SABJ’s weekly “Startup Spotlight” feature will highlight founders and new businesses cropping up in the region.
The startup: Orchid Crew offers at-home fertility tests for both men and women trying to start a family.
Founded: January 2021
Home base: San Antonio
Founders: Brandon and Allison Harding
Just as Brandon and Allison Harding decided they were ready to start a family, Covid-19 hit — and there’s nothing like a worldwide pandemic to make you rethink your plans. Allison, feeling anxious, decided to hold off on trying to have a baby.
“What if by the time we’re ready to start our family, we can’t?,” She wondered.
Asking her doctor what options were available to assess her fertility, she was told no formal testing was typically available until a patient had been trying for a year. Nonetheless, Allison opted to get tests run privately — but struggled to interpret the results.
With degrees in chemical and bimolecular engineering from Johns Hopkins University, she worried that other women with no medical background must feel even more confused. The couple found the market lacked at-home tests with easy-to-understand explanations and recommendations. Moreover, the few at-home testing companies focused on measuring female hormonal health when sperm data is much more easily obtained, and half of fertility issues are related to men’s health.
Suddenly, their journey to start a family sparked an idea for a company. Brandon — also a chemical engineer — found that, according to The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, 6.7 million couples in the United States are struggling with infertility and there are 1,700 licensed reproductive endocrinologists in the country. That’s nearly 4,000 infertile couples per reproductive endocrinologist, according to Research and Markets, which provides market insights and analysis.
With so many couples struggling with infertility and a relatively small number of doctors available to help them, the couple saw an opportunity to help fulfill a need.
In January the Hardings launched Orchid Crew, which offers at-home fertility kits ranging from blood hormone tests for women, men’s sperm and urine collection and analysis kits, post-vasectomy confirmation tests and gonorrhea and chlamydia tests, since sexually transmitted infections can affect women’s fertility. The fertility kits are FDA-approved through the manufacturer.
Each kit comes with a shipping label and packaging. The patient provides a sample and returns it to Orchid Crew, which then sends it to its lab partners for analysis. Orchid Crew pays the labs per test. The company also handles the kit inventory and shipping, and prepares and sends out detailed results to the customers.
The Hardings are still expanding their network and have partnered with various local OB-GYNs and urologists, who provide information to couples about Orchid Crew. The kits can also be ordered through Orchid Crew’s website.
The product: Orchid Crew offers a range of at-home fertility kits ranging from blood hormone tests for women, men’s sperm and urine collection and analysis kits, post-vasectomy confirmation tests and gonorrhea and chlamydia tests. Each kit is performed at home and comes with a shipping label and packaging.
Funding: The Hardings have bootstrapped the company, putting $20,000 into it for design, marketing, printing shipping labels and seeking out labs for partnerships. They are currently in talks with investors, and hope to raise $250,000 in an initial seed round. The company has been distributing the kits since August, and the Hardings project revenue of $500,000 within the next several years. In addition to running Orchid Crew, both currently work as engineers at Vintage Air, an automotive aftermarket manufacturer.
The goal: The Hardings hope to acquire their own in-house lab, which would increase both profit and and efficiency. And, while they’ve focused their marketing strategy and partner network on Texas as a starting point, they also plan to expand their national footprint.