Fertility is a tricky subject. It’s still taboo in many cultures and not easy to talk about in public, especially if a) you’re having infertility problems or b) you’re a woman. Infertility affects up to 15 percent (PDF link) of couples worldwide and, although male infertility has been found to be the cause in about 50 percent of cases, the social burden falls “disproportionately on women.”
The co-founders believe in empowering women to make these decisions.
So women often feel like they can’t talk to anyone about such issues. That makes it hard for them to find reliable information on fertility treatments or procedures like egg freezing, which is increasingly what people turn to when they plan to have children at a later stage in their lives.
Singapore-based social enterprise Eggchill wants to serve women in Asia in a couple of ways: one, by aggregating and featuring trusted clinics and doctors around the region that provide IVF and egg freezing services, and two, by providing a forum where women can discuss, seek advice, and receive support about their fertility concerns.
“Egg freezing is not allowed in Singapore and in China,” co-founder Melissa Kwek tells Tech in Asia. So many women in the region seek solutions abroad, specifically in the US – which is both complicated and costly. Eggchill sources and highlights clinics and professionals in the region to make these women’s lives easier.
Helping through tech
A graduate of social enterprise accelerator Tech for Good Singapore’s first cohort, Eggchill was founded this year by Melissa, Khaw Xiu Tian, and Maggie Zhou. The company also has a medical consultant on board. The co-founders believe in empowering women to make these decisions and giving them a space to ask these tough questions.
“Women only share their stories when other women do it, so that’s a big part of it,” Melissa says. This helps build trust in the platform’s other services that include connecting users to the right clinics and medical professionals in the region.
“Medical services are very good in [Southeast Asia], and the prices are much lower than the US. It’s just that the information, the education is not out there,” she adds.
The startup currently has contacts in Malaysia, Thailand, and Taiwan. It’s started out with a handful of clinics in each country and plans to build from there. “[Clinics from] South Korea and even the US have contacted us so our users can have more options,” Melissa says.
Community and trust
Eggchill receives a referral fee from the clinics it sends patients to, with the understanding that clinics will not charge that extra fee to the customers. It plans to look for more ways to monetize down the road, but for now the team wants to focus on building up the community.
The startup targets users in major cities in Asia, where more women are getting married and having children over the age of 30.
While there are other startups in Asia that offer medical tourism assistance, they’re mostly faceless experiences, Melissa says. For services as sensitive as fertility treatments, IVF, and egg freezing, a more personal touch and a sense of trust is what the startup provides.
“It’s not so much a platform where you click on a choice and then you’re on your own,” Melissa offers.
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