Half the population lives with a monthly ovarian hormone cycle. Those cycles affect menstrual patterns, fertility, and more, but the stigma surrounding hormone problems has limited awareness of hormone health.
Now, Avia is working to help people understand their hormone cycle and its effects.
“These chakras affect sleep quality, muscle toning quality, energy, sex drive, skin health, mental health, energy levels – you name it – but no one is talking about that, CEO Agniya Mathur says MBA ’18. “We see a world where people can use their hormone cycles to benefit from day to day — to make them a superpower rather than something they’re afraid of or feeling.”
The startup, which was conceived during the MIT Entrepreneurship and Maker Skills Integrator (MEMSI), achieves through a combination of education, community and technology.
Avia’s flagship product is a patented Smart Pill Case that can sense when users take birth control pills, and remind them via a mobile app if they forget. In addition to sending these notifications, the app and its accompanying website allow users to track the changes they see throughout their cycle, receive personalized recommendations, learn from peers and medical experts, and connect with a community dealing with similar problems. allows.
,[Raising awareness about hormonal health] It’s not something that can happen overnight, so we decided to address a problem that people already understand they have, which is remembering to take their birth control pill,” Mathur says. From there, we’ve expanded our services based on what we’ve learned and what’s not working for our users.”
Mathur, along with Avia co-founders Alexis Wong and Aya Suzuki ’18, say they are inspired by the stories they hear from people who have used Avia’s services to address problems like anxiety and acne. which they have been battling for years. Without knowing that they were related to hormones.
,[We’re] Helping people on their health journey better than their mothers,” says Mathur. “Hopefully my future daughter’s health journey will be better than mine. No one is paying attention to this problem, but half the population has ovaries, so it is something that is extremely rare.”
an idea has been created
Wong and Suzuki met at MEMSI, an intensive two-week bootcamp that challenges student participants from MIT and Hong Kong to build hardware startups. Suzuki worked in a rehabilitation facility and observed problems people had in adhering to treatment. They began developing a pill pack that could sense when pills were still in their tinfoil packaging and send reminders to users via smartphone. He was later introduced to Mathur through a mutual friend, who had also participated in MEMSI.
The founders talked to hundreds of people with various health problems to determine where they could make the biggest difference. The trio made for a diverse founding team: Mathur had studied neuroscience as an undergraduate and thought she was going to be a doctor until she got into counseling and an MBA at MIT went the better way. . Wong was studying electrical engineering at the University of Hong Kong, and Suzuki was studying mechanical engineering and design at MIT.
Mathur, who used to wake up in the middle of the night to write down ideas and questions about business, was thrilled to be in an interdisciplinary environment during her MBA program.
“Sloan was one of the only schools that ‘One MIT’ says, ‘We’re business schools and we have everything we need,'” says Mathur. “I thought it was really cool because then you could be in the club with people from other regions. Multidisciplinary teams are extremely important to have the kind of impact we want.”
The founders say that being a student was helpful when they started building the company. He received support from the MIT Sandbox, the MIT Venture Mentoring Service, and went through startup accelerators MIT Delta V and MIT Fuse. He also won the audience choice award during the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.
“Starting a company at MIT is amazing because you have so many resources, both financial and educational,” says Mathur.
Today the founders continue to draw value from MIT’s network, meeting with former classmates and alumni – Mathur also refers to class notes taken as an MBA student from time to time.
A new approach to hormone health
After surveying thousands of people, the founders learned that people want an app that goes beyond tracking duration or mood that actually gives users health and behavioral suggestions.
“We are helping you understand your hormone cycle through our own reporting, but the great thing is that we also give you actionable information,” says Mathur. “For example, these are the three days where you have the highest energy and here’s how you can take advantage of it, or these are the four days when you worry the most, here’s what you can do to help reduce it.” Or, it’s coming, so there are steps you can take to make sure it’s not as bad as it used to be.”
Avia, who has an advisory board of MDs, devotes tons of resources to educational efforts, creating blog posts and videos, hosting events, having an in-app forum with doctors four days a week, and engaging on social media . In community forums, users can ask questions, share stories or fears, and offer support. Avia is also grouping together members with similar experiences, such as those taking the same acne medication or dealing with a similar health journey.
“The more people we can get in front of, the more they can tell other people and help each other,” says Mathur.
The results have been promising. A member of Aavia was undergoing treatment for clinical depression when she started tracking her mood on the app. The user brought that data to their doctor, who felt that the depressive symptoms were much more severe during the specific time period. The data helped the doctor change her diagnosis to premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which is treated differently from clinical depression.
“The stories we hear really make me get out of bed in the morning,” says Mathur. “To see if we changed this person’s perspective on something, we helped this person understand that they really needed a different treatment, or this change in confidence or stress by knowing this person Those are really our two biggest success metrics: reducing stress and building confidence. That’s where we’re seeing significant changes.”
Most of Avia’s members are 18 to 24 years old, a demographic Mathur says is more open to talking about hormone problems. For the founders, it all goes back to Avia’s mission to set a new paradigm for hormone health.
“We hear most consistently from people who feel they are neglected or who are dealing with a problem that no one else is paying attention to,” says Mathur. “Our members tell us that they don’t necessarily trust the big health care companies, but they do trust us. We are focused on what we can do for a lasting impact as users use their hormones. Health travels go through.”