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Gabriel Bogner: “If someone tells you no, show them why they were wrong”

If someone tells you no, show them why they were wrong: raising money is a tough game, you’re going to hear a million no’s just to get to one yes. This really brought me back to growing up being gay. As a gay kid you think the world hates you, but that makes you want […]

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If someone tells you no, show them why they were wrong: raising money is a tough game, you’re going to hear a million no’s just to get to one yes. This really brought me back to growing up being gay. As a gay kid you think the world hates you, but that makes you want to work even harder to prove the world wrong. The same things goes with being told no. That just made me want to dig deeper, keep going, and prove to everyone who told you no, that you were right.


As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Gabriel Bogner, Co-founder of MATE.


Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

We were traveling around the south to scout new locations for Mate Fertility clinics. We had to be in El Dorado Arkansas for a meeting at 5:30. Our flight was from Dallas to Little Rock, but the flight was canceled because of a severe weather warning, so, we had to rent a car in Dallas and drive the 6 hours to El Dorado. All of the car rentals were sold out, except for one. As we were driving to El Dorado we got a weather advisory warning that said, the danger level was 5 out of 5 for tornados. The last time there was a level 5 warning in Arkansas was in 2012. We were driving through rural Arkansas with tornados touching down all around us, but we made it to our meeting…only an hour late. The weather warning lasted until the next day, so instead of staying in Arkansas, we cancelled our hotel and had to drive back to Dallas through the night to catch our 6am flight. It ended up being an amazing meeting, and we’re super excited about Arkansas. We would be the only clinic for 500 miles.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

It’s always been a guiding principle of mine to be yourself, no matter what. My identity as a gay man has always been a defining factor in everything I do. It influences my work, my passion, my relationships, my ideology and my career. When I began my career, it was a little harder to be myself, because I didn’t see or hear about a lot of business professionals who were gay. But when you try to be someone else in the work place, it impacts how you do your job. That’s why it’s so important that I bring my entire self to my job. That’s the only way I’ll be able put 100% into my job. If I surround myself with people who don’t appreciate who I truly am, then I’ve surrounded myself with the wrong people.

In my professional life I’m really guided by passion. If you’re not doing what you love and what inspires you every day then you need to rethink your career. If you chase your passion, success will naturally follow. Passion fuels creativity and work ethic. I think a lot of my passion comes from starting a company that has an attainable mission that you’re actually working towards every day, and that mission needs to be bettering the world somehow. Businesses solve problems, and big problems need passionate people and creative minds. It’s not enough for businesses to just have a mission, but that passion, purpose, and mission, need to inspire everyone on your team.

Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

The US is really behind when it comes to fertility treatment, I mean really behind. Fertility treatment in the US is incredibly inaccessible, yet social and economic factors contributing to increasing rates of infertility are on the rise. For one, people are having children later in life, but evolution hasn’t caught up to that, so science did. Other environmental and lifestyle factors are contributing to lower sperm counts and increased rates of infertility. On top of that, genetic diseases are becoming more common, even though the science exists to screen out these diseases. All of these findings mean that access to fertility treatment is becoming more vital. When you look at other countries, like Denmark, Japan, or Australia, approximately 10% of their population is born using IVF, while in the US, it is only 1.7% of the population. Scientists estimate that in the future, 30% of our population will be born using IVF. Not only can we preserve fertility, so people can have kids on their own term, we can create a healthier generation by screening for genetic and chromosomal abnormalities. Mate fertility is at the forefront of this, as we lower prices, increase the number of clinics and make fertility care more accessible, we see a future where freezing your eggs, screening your embryos, and going through IVF is the norm.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to the idea of MATE Fertility Clinics? Can you tell us that story?

The tipping point for this business happened after my brother and I learned firsthand how broken the fertility industry is. I have been tied to the infertility space my entire life because I’m an IVF baby. I’ve always been fascinated by how I was born. My parents were older when they had me, so it was difficult to conceive naturally. But when I realized I was gay and also wanted kids, I thought, ‘well how am I supposed to do that.’ That led me down this path into the fertility space. I would always see these very wealthy gay couples having kids on magazine covers, but I thought, ‘well how are the rest of us expected to afford that.’

I wanted to help make this process more affordable and more accessible for everyday people. When my brother and his wife also had to go through IVF and genetic screening because they discovered his partner was a carrier for brca-1 gene (you have a higher likelihood of developing ovarian and breast cancer) they struggled too with inaccessibility and cost too.

My brother and I went on this journey to solve this problem. There are only 460 fertility clinics in the entire US and more people are diagnosed with infertility than diabetes, so we set out on a mission to solve this problem.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

IVF and all assisted reproductive technologies will be wildly adopted once we promote education and awareness about treatment options. Sex ed, and health are so rarely taught or even talked about in the American education system. When something is wrong, especially in regards to sexual health, people rarely feel comfortable going to a doctor or seeking help. Yet many of these conditions like endometriosis, PCOS, or low sperm count, that contribute to infertility, are so common. When someone starts experiencing symptoms, they will often stay silent. When someone becomes aware they are infertile, they will also stay silent. Many people choose not to move forward with treatment options due to shame, the shame associated with straying from typical parenthood norms. Often people feel a personal sense of failure for not being able to conceive through traditional ways, but if we can empower people and teach them that it’s acceptable to deviate from tradition to achieve their dreams of becoming parents, then this positive reinforcement will encourage individuals to seek treatment.

Because a lot of these issues are never spoken about, taught in school, and never get as much press, a lot of couples feel shame, grief, and loss if they have trouble conceiving. These are normal feelings, but if we educate people about options, symptoms, and treatments then this subject will become less taboo.

We know egg freezing will become standard practice in the near future. Once people understand how much autonomy and reproductive power freezing their eggs gives them, it will become widely adopted. Many people just don’t know or understand the benefits, or they find out too late.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.

Don’t be afraid of rejection: I first started pitching this idea 2 years ago without any experience or knowledge of the VC space. My brother was still at his previous company and I was riding solo. The amount of rejection I received was astounding. With every rejection I learned something new though. I took advice, feedback, and we adjusted our pitch, pivoted our idea, and worked even harder.

Get ready to wear many hats: If you think your job title is what you’ll actually be doing, think again. You’re going to be doing something completely different the next day. I have always been creative, and I knew I wanted to bring that into my role, however I have no design experience. I taught myself Illustrator, so I could learn how to design myself and lead our branding team more effectively. Then the next day I had to teach myself taxes because we were bringing on a new employee out of state. It always changes and you have to become an expert and learn on your feet.

Listen to your team / investors: Being bull headed in a startup will never work. One of the most popular buzzwords today is ‘pivot’. It’s so important for a young company to be able and willing to adapt and change. A lot of new ideas will come from your team or investors and if you think it’s your way or the highway, then you won’t be able to adapt to change. We originally wanted to launch our first clinic in LA, because we thought it was important for us to be near the clinic and to launch in a big market, but our advisors told us it didn’t make sense. Everything we learned told us LA is too crowded. And opening in LA won’t actually help solve the glaring problems we discovered, so we decided to listen and pivot.

It’s okay to ask for help: You shouldn’t be expected to have the answers to everything all the time, no one can. People are experts in their field for a reason, and you should rely on other people to buoy you. When you don’t have the skills or knowledge to solve the problem in front of you, bring in team members and ask for help. This happens every day — whether it’s asking legal to help review a contract, our investors for help on deck, or our ops team for assistance on an excel doc, we accomplish greatness with each other.

Feedback, feedback, feedback. Never look at feedback as an insult or a negative. The only way you can get better and improve is through continuous feedback. This applies to leaders in the company and the company itself. We always ask patients for feedback on their experience, what they would change, and how we can improve the overall business. And then as a leader, I always want my team to be giving me feedback on how we can improve internal processes or my own personal leadership style.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”

If someone tells you no, show them why they were wrong: raising money is a tough game, you’re going to hear a million no’s just to get to one yes. This really brought me back to growing up being gay. As a gay kid you think the world hates you, but that makes you want to work even harder to prove the world wrong. The same things goes with being told no. That just made me want to dig deeper, keep going, and prove to everyone who told you no, that you were right.

Listen and adapt. Not being able to listen effectively and make necessary changes will sink your business. If your team members feel as though their voices aren’t heard and you, as a leader, aren’t listening to them, they won’t want to work with you. Adapt quickly to changes and don’t live in the past.

Take feedback as a gift. Being able to hear constructive criticism and take steps to adjust is so vital for every leader. Whether you’re giving feedback or receiving it, think of it as a gift.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-

In 30 years IVF will become the norm. Everyone will use genetic screening, egg freezing, and IVF to have healthier children later in life. The science is already here, the widespread acceptance is coming. The demand exists, 20% of couples require fertility treatment to conceive already, but only 1.7% of those people receive care. The only way to meet market demand is to increase accessibility and affordability. 80% of IVF clinics are in top 10 metro markets like LA, NY, and SF. We’re increasing the absolute number of clinics and we’re doing so in fertility deserts like Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alaska, Missouri, Tennessee, and more. There’s no competition in these markets but there is massive demand.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We just partnered with Kristyn Hodgdon, the founder of @thefertilitytribe to help bring our voice to life and help educate our patients. You can follow along @matefertility on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Visit our website at www.matefertility.com to book a free mate advisor session with a fertility counselor.

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