Berlin-based femtech startup Inne is coming out of stealth to announce an €8 million (~$8.8M) Series A and give the first glimpse of a hormone-tracking subscription product for fertility-tracking and natural contraception that’s slated for launch in Q1 next year.
Some also try to predict which days a women is fertile and which they’re not — offering digital tools to help women track bodily signals if they’re following a natural family planning method of contraception, or indeed trying to conceive a baby.
Others — such as Natural Cycles — have gone further down that path, branding their approach “digital contraception” and claiming greater sophistication vs traditional natural family planning by applying learning algorithms to cycle data augmented with additional information (typically a daily body temperature measurement).
A multi-month investigation by the medical device regulator in Natural Cycles’ home market, instigated after a number of women fell pregnant while using its method, found rates of failure were in line with its small-print promises but concluded with the company agreeing to clarify the risk of the product failing.
Inne says it’s developed a saliva-based test to measure hormone levels, along with an in vitro diagnostic device (pictured above) that allows data to be extracted from the disposable tests at home and wirelessly logged in the companion app.
The first product, a natural contraception for adult women — billed as best suited for women aged 28-40, i.e. at a steady relationship time-of-life — will be launching in select European markets (starting in Scandinavia) next year, though initially as a closed beta style launch as they work on iterating the product based on user feedback.
As well as a contraception use-case, the fertility tracking element naturally means it could also be used by women wanting to get pregnant.
“It’s more designed to track your hormones and tell you look this is the most basic change that happens in your body and because of those changes you will feel certain things.
On this Rapti says Inne isn’t ready to share data about the product’s efficacy — but claims it will be publishing details of the various studies it conducted as part of the CE marking process in the next few weeks.
Rapti says Inne is controlling for variability in the testing process by controlling when users take the measurement (although that’s clearly not directly within its control, even if it can send an in-app reminder); controlling how much saliva is extracted per test; and controlling how much of the sample is tested — saying “that’s all done mechanically; you don’t do that”.
“The beauty about hormones is they do not get influenced by lack of sleep, they do not get influenced by getting out of your bed — and this is the reason why I wanted to opt to actually measure them,” she adds, saying she came up with the idea for the product as a user of natural contraception searching for a better experience.
“When I started the company I was using the temperature method [of natural contraception] and I thought it cannot be that I have to take this measurement from my bed otherwise my measurement’s invalid,” she adds.
However there are other types of usage restrictions Inne users will need to observe in order to avoid negatively affecting the hormonal measurements.
“There’s a few indications around it,” she concedes, adding: “The product is super easy to use but it is not for women who want to not think ever about contraception or their bodies.
So unless or until it does users won’t be able to assess the relative risk of falling pregnant while using it against more tried and tested contraception methods.
Beyond natural contraception and fertility tracking, Inne is thinking about wider applications for its approach to hormone tracking — such as providing women with information about the menopause, based on longer term tracking of their hormone levels.
The intent is to be the opposite of binary, she suggests, by providing adult women with a versatile tool to help them get closer to and understand changes in their bodies for a range of individual needs and purposes.