Founders Friday 004 Life As A NonTechnical CoFounder with Will Sacks, The Fertility King @ Kindara

Summary Notes


In this episode of the 20 minutes VC, host Harry Stebbings interviews Will Sachs, the non-technical founder of Kindara, a fertility awareness app. Sachs shares his entrepreneurial journey, from building a solar-powered race car in college to creating successful startups, including a DVD vending machine company and a lighting company, before venturing into women's reproductive health with Kindara. The app, which assists with both pregnancy achievement and natural birth control, has garnered attention from major media outlets and grown primarily through word-of-mouth by focusing on user needs. Sachs discusses the challenges of transitioning from app development to creating connected devices, emphasizing the importance of a strong team, understanding fundraising, and maintaining company growth during funding rounds. He also highlights the significance of having a mission-driven narrative to attract team members and investors, aiming for Kindara to become the leading women's health app worldwide.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Will Sachs and Kindara

  • Will Sachs is the founder of Kindara, a fertility awareness app.
  • Kindara provides tools for women to understand and control their fertility.
  • The app has been featured in major publications like Buzfeed, Huffington Post, Forbes, and the New York Times.
  • Will Sachs is a non-technical founder who has created a successful startup.

"I'm so delighted to welcome the brilliant Will Sachs, founder at Kindara, the fertility awareness app that provides tools to understand your fertility and be in control of your own body."

This quote introduces Will Sachs and his app, Kindara, emphasizing its purpose in fertility awareness and control, as well as its recognition in the media.

Kindara's Purpose and Uses

  • Kindara is a reproductive health platform for women.
  • It offers a popular app on iOS and Android, and a connected fertility device.
  • The app helps women trying to conceive by tracking and analyzing fertility signs.
  • Kindara can also be used as a natural method to avoid pregnancy, with effectiveness comparable to the pill.

"If a woman is trying to get pregnant, Kindara can be an incredibly valuable tool to help her do that. It's based on tracking fertility signs and then analyzing those signs so a woman and her partner can understand what's going on with their bodies and what's going on with their fertility and help them get pregnant faster."

This quote explains how Kindara aids women in getting pregnant by tracking and analyzing fertility signs, providing insight into their reproductive health.

Will Sachs' Background and Career

  • Will grew up in Canada and studied engineering.
  • He found his engineering classes boring and not directly applicable to his life.
  • Will built a solar-powered race car in college, sparking his interest in creating tangible projects.
  • He has founded several companies, including a DVD vending machine company and a lighting company.
  • His interest in fertility and reproductive health led to the creation of Kindara.
  • Will has lived in various places, including Canada, New York, China, and currently resides in Boulder, Colorado.

"I grew up in Canada. I studied engineering... And then I got interested through a conversation with my wife in fertility and reproductive health and started Kindara."

This quote provides a brief overview of Will Sachs' background, his journey from engineering student to entrepreneur, and how a personal conversation led to the founding of Kindara.

Development of Kindara

  • Will Sachs faced the decision of whether to learn to code or hire someone else for development.
  • He chose to hire someone to focus on building the company rather than developing the app himself.
  • A friend was brought on board, possibly as a CTO, to assist with the early stages of development.
  • Will's focus was on learning entrepreneurship and building a product that people wanted to use.

"No, that was a big question at the beginning, because right when we started, I was thinking, should I teach myself to code?... And I decided that the skill set I wanted more was how to build a company."

Will Sachs discusses the pivotal decision not to learn coding but instead to focus on the broader skills needed to build a company, indicating his strategic choice towards entrepreneurship over technical development.

Reflections on Learning to Code vs. Building a Company

  • Will Sachs reflects on the different paths of learning to code versus learning to build a company.
  • He expresses contentment with his choice not to become a developer, as coding did not align with his personal interests or strengths.
  • Will values building a team, raising money, motivating people, and communicating a vision over the technical aspects of development.

"For me, I'm happy that I didn't become a developer, and just because that's not really what feeds my soul... So I think for me, the right answer was to focus on how to build a team, how to build a company, how to raise money, how to motivate people, how to communicate a vision."

In this quote, Will Sachs articulates his satisfaction with his decision to focus on the entrepreneurial aspects of his business rather than the technical coding skills, highlighting the importance of aligning business roles with personal strengths and passions.## Building the Product

  • Will Sachs discusses the importance of aligning product development with personal skills and interests.
  • He emphasizes the value of building traction for a product by personally engaging in the development process if it aligns with one's skills.
  • For those who enjoy coding and product development, building it themselves can be greatly beneficial.

"Like, if somebody likes coding and that's what feeds them, I think it's a great option to just build it yourself and get it out there, get users build some traction, and then all of that is worth a lot."

This quote underlines the recommendation for individuals who are passionate about coding to take the initiative to develop their product, as the process can be rewarding and add significant value.

Wireframing and Design

  • Will Sachs highlights his proficiency in conceptualizing products and creating wireframes.
  • He describes his process of hiring a designer to enhance the wireframes and a CTO to build the product.
  • Sachs recommends Balsamic for wireframing and also praises the utility of pencil and paper for creating mockups.

"I think that's where my skills end. It ends with the wireframe. So I can make the wireframe and understand the user flow and the user experience that we're going for."

The quote explains Sachs's self-awareness of his skillset boundaries, focusing on wireframing and user experience before handing off to a designer and CTO.

Male CEO of a Female-Focused Product

  • Will Sachs discusses his evolution from discomfort to confidence in leading a female fertility product as a male CEO.
  • He acknowledges the taboo nature of discussing fertility and reproductive health, especially in the US.
  • Sachs shares his personal journey of learning about fertility charting through his wife, which gave him credibility and insight into the product.

"And so it's cool for me to be able to know what I know about it now and to talk about that to other, you know, Katie and I came to this from the birth control angle."

Sachs expresses the unique perspective he brings as a male CEO in a female-focused market and how personal experience has informed his understanding and communication about the product.

Empathy and Team Composition

  • Despite lacking personal experience with a menstrual cycle, Sachs acknowledges the importance of understanding his limitations.
  • He notes the significance of having a predominantly female team at Kindara and believes it contributes to the company's mission.

"And we've got a 70% female team and I think that's important."

The quote highlights the company's commitment to gender equality and the belief that a diverse team is essential for the company's mission, especially given the nature of the product.

Community Engagement and Growth

  • Will Sachs attributes the growth of Kindara to the attention given to the user community and responsiveness to their feedback.
  • He recommends the book "Traction" by Gabriel Weinberg for understanding different growth strategies.
  • Sachs emphasizes the importance of listening to user feedback and implementing desired features as a way to foster community and growth.

"And so the way that we've grown is by fostering our community, like being incredibly attentive to what our users want in the product, and then giving it to them and telling them, hey, we listened to what you said you wanted, now we built it. Here it is."

This quote explains the strategy behind Kindara's growth, which is centered on engaging with the user community and responding to their needs to create a loyal and engaged user base.## Lean Startup Approach and Initial Product Launch

  • Will Sachs discusses the company's launch in 2012 during the popularity of the lean startup movement.
  • They focused on creating a minimum viable product (MVP) and launched an initial version of their app on iOS with only two screens.
  • After launch, they received immediate user feedback, with 10 out of 50 users reaching out with suggestions for improvements.
  • Will emphasizes the importance of being attentive to user needs and building the product around serving those needs.

"We spent two weeks coding and then launched what we had. So it barely did anything. It was like a very initial version of the app on iOS, only it had two screens and barely did anything."

This quote highlights the company's lean approach to product development, focusing on getting a basic version out quickly to gather user feedback.

Audience Growth Strategies

  • Will Sachs attributes the growth of their audience primarily to word of mouth.
  • He references Seth Godin's circles of marketing diagram, stressing the importance of having a quality product at the core of marketing efforts.
  • The company's strategy was to make the product so good that users would naturally recommend it to others.

"Yeah, I think for us it's been mostly word of mouth, honestly. And that word of mouth has come from building a product that really serves people's needs."

This quote underlines the effectiveness of word-of-mouth marketing driven by a product that fulfills user needs.

Fundraising Experience

  • Will Sachs mentions that the company has raised approximately $1.7 million in angel and venture capital (VC) funding.
  • He reflects on the challenges of fundraising, particularly when lacking experience and knowledge.
  • Will discusses the difficulty of balancing the act of fundraising with running the company, especially when both demand full-time attention.

"I think the hardest part was that at the beginning, I didn't know what I didn't know."

This quote captures the initial challenge faced by Will due to a lack of knowledge about fundraising and startup management.

Balancing Company Growth and Fundraising

  • Will Sachs describes the process of keeping the company growing while also engaging in fundraising as one of the hardest challenges.
  • He explains that fundraising is like a full-time job and requires a significant amount of energy and focus.
  • Will shares that in later funding rounds, it became easier to manage because he could dedicate himself entirely to fundraising while the team kept the company running.

"I've always found that to be incredibly difficult because fundraising takes so much energy. It's like a full time job and then some, and then running a company is like a full time job and then some."

This quote emphasizes the intense effort required to manage fundraising in parallel with running a company.

Advice for Founders on Fundraising

  • Will Sachs suggests that founders educate themselves about fundraising before starting the process.
  • He recommends reading articles by Paul Graham and Mark Andreessen to understand the dynamics of fundraising and common reasons startups fail to get funded.
  • Will advises ensuring that the startup's plan, company, and team are fundable before seeking investment.

"And the step one would be just educate yourself about fundraising. Spend a week reading everything you can on people's experiences."

This quote advises founders to thoroughly educate themselves on fundraising to be prepared and use the right terminology.

"Mark Andreessen also has another great article on fundraising, which is basically like all the reasons your startup won't get funded."

This quote suggests learning from the insights of successful venture capitalists to avoid common pitfalls in fundraising.## Transitioning from App to Hardware

  • Transitioning to hardware from software is more challenging due to increased capital requirements and longer development timelines.
  • Hardware development creates a competitive advantage because it is difficult to replicate quickly.
  • A different skill set is necessary for hardware, including firmware, mechanical, and electrical engineering expertise.
  • Will Sachs advises finding experienced people who understand the challenges of building connected devices.

"Yeah. So hardware is harder, I would say, than software. It takes more capital. The turnaround time from when you have an idea to when you actually have a product that works and is ready to go is much longer." "Just because hardware is hard, it's not easy. People can't rip you off in a weekend hackathon like they can with an app, potentially." "So if anybody is going to build a connected device, just make sure you find people who've done it before and know the problems that need to be solved."

These quotes highlight the inherent difficulties of transitioning to hardware, including the need for more capital, longer development cycles, and the necessity of specialized personnel.

The Narrative Behind Kindara

  • Will Sachs uses a powerful narrative to attract people to Kindara, focusing on the gender disparities in society.
  • Kindara's mission is to empower women by providing technology that helps them understand and manage their health.
  • The vision of equality and empowerment is a key motivator for team members and investors.

"The narrative that I told and that I still tell is that in our society, it still sucks to be a woman in so many ways." "And Kandara is a company that exists to create beautiful technology for women, to help empower them around their bodies and their health so that they can feel good in their bodies and feel respected and celebrated."

These quotes underscore the narrative used by Will Sachs to inspire involvement in Kindara, emphasizing the societal need for gender equality and the role of technology in empowering women.

Business Books and Lean Startup Principles

  • Will Sachs's favorite business books are "Four Steps to the Epiphany" by Steve Blank and "Lean Startup" by Eric Ries.
  • He finds the concept of 'viable' in MVP (Minimum Viable Product) challenging, as it's hard to determine when a product is polished enough to be viable.

"Book first, I think four steps to the epiphany by Steve Blank and Lean startup by Eric Reese." "Yeah, I mean, the v in MVP viable, that's the hard one."

The quotes discuss Will Sachs's preferred business literature and his perspective on the difficulties of applying the lean startup methodology, particularly in defining the viability of a product.

Challenges of Being a Founder

  • Will Sachs describes the journey of founding a company as a marathon, not a sprint, and emphasizes the importance of pacing oneself.

"I think the hardest thing is that it's a marathon, and a lot of people think it's a sprint, and I thought it was a sprint at the beginning, and it's not a sprint, it's a marathon."

This quote reflects the challenge of maintaining long-term endurance and perspective when starting and growing a company.

Inspirational Figures and Resources

  • Steve Jobs comes to mind for Will Sachs when thinking of a successful founder.
  • He enjoys Brad Feld's blog 'Feld Thoughts' for its mix of venture capital insights and personal reflections on entrepreneurship.

"Steve Jobs." "I really like Brad Feld's blog. Feld thoughts."

These quotes reveal Will Sachs's sources of inspiration and resources for entrepreneurial guidance.

Future Vision for Kindara

  • Will Sachs envisions Kindara becoming the leading women's health app globally, supporting women from their first period to menopause.
  • He aims to develop a suite of connected devices to facilitate better understanding and management of women's health.

"So in five years, I want Kindara to be the go to women's health app for women all over the world." "I want us to be able to offer value and help them understand their cycles better and to have a suite of connected devices that make that easier."

The quotes lay out the long-term goals for Kindara, focusing on widespread adoption and the development of technology to aid women's health.

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