Workplace

Home sperm-testing kits and fertility trackers: The hottest new employee benefit

Fertility startups Ava and Legacy have a unique value proposition for companies: Include us in your benefits offerings, and we’ll save you money and help you retain and attract talent.

Ava app and watch on a bedside table

Just as tech companies are offering apps like Headspace as part of a push towards mental health support, they’re also offering newfangled fertility-tracking kits as part of the company’s benefits package.

Photo: Ava

The Great Resignation has forced employers to start getting creative with benefits in efforts to retain and attract the best talent. The latest frontier: fertility trackers and home sperm-testing kits.

Fertility benefits like IVF and egg-freezing have long been common in the tech industry, with companies like Facebook offering employees access to IVF assistance as part of their benefits packages since 2014. Just as tech companies are offering apps like Calm and Headspace as part of a push towards mental health support, they’re also offering newfangled fertility-tracking kits as part of the company’s benefits package.

Protocol spoke to the CEOs of two of these fertility assistance companies, Ava and Legacy, about why companies are considering these benefits. Ava offers a bracelet which uses sensory tech to detect the wearer’s fertile window in real time, while Legacy offers home sperm-testing and freezing kits.

Both tools have a similar value proposition for companies interested in expanding their fertility benefits. The big one: retention. According to a December 2021 report from Maven Clinic and Great Place to Work, companies that double down on benefits are seeing the results. Organizations that were perceived as offering 'special and unique' benefits were twice as likely to retain their working parents.

In the “war for talent,” adding more benefits is a no-brainer, according to Lea von Bidder, the CEO and co-founder of Ava. “You want your employees to be less stressed and less absent, which often happens with infertility,” she told Protocol.

Khaled Kteily, the founder and CEO of Legacy, agrees. “You’re literally helping your employees create life,” he said. “It’s a very profound kind of benefit to be able to offer, more so than offering free snacks in your cafeteria.” Both Ava and Legacy are partnered with Carrot, WINFertility and Maven, the fertility benefits providers that work with Slack, Peloton, Snap, Box, Masterclass and others.

Ava and Legacy are capitalizing on the competition for talent, and they’re not alone. Career platform The Muse will be adding fertility benefits as a filter option for its job search feature by the end of March 2022, according to a company spokesperson. CEO Kathryn Minshew says they added the feature in response to user survey feedback, as well as feedback from employer clients listing jobs on the site who want to differentiate their companies from the competition.

The other selling point is the cost savings benefit for the company. According to von Bidder, the average pregnancy in the U.S. conceived through fertility treatments costs around $70,000, and about one in eight couples have to go through treatments to get pregnant. By comparison, Ava costs anywhere from $299 to $399.

Legacy kit Photo: Legacy

Ava’s aim is to help couples conceive before they even have to get to the costly and invasive IVF stage. “We need to start asking ourselves, ‘Are there things we could do when you’re just trying to conceive naturally that could potentially prevent you going into further treatments or send you into those treatments faster if you need to go there?’” von Bidder said. According to her, the Ava bracelet is the first wearable technology that can detect the fertile window in real time without a urine sample, and 30% of people who have already been trying to conceive unsuccessfully get pregnant within a year after using Ava.

Kteily agrees on the cost savings benefit. Legacy is $195 upfront, with optional sperm freezing at between $100 to $150. Meanwhile, sperm collection at a clinic costs anywhere from $500 to $1000. Employers also receive a discount on the product when they purchase it for their employees, typically anywhere from 10 to 15%.

Ava is covered by three of the biggest fertility benefits providers: Carrot, WINFertility and Maven. This means that around 80% of employees who receive fertility benefits through their employer can get an Ava bracelet as a paid employee benefit. This business is significant compared to Ava’s direct consumer purchases, and von Bidder believes that it will be “even more relevant for us” in the future. Likewise, Legacy is the preferred at-home sperm-testing tool for most of the major fertility benefits providers, including Progyny, Carrot, Maven and Kindbody.

Both companies have spent a lot of their venture investments on R&D, since reproductive health is an under-examined issue, according to the two chief executives. Kteily and von Bidder agreed that fertility, while a misunderstood topic, is an important one.

“Sperm is, believe it or not, not a topic that the average person is super well versed in,” Kteily told Protocol. Studies have shown that sperm counts have gone down 50% to 60% between 1973 and 2011. As researchers continue to examine the causes of this decline, the leading theories ascribe it to chemicals in our environment: “It’s phthalates, it’s hormone disruptors, endocrine disruptors, it’s BPA,” he explained.

Legacy now tests more sperm than any fertility clinic in the country and freezes more of it than any sperm bank in the country, according to Kteily. “As I said at our last board meeting, we are drowning in sperm,” he said.

In Kteily’s opinion,“infertility is a much more common issue than we think, and we’ve only ever talked about it as a women’s issue.” He and von Bidder are aiming to change that conversation, with the help of corporate America.

Correction: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Progyny. This story was updated Feb. 23, 2022.

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