Swiss founded startup NaturalCycle, which has been testing its contraception app in the Nordics since last December has now opened it up to the U.K. market, making its first move to scale the subscription service which aims to offer women an alternative to hormone based contraception methods such as the pill.
The app (on iOS and Android) works in conjunction with a basal body thermometer to give the user an indication of safe days to have sex if they’re not trying to get pregnant. It’s amassed around 10,000 active users since launching the service in Sweden last December.
NaturalCycles was founded in June last year by former CERN researcher Elina Berglund — who was involved with the search and discovery of the Higgs Boson particle — and her husband Raoul Scherwitzl, who also has a PhD in physics, attracting $500,000 in angel funding to get the business off the ground.
The startup told TechCrunch it’s now in the process of raising a $1.2 million VC funding round which it plans to use to fund development of a wireless thermometer to get around the current requirement for the user to manually enter their body temperature into the app every morning.
There are a number of startups offering fertility monitoring services for couples seeking to get pregnant, such as DuoFertility, which also involves using a thermometer to monitor the woman’s body temperature, or the Max Levchin backed Glow app, or big data capture plays like Ovuline and Celmatix. But NaturalCycles is putting the emphasis on the other side of the coin: addressing women (and couples) who want to have sex without getting pregnant, and are looking for an alternative to tradition barrier contraception or hormone-based methods.
When used properly NaturalCycles claims it’s highly effective at pinpointing a woman’s fertile window. The app uses a color code system with red meaning there’s a risk of pregnancy if the user has sex on that day, or green for when it’s algorithm is 99.9% sure there’s no risk of pregnancy.
It claims its accuracy is superior to apps that rely on period tracking (of which there are many in the app stores) to estimate fertility, since aspects of women’s monthly cycles, such as the length of the luteal phase, vary from person to person — making counting days a less certain fertility predictor. NaturalCycle says in 202,544 days of its service being used there have been zero unwanted pregnancies.
The app can map the user’s cycle with up to five months foresight. As the user enters more data, allowing the algorithm to better identify her ovulation day, the number of green days will increase.
NaturalCycle’s business model is a subscription service, with users paying a monthly fee — of between $7 or $10, depending on how long they sign up for. It also offers a one year package, costing $59.90, which includes the cost of the thermometer.