The Blueprint has an interview with the CEO and co-founder of Ayda.
Ayda is a wearable fertility tracker. Worn only at night, Ayda enables women to effortlessly identify their most fertile days. The team moved from Ireland to take place in the Highway1 accelerator in San Francisco. We sat down with co-founder James Foody to discuss his experience in the accelerator, the future of wearables and how different the Irish hardware scene is from the Valley.
What is Ayda?
Ayda is a wearable fertility tracker. It’s worn only during sleep, and enables women to effortlessly identify their fertile days so they can maximize their chances of conceiving naturally. It’s a low cost, non-invasive option pre-IVF.
What’s your personal background?
I grew up on the West coast of Ireland in a town called Enniscrone in Sligo. I started studying electrical engineering in University College Cork (UCC) when I was 18. That was a four year degree. One of my final year modules called biodesign helped ignite my interest in entrepreneurship.
The module, unlike the others in the degree program, put engineers, clinicians and medical students in the same classroom. They would then ask consultants to come out from Cork University Hospital to pitch problems that they had in their respective disciplines.
Then teams grouped together, and they worked for two or three months to try and come up with technical concepts to solve the real world clinical problems. However, it was more commercialization focused.
The team I was working on, we ended up winning the pitch competition at the end of the program in 2012. I just got really, really into it. This was the first time I was away from just doing math and typical engineering studies. This was more of a multidisciplinary, teamwork and business orientated environment. I loved it.
I gave an eight-minute pitch on behalf of our team—Optodose—and a VC came up to me afterwards, telling me to drop out of college. He wanted to give me €50,000 for 10% of this fictitious company that I just spent 8 minutes telling him about.
At that point in time, I became very interested in biomedical startups—innovating, using technology and engineering skills to solve human problems.
I entered into a research master’s program, in UCC once I graduated from the degree. I thought I could pursue a startup through biomedical engineering research. Two of my co-founders, Josef Tugwell and Ian Kerins, were both in master’s programs at the time in UCC also.
Josef was also doing a master’s degree in biomedical engineering too. Ian was doing a master’s in business. Within a couple of weeks of the master’s programs, we had setup our first startup, which we ran secretly in the evenings and at the weekends out of our offices and out of the labs in the electrical engineering building in UCC. It was called Smudge Hardware.
We did that while trying to juggle doing our master’s. Obviously the master’s suffered quite a bit. But we did that for just over a year. We were hardware developers. We made hardware prototypes for people. It was basically a mini-consultancy. Right up until the beginning and the conception of Ayda, that’s what we were doing.
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