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September 16, 2015

bluDiagnostics: Success in Pitching & Predicting Pregnancy

Q&A with Katie Brenner, Founder of bluDiagnostics


Katie Brenner
Image source: Madison.com


Q: Tell us about your company, bluDiagnostics.

A: At bluDiagnostics, our mission is to help women to understand their bodies and take control of their fertility. There are 6.2 million women of childbearing age in the U.S. today, and over 30% of them fear that they have some problem with their fertility. Twenty-five percent of U.S. women will struggle at some point in their lives to become pregnant, and they are currently spending over $700 million annually on fertility-related testing. Current options include over-the-counter tests that give yes/no answers and tell them little about what their bodies are actually doing, or months of expensive, inconvenient blood tests and ultrasounds. There is currently no comprehensive, convenient, affordable solution that gives women the information that they need to accelerate the path to pregnancy. bluDiagnostics will fill that void with an all-in-one product that quantitatively measures fertility-related hormones with a small saliva sample.

Q: You recently won the Governor's Business Plan Contest, Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce's Pressure Chamber, and the Doyenne Group's 5x5x5. Coming off these wins, how have you grown as an entrepreneur through your recent experiences?

A: Each opportunity helps us to strengthen our story and to identify areas where we need to do some work to move Fertility Finder one step closer to helping women. I have been so encouraged over the past few months to realize that this truly is an important idea, filling a need that many people deeply understand. I have also seen the value in doing something you care a lot about. There are a lot of highs and lows in entrepreneurship. What keeps our team going is that we know that what we are doing will change lives and truly help people in a powerful, meaningful way.

bluDiagnostics wins Pressure Chamber pitch contest
Image source: xconomy.com/wisconsin
Q: Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs looking at entering these competitions?

A: Take a look at what you are doing. Why are you doing it? That pain-point needs to really bug you and keep you up at night, and you need to communicate that very clearly when you pitch.

Q: Tell us a little about how you bridge your roles as scientist and entrepreneur?

A: They are one in the same. All scientists are business people --they have to hypothesize that there is a need (in research, it is a topic that really needs to be understood in order to better the world or society); they need to tell their story well to funding agencies (NSF, NIH, etc.); then they have to hustle, get it done, and meet deadlines in order to keep their funding and get more. I would also say that if you have done a Ph.D., I think you have the tenacity to be an entrepreneur. Research is a continual experience of highs (exciting results) and lows (experiments or directions of thought that don't work out). You learn to have stamina, stay optimistic, and push hard to find the solution. I'd say my training in my Ph.D. prepared me really well for entrepreneurship.

Q: What about the Madison Region has allowed your company to be successful here?

A: We have an incredible network of mentors, resources (many free), and startups that have gone before us. I find that people in Madison and in Wisconsin in general are very approachable, and I appreciate that there is a culture of reaching back to help those who are after us. We drew upon many mentors and advisers to get to where we are, and we'll continue to rely upon them as we go forward. We feel very lucky to be in Madison!