Ida Tin, Co-Founder of Clue

Ida Tin is a Danish entrepreneur and author, who is the co-founder and CEO of female health app Clue (www.helloclue.com).

She is also the woman responsible for coining the term ‘femtech’.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am Ida Tin, the founder and CEO of the female health app Clue (www.helloclue.com). I started Clue because I was puzzled that there had been so little innovation in family planning, and why it still wasn’t possible for me to really know what was going on in my body related to my reproductive health – I had questions like, can I become pregnant today? Have I gotten pregnant? What side effects will I have from different types of birth control – and even a simple thing like, when will my next period come? So I started to build Clue. It is a free period tracking app, designed to help women and people who menstruate around the world track their cycles and unlock the power of their bodies. To date, Clue has over 12 million active users across more than 190 countries.

Through the Clue app, users can: track their period, symptoms of PMS, fertile window, moods and cramps; they can also log food cravings, energy levels, skin and hair quality, exercise and weight. Users can also track their birth control methods, log basal body temperature and ovulation, set reminders to alert them of when their next period is due or when they should take their oral contraception.

Our long-term goal is to be the go-to, scientifically-reliable source of information for women, addressing all aspects of their reproductive health – from their first period, through to pregnancy and menopause. We want to open up the conversation around this topic and aid in furthering research into this crucial aspect of female health.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I actually wanted to become an artist, but literally got lost in the hallways of a university in London and ended up doing an entrepreneurship course for people in the creative arts. That was in 1999, and I have been self-employed since then, I have never actually held a job anywhere other than in companies I have started myself.

I have always been fascinated with stories of strong women fighting for equality. I grew up travelling the world on motorcycles and having seen the lives of women all over the planet, and their strength, it is close to my heart to build technology than can support them in unfolding their potential – and quite literally the potential of the world. I would always encourage anyone to pursue their interests and do what they are truly passionate about – that’s the best way to decide on a career that is right for you.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I would say that in my role as a leader, the biggest challenge is to keep learning and growing as a human. There is a maybe surprising, but clear correlation between my personal growth and that of the company. I focus on what I do best, and try to be humble enough to step aside in all the many areas where people I have hired are far better than myself. This can be difficult as the company grows and in a sense, my area of responsibilities keeps shrinking. At the same time, what’s left gets harder – culture, long term strategy for the company and becoming a sustainable company in its broadest sense. And to keep defining my role myself, as the pressure from the outside to fulfill it in ways that others have before me, increases. I don’t feel I fit the mold of a traditional CEO in many ways and it takes a lot of courage to keep staying true to what I am, my potential and my desires.

In terms of the business as a whole, when Clue first started, it was a challenge trying to prove the value of what many think of as a ‘niche’ women’s product. Now “femtech” is a known category and apps like Clue affect women, science communities and crucially, culture as a whole. In this sense femtech doesn’t only encompass products for women, but instead tools and services that advance all of society, and we must keep this in mind as we seek and provide funding, and hire talent.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I would say that two of our main achievements have been when we surpassed 10, and then very quickly, 12 million global users. Knowing that the product we created was needed and was used by so many people, in over 190 countries around the world, has been a huge achievement. Similarly, launching our  website, HelloClue.com, in 2018 was a great highlight, and was one of the many examples of our company developing in response to user demand. In the course of 2017, our Support Team received over 1,000 enquiries relating to menstrual health, contraception or symptoms, which meant that the answers were not readily available online. We decided to create a resource that would address these questions and provide reliable, scientifically accurate information to anyone who might be looking for it. Launching this resource and watching it grow has been a hugely rewarding experience.

I am also both proud and grateful for the culture we have in the office, with people from all over the world and of different sexual orientations. When people tell me that for the first time in their careers they can come to work as their full selves and feel included, that makes me think that we are doing something right. I also know that as different as we are at Clue, we share a big sense of purpose doing the work we do, and that feels like both a huge resource and a gift.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I think that one of the main factors for Clue being as successful as it is, is the fact that when we started, I was surrounded by dedicated and passionate co-founders who believed in Clue as much as I do. Since then, we have grown an incredibly strong and supporting team, including our investors, all of whom share the same vision – we want to give people greater control of their own bodies, and arm them with knowledge about this fundamental aspect of their lives.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

I would advise anyone who is keen to pursue a career in technology to never hesitate in seeking advice. Entrepreneurship, even though it is hugely rewarding when you succeed, can be tough, so advice and a sympathetic ear can go a long way in helping. I would especially recommend all budding CEOs to reach out to existing technology leaders for support, advice and mentorship. By supporting one another in our pursuits, tech entrepreneurs will continue to develop and grow in whichever industry their choose.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I think we still have some way to go towards achieving gender equality within the workplace in general, and not just in technology. To do this, I think men and women alike need to support each other, and open the conversation around how we listen, or not really listen, to women’s ideas and perspectives. Women are more angry than we notice even ourselves, and we are taught to suppress this anger. This is a huge energy drain, and it also means that women don’t take, nor are given, the airtime, the space and – essentially, the power that the world would be well served to make use of. When we are angry there is most likely a good reason for it; not being met at eye level, not having our boundaries respected, not being given the opportunities we have earned. With our anger comes clarity and more space for unfolding potential. This does not mean that we should forget good communication, but that we shouldn’t just smile when we’re feeling angry.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

The best thing companies can do is listen to women – to their ideas and their concerns – and support them in achieving their aims. We should be supporting them through all areas of life, from the start of their career, through to maternity leave and their return to work. Providing adequate support and encouragement maintains talent retainment and is good business sense.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would give woman belief in themselves. Confidence that what they care about is valid, that they have good solutions to difficult problems. That they can learn along the way, and that what they think is smart. More than anything, women are often the ones holding themselves back. Be brave. That doesn’t mean be hard, or completely unafraid, or refuse to ask for help, or never fail. It means having the courage to try, and try again in the face of all these difficulties. The world needs more diverse voices to be heard, and more options for doing things in new ways. The old models are breaking, have already broken. It’s paramount that new values are expressed and lived.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I listen to audiobooks whenever I can – on my commute, as I do laundry. That’s how I get to “read” a fair amount of books because sitting down to read is not really possible in my life right now, while juggling a business and two small kids. I love listening to women who have broken the norm, fought for their communities. I also listen to lots of non-fiction about leadership, the future of technology, data, algorithms, ethics and health. And of course I love books that teach me new things about the female body. It’s an absolutely fascinating system that we still need to do much more research on. When it comes to conferences, they can be inspiring and mind opening, but also a bit overwhelming. It’s often the few deeper conversations I end up having with someone that I will remember.

I have a number of various teachers, coaches, trainers, advisers. Right now, I am particularly excited about working with a somatic body coach and a spiritual teacher.