Ovia co-founder and CTO Alex Baron talks about how the algorithm that became the basis for the Ovia apps went from a part of his and his wife’s personal fertility journey to playing a part in the reproductive health of Ovuline’s 3 million users worldwide.
Can you tell me a bit about how Ovia began?
I started working on the algorithm that would become Ovuline in 2010 when my wife and I were thinking about trying to start a family. I had a data science background, so I started exploring ways that I could use my skills that I could do outside of my full-time job. As I was developing the initial algorithm, and testing it, I actually tested it on my family initially, and it worked on the first try – my wife got pregnant. Our son, Michael, is now three years old – internally, in the company, we call him the ‘beta baby.’ [My wife and I] continue to use Ovia, both fertility and pregnancy, and we’re now expecting the second one, and we’re now enjoying the pregnancy product, and, hopefully soon, the parenting.
Towards the end of my graduate studies, I connected with Paris [Paris Wallace, Ovuline CEO], and we officially formed Ovuline. Shortly after that, we applied into the Techstars program and started building a larger team.
How did you find the right group?
Paris is a Harvard Business School graduate, so we connected through Harvard. To this day, I always say we have zero overlap in our skills, and I consider it a really good thing. He’s good at what he does, and, hopefully, I’m good at what I do, and we trust each other, so this was the right fit right from the beginning.
In the early days of a startup, you don’t think much about whether someone is going to be a good fit. You cannot pay any salary, so if you can convince people to spend their own time on your project, it’s already a win. Paris introduced Rory from a previous startup they worked together on. Rory brought additional technical skills and immediately took over our web frontend. This was in July 2012. In August 2012, we were accepted into Techstars, and a month or two later Gina was introduced by a common friend, I believe.
How did you go from making an algorithm to making a company? Was that always the goal?
Not necessarily. I was always interested in working on some side-projects, and this was not my first side-project, although this was the most successful one. But this time, it seemed like this idea could impact a lot of people in a very positive way, and it was something that was worth exploring much deeper. For the first year, it was an exploratory project, but by February or March 2012, there were several thousand users on the platform, and it was clear that there was enough interest. This is when the idea to create a real company with a big vision was formed.