Every year, since the early 1990s, more women decide to get married and have children later in life. This decision increases the risk of infertility and miscarriage. The 2019 CDC data on births in the United States reports that the general fertility rate declined 1% in 2019 to 58.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years from 59.1 in 2018. Additionally, about 6% of married women aged 15 to 44 years in the United States are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying. About 12% of women aged 15 to 44 years in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.
After witnessing her friends having difficulty becoming pregnant, Sylvia Kang, cofounder and CEO of Mira, decided to leave her corporate job and use her biomedical degree to create a product that tracks women’s hormones and fertility cycles.
Mira is the first FDA and CE (health, safety and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European economic area) registered comprehensive women’s health monitoring platform with 99% accuracy in clinical trials. Its products track cycles, predict ovulation, monitor fetal health, measure ovarian reserve and detect menopause from the comfort of home. Kang and her team have noticed a 31% increase in ovulation testing during Covid.
“I had a few girlfriends who were like me,” Kang shares. “They had advanced education and great career potentials, so they felt like they were not ready to have kids when they were in their early 30’s. When one close friend of mine started to try for a baby, she had no results after six months of trying. The doctor couldn’t find any problems with her or her husband. I saw her go through this very stressful, full of guessing and disappointing journey. The existing fertility products didn’t help because they didn’t tell her what went wrong or give enough insights to be her guide. She eventually got pregnant through IUI, which was time-consuming and expensive. This is a general and trending issue faced by more and more women today. Scientifically, every woman is different. An accurate answer can only come from a personalized angle. I started Mira hoping to give women the accuracy of lab testing at home, and an easy to understand and actionable data to help them make the best decision.”
Kang grew up in China. As a child, she was a professional pianist who self-taught science and math. She came to the States to attend university. Ultimately she earned master’s degrees from Columbia and Cornell University. She then began her career at a Fortune 500 company working her way up to a director’s position. She managed and led a $100 million global business P&L with a greater than 30% annual growth. She helped grow revenue by 7% and developed and executed strategies to deliver the $70 million global business’s profitable growth.
“At that time, I was only a little bit over 30 years old,” she explains. “I was the youngest director of all my co-workers. I learned how to manage a business and how to oversee the entire value chain, how to run the business from when you got the raw material, what the whole manufacturing looks like, what quality control looks like, and the inventory to marketing, sales, and even customer service. After a few years, I realized that I wanted to do something that has a more direct impact on consumers.”
While Kang strategized her next career move, her friend started experiencing the hardships of infertility. She began asking questions. She wanted to know how common the problem was, are there tools and resources for women, and if there are, why isn’t it widely known? She wasn’t precisely sure how she would create a home device that tracked a woman’s hormones, but she knew she had to develop a tool. Kang understood the entrepreneurial risks. She conducted thorough market research and spoke with doctors and consumers.
“On the technical side, we did many iterations even before we had the first concept to show anyone,” Kang states. “I bought a 3D printing machine at the time. We tried to print out the concept as a prototype and do the testing.”
As Kang and her partner fully transitioned into the entrepreneurial space, she found the biggest challenge was accepting that she couldn’t prepare for or foresee any future obstacles. In 2015 when they founded the company, they immediately began the process of securing investors.
“You have to go through a really long process to find what kind of investors are the best ones for you,” Kang explains. “Also, if you need one at this moment or not? Or if it’s not the best time to raise money, what can you do?”
They eventually raised their first round of funding within the first year, which allowed them to take the 3D prototype and manufacture an actual product. From there, they tested the product in the labs and became FDA approved.
As Kang continues to pivot as an entrepreneur, she focuses on the following essential steps:
- Make sure you truly enjoy what you are pivoting to for your next position. It’s easy to discover what you don’t like. Focus on what you do like.
- Network with people in your space, in your industry. Bounce ideas off of people who are doing what you want to do. They will be able to give you the best guidance.
- Focus on your competitive advantage. It’s more important to find out what you are an expert at and go from there versus improving your weaknesses, which will slow down your process.
“I’m really passionate about women’s health and how to improve women’s lifestyle and their career advancement,” Kang concludes. “Our number one goal is to help women to know better about themselves, to control better, to be more healthy and make better decisions in their lives.”