The direct-to-consumer (D-to-C) universe is filled with a seemingly infinite amount of categories, let alone brands. Mattresses, toothbrushes, clothing, sneakers, razors, and now, we can add men’s fertility to that list.
Dadi, a new men’s health startup dedicated to fertility and sperm storage, believes the time is ripe for men to bypass the stuffy doctor’s office and deposit sperm into an FDA-licensed, yet patent pending, fertility and sperm storage kit from the comforts of their home.
“We’re really looking to empower men with the knowledge and information on their fertility to allow them to be active and participate in the conversation around family planning,” said Dadi co-founder and CEO Tom Smith.
According to a study in health journal Andrology, one in six couples has fertility issues, with little research or emphasis on how men factor into the equation. Smith said that while the industry hasn’t really evolved in “30 to 40 years” neither has the way men approach reproductive health. But Silicon Valley wants to change that.
“Traditionally, men haven’t been in the habit of thinking about their fertility, and unlike in the women’s healthcare space, there’s no existing provider relationship to change that or start the conversation,” said Yoni Rechtman, associate at Tusk Ventures, a venture capital firm whose portfolio includes Ro, a men’s healthcare company that offers products around erectile dysfunction and other issues. “That means there’s a clearer path for men’s fertility companies to establish a direct relationship with men and to be the first and only stop on their fertility journey.”
Dadi is coming to market with $2 million in funding, led by Firstminute Capital, Third Kind Ventures and other investors.
However, despite the need for disruptors, Rechtman said men’s fertility still isn’t a relatively easy company to manage since sperm has specific storage requirements, and there’s no going back if the proper directions aren’t followed. It’s on startups to “get the science and logistics perfect from day one,” as well as changing how men think about the issue in general, said Rechtman.
“Getting men to care about their fertility will be a massive challenge and it will require companies to go beyond consumer education and brand building. Startups will need to substantively change the way we think about fertility as a society,” Rechtman said.
Part of that comes down to cost. A typical men’s fertility program, which can include a reproductive kit, storage and lab fees, can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. For example, Fairfax Cryobank, a fertility house in Virginia, lists storage fees at $395 per year or a discounted long-term plan of $2,400 for 10 years.
Dadi offers significantly lower pricing options at either $9.99 a month or $99 a year to store the sperm at the New England Cryogenic Center (NECC). The temperature controlled kit is “fairly innocuous,” said Smith, as it includes no branding. Men can deposit their sperm into it, tap a button to mix in a preservative located in the cap to keep it stable and then use a FedEx prepaid label to ship back to Dadi’s lab facility at NECC. In 24 hours, consumers can expect results about their fertility as well as a video of their sperm. During the whole process, consumers can chat with the Dadi team either through email or text.
“One of the main drivers to convince the team and myself to move into this space more seriously was just beginning to understand the discrepancy and the facts and education around fertility for couples and the total lack of understanding of how infertility is really an all gender issue,” Smith said. “Our ultimate goal is educating both men and women about male fertility and its impact on family planning.”
Potential competitors in the space like Ro welcome brands like Dadi.
“Fertility testing should be approached as a partner issue, with testing for men considered alongside tests for women,” said Zachariah Reitano, co-founder and CEO of Ro. “It’s great to see several companies making fertility testing more accessible and affordable.”
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