Sleep 8h/ day. The more you sleep, the more productive you are. I got a Fitbit to track my sleep. I saw a huge improvement in my productivity.
Move. A short walk a day will change your perspective on work challenges.
Hug & love. Don’t look at your phone when you wake up, give 10 minutes to your partner. Ask him what he is afraid of that day and what brings him joy. Great relationships will bolster your professional success.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristina Cahojova.
Kristina is the founder of the first 2-in-1 fertility tracker, kegg. Inspired by her struggles with tracking her fertility combined with her experience in e-commerce (ebay and Amazon), she realized that there was a demand for a certain product, which didn’t exist until she created it.
Kristina earned her double Master’s Degree in International Management and Business Administration from CEMS in Europe and is fluent in 5 languages thanks to her international study and work experience in Germany, Austria, Taiwan, Spain and the Czech Republic.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I am from Slovakia. It is a small country in central Europe. So, it is not surprising that I pursued an international career. In the past 10 years, I have worked in 7 different countries.
I have a double master degree in management and business administration. I have always been attracted to entrepreneurship. I’ve always considered it to be the hardest job there is.
When I moved with my husband from London to California for work, I was inspired to launch my own femtech company based on my personal struggles with tracking my fertility combined with my experiences in e-commerce. At the time, I was simply told to read cervical fluid to understand my fertility better. Despite a market flooded with fertility trackers, there was no technology out there that could help me at that time. Every company I talked to didn’t have a solution or shied away from making this product because it has to be inserted into the vagina. By standing up in front of male investors who were skeptical of ‘whether women would be willing to put a device into their intimate parts’, I overcame initial difficulties in fundraising alone and set out to make a product that would help me and millions of women like me. I flew on a solo adventure to Shenzhen to prototype my first idea. Following a successful Indiegogo campaign that reached its goal in 36 hours, my first product — kegg — launched in May 2020, during the height of the pandemic, and we are currently receiving orders from all over the United States.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
To this day, the most interesting story is that people have very superficial ideas about startups. Most don’t realize that 99.9% of them fail. You never hear about those failures but they are way more useful to you as the first time founder so you should be looking out for them.
I have always tried to speak to people who were a few steps ahead of me — those that have made it. Their advice was extremely helpful. You can’t seek advice from investors, most of them have never been in your shoes. The real actionable advice comes from founders and more importantly founders like you (including skin color, gender and from your space).
E.g. I was being told that you should “paint the big picture”, “try to be hard to get”, “tell them that your round is half-full”. The one day an investor told me “Listen, I like what you are doing. The opportunity is great. Nevertheless, you are a woman and first-time founder. That is why investors will shy away from investing. I am afraid that you will not be able to get sufficient funding. You have a great company and I like it. My advice is to sell the company because you will struggle fundraising”.
Even though men like him are part of the problem, I am extremely grateful that he was honest.
I realized that I must look for different investors and that my company is not valued based on its potential but based on what we have achieved by now.
One study of 350 VC-backed startups found that women founders deliver more than 2 times as much per dollar invested than male-owned companies. There are investors out there, who invest in women just because it gives them better returns and I found such investors.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Any decision, even a bad one is better than no decision. I can’t stress this enough — it is the holy grail of entrepreneurship. People are afraid of making mistakes so they linger on making decisions fast and that kills companies. A 2014 PwC study of the world’s 2,500 largest companies showed that the most common trait among successful CEOs was that they make decisions earlier, faster, and with greater conviction.
I tend to make fast decisions because I like to move fast — except for personal team decisions. That burnt me. I deeply care about people so unlike with other business decisions, I was trying to make things work even if they weren’t. It almost cost me the whole company. Unfortunately, I can’t discuss the details about that due to NDA. All, I can say is that hire slow, fire fast. If you have the slightest doubt about once performance, review with them details if they don’t change in a month, let them go within 24h.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
SOSV (HAX), who had a leap of faith in me when I started and were our first investors. I wholeheartedly recommend them to early-stage founders. They take you to Shenzhen, China and put you literally through hell. You need to prototype fast, learn even faster and make it. Nevertheless, this is exactly what you need and they have a superb dedicated team behind.
Also, Scott Shwarts, my co-founder without whom we wouldn’t make it. He is experienced, patient and kind. I can’t mention him without Start100, an accelerator who has helped us to market the product to the market.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Cervical fluid is famously called the 5th vital sign. It protects women against infections, nurtures sperm, enables sperm movement within our reproductive system. Cervical fluid defines when a woman is capable of conceiving and when she is not (it defines full fertile window). Many birth control methods’ contraceptive principles are altering our cervical fluid in a way that it thickens and doesn’t turn into a fertile one. Nevertheless, there is a natural cyclical change that occurs in our bodies and I think that women should be empowered to understand when they are fertile and when they are not.
I also believe that women are smart enough to understand their cycles and they prefer to get professional help to fix their cycles first before proceeding to something as invasive as IVF. Cervical fluid information is critical to fixing cyclical fertility issues and critical to understanding cyclical fertility, yet before kegg it was virtually impossible to get accurate data on it.
All in all, we women deserve honesty and we are fully capable of managing our bodies. I build kegg to empower women and to give them this critical piece of information so they can manage their fertility without altering their bodies artificially and get pregnant easily when they want to. When a woman knows her full fertile window she is quadrupling her chance of natural conception. Moreover she can understand what is happening and get help to fix her cycle. We have seen many success stories with kegg, when women understood their cyclical fertility, fixed their cycles and conceived naturally despite having previous failed attempts with IVF.
Another topic that I’d like to bring up is secondary infertility. Half of our customers were able to conceive the first child naturally, yet they struggle with the second one. It is very common, yet women are shy to talk about it and have no idea how common this is.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Focus on your feelings. My coach told me: “what resists, persists.” If you don’t take your feelings seriously, they will kill your productivity. Ask yourself every day: “How do I feel? What am I afraid of? Why?” This is a proven competitive advantage so use it.
- Sleep 8h/ day. The more you sleep, the more productive you are. I got a Fitbit to track my sleep. I saw a huge improvement in my productivity.
- Move. A short walk a day will change your perspective on work challenges.
- Hug & love. Don’t look at your phone when you wake up, give 10 minutes to your partner. Ask him what he is afraid of that day and what brings him joy. Great relationships will bolster your professional success.
- Don’t fight energy suckers, just get rid of them. Do you hate cooking? Then don’t. Do you have to check your colleague’s’ performance daily? Then fire him/her. This has worked miracles in my life.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Mandatory 8h of uninterrupted sleep a day for everyone — especially mothers. The world would be such a different place:)
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
I actually appreciate that before I started no one told me that it was going to be this hard.
Nevertheless, I wish I’d be given a bit more honesty on fundraising early on. Fundraising advice that is given to you by your entrepreneurial male-friend who graduated from Stanford and is on his 2nd startup is not relevant to you. Investors use pattern-matching to decide whether to invest or not. They evaluate opportunities based on what has worked before. Immigrant women don’t fit these patterns, and so we should seek advice from people similar tous who have made it.
I honestly wish that someone would have told me: “Don’t waste your time with VCs, they won’t fund you unless you have Series A metrics. Find mission-driven investors who love your customers the way that you do.”
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
It is of course climate change and destruction of natural habitats. We reversed the ozone layer hole development, we saved once almost extinct species of whales, manatees, eagles, wolves and others. That is why I am confident that we can clean up oceans, move to sustainable energy sources and limit our consumption.
My husband and I eat almost no meat, we bike where possible. I shop almost all of my clothes on ebay and poshmark (pre-owned of course). There is so much freedom in owning only what you need and eating healthy.
Also, when you look closely at kegg — it is very durable — it is built to last. We didn’t make keggs in China to get the lowest cost possible because the quality of the product and its durability is important to us. Women waste so much plastic and resources on one-off ovulation tests. These tests give them superficial results and they are built in a way so women are incentivized to subscribe to them monthly. I’d rather give women a long-lasting product and offer them services on top of it then to be part of this destructive consumerism.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
They can find us on Instagram @kegg_tech, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.
Thank you for these fantastic insights!