I'll share two things. So one is we're so heavy on the data side and being sure that we're clear on research and backing all of our claims with doing the studies that we need to, um, there was a study that came out a couple of years ago saying that only 13 percent of women have a 28-day cycle. And I was like, let's, let's test that out.

How many women on our platform actually have a 28-day cycle? We found it was 5%. 

[Tash Doherty] Oh my gosh. 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] And yet, everything is designed for a 28-day cycle. 

[Tash Doherty] Yeah. Well, it's also probably because, like, my grandmother, she's, like, 86, but she took part in the first nurses' health study, which was, again, only tested on, like, white women who were nurses in the 50s and 60s.

So, you know, whatever data set they were working with is probably, like, 100 years old, and was only testing, like, women in Indiana who were white Christian churchgoers or something under the age of 30, like. 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] Yeah. So it's, it was amazing as we published that last year, and that's gotten a lot of traction, but then the, so I'm like, glad that we're starting to like myth bust some of the assumptions that we have about women's health and we're doing it with data.

But the 2nd thing that really surprised me, I know women want this information. I didn't know how badly. So when we launched our perimenopause product or our 3 hormone tests, I should say, in December of last year, we obviously had projections. We were prepared for whatever we wanted. We sold out of 15 weeks of inventory in 2 weeks.

[Tash Doherty] Oh, my God. That's crazy. 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya]  And I was just like, what do we do now? Like this is a great problem, but it's not like it just really opened up my eyes to how badly women want this. Yeah. And we're solving a true need here. Yeah. I'm excited. There are other players that are really starting to navigate this.

[Tash Doherty] I've had a lot of other friends on here as well. Kristina from Kegg Tech is one of my best friends, um, in the fertility tracking space, and the same thing. It's like HSA approved suddenly, you know, all the stocks are gone, and you've got to order. But they have physical devices. So it's like, you have to have a six-month delay or something. And it's incredibly difficult. So, yeah, it's, uh, I'm, I'm glad it's like people, it's more accessible and yeah, better ramp up production because now that we, as Cindy Gallop also says, there's a lot of money that you can make from like believing women. So, as soon as you make a product that people are willing to use, it's incredible in that sense. And so, in June of 2023, you raised 10. 3 million to Series A. Congratulations. That is huge. So, what was your fundraising journey like? 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] It was very interesting. Like I told you earlier, I've never felt like the only woman in a room. The first time, I felt that wasn't always fundraising, not specifically in this round, but just in general. I mean, the world is very different today than it was a year ago than it was a year before that. So it was a very unique experience of fundraising like the markets are crashing and whatnot. But what I had done.

I'm a big believer because I'm a first-time founder. Let's caveat everything with that. So I don't have a network of investors to tap into, Hey, guys, I have this new effort. Believe in me, put money in. Like, I don't have that. So, um, what I've always been really adamant about is.

Build a relationship with these people before you ask for money because. You never know. And what people are innately always willing to do is offer help and advice. If you're open to it. So I've always done that. So, when I closed my seed round, I actually started talking to Series A investors right away. The next day, I didn't even give myself a moment to celebrate that I closed my seed.

[Tash Doherty] I feel like you at least have a moment to celebrate, like just an inch. 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] It was just, it was more of a breath of fresh air. It's like, all right, now what's next? Right. Um, but in that year and a half between our seed or whatever the time limit amount was, I spent so much time speaking with Series A investors and building relationships. So when it came time for our A. We were preempted, and then people jumped on very quickly, so it still took us time to close. But I had already built that trust with a lot of investors where we were able to bring in some amazing funds, and I'm just really proud of what we were able to build. Such a like, truncated amount of time.

[Tash Doherty] Yeah, that's huge. And also, it seems like you're quite well connected because you're, like, living in New York, right? 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] The company's based in New York. I live in Connecticut, which is about 30 minutes north of New York City. But I think it's not so much about where you are physically. It's more so about being open to feedback, questions, and help. Because I've always been able to accept that. And I'm always hungry for it. And I feel like you can only grow when you surround yourself with folks that are smarter than you and more established and know things that you just haven't experienced before. Um, and I think that's really attractive to some of these people that just genuinely want to help founders. 

[Tash Doherty] Yeah, totally. That's actually something that I wrote down in my own journals recently. I'm doing all my own social media and platform building as an author as well. I had watched a talk about self publishing like over a year ago and then forgot about it. I didn't implement any action items from the talk. And then obviously the woman, I watched it again last week, and then she's like, yeah, you gotta go with like Ingram Spark. And I had gone with a different self-publishing platform, so I was like, oh man, if I had just actually taken these people's advice, you know, and again, it's a tricky balance because you wanna, you know, you have your own view of the product, right?

Like you have the features that you wanna build that you think, uh, the user's gonna need. But then, when it comes to stuff that you have no idea about, or I'm seeing myself when I don't know something. That's exactly what I need: just take the best advice that I can and then keep going with my own vision and my own thing that I'm working on.

Yeah, it's definitely an art, right? Like the advice is always out there. 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] And the thing that I've also learned is that people have so many ideas. It's all about the execution. So when you take a piece of advice, it is an idea. Now you have to go and execute on it, which is the hard part. So, if you do your diligence on all the ideas and advice that you're getting, you'll have a solid path forward.

But if you're closed off to that great resource, you're only going to be moving forward with what you think is best. And that may not be necessarily the most important choice. 

[Tash Doherty] Right, exactly that. And also, I'm somebody who's struggled to ask for help for various reasons, you know, depending on your upbringing and how you've managed to survive as a woman in the world thus far. I mean, being a trailblazer and doing your own thing as much as possible. It's like sometimes you're trained not to ask for help. So that's a good skill we can all implement in 2024. Yes, let's finish with a couple of more personal questions as we're wrapping up today. Um, if you were going to do a PhD again today, what would you do it in?

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] I would probably do something in education but tailor it a little bit. Um, if I could start another company, it would be focused on redefining what sexual wellness means when you're learning about sex and sex ed. Like I want to redefine that entire program across the world. We should not be teaching girls that their period is something to be ashamed of.

They need to understand what the biology of this is and why you're having a period. It is not true that if you have sex, you're going to get pregnant. That is absolutely not the case. And I'm living proof of that. What we do need to understand is why you have a cycle, that there are certain days that you can get pregnant, and what that means.

Yes. Like you, you can make the argument that when the kid's minds aren't developed yet, they won't understand those nuances. That is feeding into that entire scope of women not needing or being able to handle data about their bodies. It's just not true. I gave my nine-month-old a phone, an iPhone. He grabbed my phone.

He knew how to swipe. Yeah. Like, they know way more and are much more capable of handling information and knowledge than we give everyone credit for. And I'd want to redo what the entire program looks like. 

[Tash Doherty] Yeah, and I think an aspect of that is that, like, you know, it's kind of like when you're in that awkward puberty phase where you're like, am I going to sit at the adult's table or the kid's table at Thanksgiving?

Um, but the reality is that we treat young girls, you know, like children; they're already fertile and have been cycling since I was like 11 when I got my period. So, I probably should feel equipped, empowered, and enfranchised with the data that I can understand about my body.

So yeah, it's a very, it's a very strange, again I think that's like a patriarchal thing where it's like the infantilization of women, um, because that's what, you know, in our society people have historically found attractive. So changing that sounds like a great thing to do. And what are some other areas of research or women's health questions that you think people who are interested in STEM should be answering or trying to answer?

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] I would hope that anyone that's addressing any women's health issue is looking at objective data. I think a lot of the, like, conclusions that have been made or assumptions that have been made about women's health are based off of subjective things. Like, if you look at period tracking apps, it's all subjective data.

We're one of the first actually to bring objectivity to those symptoms. I mean, I have years of data and all these apps, but if I look at it, there really aren't many patterns there that I can draw conclusions from. Now, when I look at my three years of data, that's powerful. Cause I'm seeing what the hormone trends were.

I'm seeing the days that I was super stressed and that my cycle was completely off. And there are explanations that I can draw from looking at actual objective data. So, there are so many areas that are exciting right now. Like, I think menopause is having its moment finally, like, man, I guess women have started going through menopause, right?

It's finally having its moment. There are companies that are looking at the microbiome, the vaginal microbiome. I think that's fantastic too. Like, let's understand what cervical mucus is and really get to the bottom of why you're having that and other issues there; Priyanka Jain (at Evvy) is wonderful. Like, I love the way that they're approaching the vaginal microbiome, they're really normalizing this as a body part, and it's not something to be ashamed of, like. There's a purpose to having a vagina, and we shouldn't be shy about that. Um, so I'm really excited about some of the innovation that's happening and the way the conversation is shifting.

[Tash Doherty] Yes, exactly. And if you had any career advice for women interested in STEM and startups today, what would you tell them? 

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] The number one thing that has helped me get to where I am today is always asking questions. And I think when you do a Ph.D., you're kind of trained to ask questions, but I was doing it before I even did a Ph.D. because the more questions that you ask, the more doors that are open.

So if I'm talking to an investor about something, and I know this person isn't going to invest in us. We're not in there like round size or whatever, but they're going to know at least five other people that would be good fits for me. And that's how you build your network. And that's how you grow because you're going to have five more conversations that have so many more legs.

And I've always been open to that across every aspect of my life. And it's never hurt me. It's only kind of paying it forward in a way by always having a network to tap into. 

[Tash Doherty] Well, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Great advice all around. And, uh, speaking of these kinds of questions, what do you wish that I had asked you, or what should I have asked you in this interview?

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] You asked really good questions. But I think the one thing would be, what is a big gap that I'm seeing in this space? Right now. Yeah. I think we asked what areas we could; it was exciting, but we didn't really see what the big oversight was. I think there are a lot of players in the fem tech or women's health side, but people enrolled, like going off to the same investors, we're all like trying to show growth and things like that.

But I would hope that, especially when you're a female founder, that's like the companies that are really in the space, like all the female-founded ones, you know how you would want to get marketed to. And what information you would need to make, like, to be convinced to make this purchase. I would hope that companies just stay true to that and not do false advertising or bend the truth. Like, let's be honest and clear with our potential customers about what we're actually putting out there because I think we're just creating more noise and hurting our community so much by playing the marketing game. This should not be a marketing game. It should be providing value to a community that is desperately in need of it.

[Tash Doherty]  Yeah, totally. I mean, that's if they can get their ads published at all, you know, with the Facebook and Instagram ads, you know, like the banana penis can go on the subway in New York. But, uh, and then, I think her name is Alex, but anyway, yeah, the Dame had this huge thing about that as well.

Amazing and fascinating. Such a bummer because then you can't, even even if you raise a million dollars, it's like, well, if you can't advertise like you don't get any of that growth,

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] But we're still held to the same metrics that men are, right? 

[Tash Doherty]  So anyway, Dr. Amy, this has been an incredible conversation. I am so grateful that you could come and chat with us today, and yeah, best of luck with Oova and all of the great things in store for 2024.

[Dr. Amy Divaraniya] Thank you so much. It's wonderful to speak with you. 

[Outro] [Tash Doherty] Thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Miseducated. If you'd like a special discount on Oova, I'm super excited to be able to share this promo code with you. You can go to Oova dot life slash miseducated, which is It's O O V A dot L I F E slash M I S S E D U C A T E D. And the discount code is, all caps, MissOova10, which is M I S S O O V A 1 0. Lots of love, everyone. Stay safe out there, and I hope that you'll join us for another episode of Miseducated again soon.


Misseducated by Tash Doherty
Misseducated is the show about unlearning and the female experience. Covering topics like sex workers' rights, femtech, porn, domestic violence and fertility, Tash Doherty discovers the stories of fascinating people and explores their unusual viewpoints in conversations we rarely have.