Once Allison and Brandon Harding decided they were ready to have a baby, they quickly realized how challenging it would be to learn if they were both able to conceive.
“During the pandemic, we started talking about starting a family,” Allison said. “I asked my OB-GYN if there are any tests we can take to make sure we’re ready to start a family. He advised us not even to bother purchasing at-home tests because they weren’t able to provide accurate results or recommendations for what to do based on those results.”
The couple launched Orchid, a health tech startup that helps men and women access accurate fertility testing technology at home. Users can order fertility testing kits online, which come with educational resources that explain fertility testing results in easy-to-understand terms.
“We spent months sifting through publications trying to figure out if we needed to get fertility tests, how long it may take to conceive, and if there was anything we could do to improve our chances of conceiving,” Brandon said. “We soon realized there’s no accurate all-in-one fertility testing kit on the market with easy-to-understand instructions.”
The two engineers (Allison has a bachelor’s in chemical and biomolecular engineering while Brandon has his in chemical engineering) started talking about their idea in the fall of 2020. By August 2021, the couple began selling their kits online.
The kit is designed for home use to provide users accurate health information. Women can order fertility hormone testing while men can order the semen analysis kit, which is “especially useful for men to check their levels after a vasectomy,” Brandon said. Plans call for adding a male hormone test that reveals a user’s levels of testosterone and prostate-specific antigen (PSA).
The founders found a unique blood sample collection device commonly used in the fertility industry that is most widely used in drug and blood protein testing.
“You can collect your blood, and our kit keeps your sample stable without refrigeration,” Allison said. “We also provide actionable recommendations on diet and lifestyle to help you deal with out-of-whack hormone levels, all based on vetted biomedical research.”
With one in seven couples experiencing difficulties conceiving a child, the Hardings look to sell their fertility testing kits using both the direct-to-consumer model and healthcare provider partners in a business-to-business (B2B) model.
“The B2B model helps bring in revenue as we scale for high volume direct-to-consumer sales,” Brandon said. “Once we make a connection with a physician, doctors refer our kits to their patients.”
For now, the duo is keeping their full-time engineering jobs as they scale their operations. They are also looking for angel investors “to help take us to the next level,” Allison said.
Recent studies show that after a year of having unprotected sex, 15% of couples cannot conceive a child. After two years, 10% of those couples had not achieved a successful pregnancy. For couples who have been trying to conceive for more than three years without success, the likelihood of getting pregnant naturally within the next year is 1 in 4 or less.
For Orchid’s founders, that delay adds up to considerable lost time as couples struggle to discover the root causes of infertility.
“Our kits will help many discover their readiness to conceive and cut that time down drastically,” Allison said.
The featured image is of Orchid co-founders Allison (left) and Brandon Harding. Courtesy photo.