Happy International Women’s Day 2021! This holiday always means so much to us at Clue. Empowering and celebrating women and people with cycles has been fundamental to our mission from Day 1. Along with a vehement belief that technology can help women and people with cycles to advocate for themselves and their health, we hope that femtech will lead the way in more inclusive research, education and policy.
12 years ago, I was struck by the stunning absence of innovation in the area of birth control. A generation earlier, the pill had done wonders for the rights of many women. But where were the alternatives to hormonal contraception, something data-driven, personalized and modern? I saw an acute lack of dialogue around our cycles, a lack of access to essential data, information, understanding and care. I came to believe that normalizing conversations about cycles and providing access to high-quality information was crucial for people with cycles to understand this vital part of life and make informed choices for themselves.
This year’s IWD2021’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge, that “a challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.” And I truly believe that with more information about our reproductive systems, we can start to reshape the conversations around our health and sexuality in personal relationships, with doctors, and in the culture at large. This is still a very new space, but I hope that with time, apps like Clue can help democratize bodily knowledge for women and people with cycles, and help them to understand their cycles and overall health.
The vision was always that Clue would one day support women and all people with cycles through every life stage. And top of the list was the most pressing need in female health: the need for access to safe, affordable, private, scientifically proven birth control. And now, I am proud to share that we have achieved a major milestone toward our big vision: Clue Birth Control, the first 100% digital contraceptive app, has been approved by the FDA and cleared for use in the United States.
Choosing a form of contraception is a very personal decision, with different methods presenting different trade-offs. Which of those to prioritize should be a woman’s informed choice, and that choice may well change in different phases of her reproductive life. I do think that Clue Birth Control will meet the needs of many people who, like me 12 years ago, are looking for a non-hormonal fertility awareness method that is clinically tested, rigorously regulated and still easy to use; with no daily measurements, no particular lifestyle requirements and no need for hardware.
This launch signals a new chapter for Clue as a medical device company in the United States, with our sights set on bringing this new feature to people with cycles in countries around the world. It’s an ambitious vision — one that requires a new set of skills to work with regulators, to continue and strengthen our partnerships with scientific researchers and build new features at a global scale. It’s incredibly humbling to see this dream — the spark that came through me 12 years ago — continuing to evolve into something tangible and thereby bringing technology to reproductive health in order to meet a huge and global need for information, and agency over our own bodies.
As I look at the road ahead, I have decided to welcome in new leadership to serve our users and Clue, into this next phase of growth and innovation — someone who understands the weight of our promise to people with cycles and is committed to keeping that promise every single day. In order to bring Clue Birth Control to users across the world, we also need someone with expert levels of experience partnering with regulators, civil society organizations and scientists committed to bringing safe, trusted products to people wherever they are. And, we need someone with extensive product experience — rooted in equal parts in science, empathy and technology — who has brought digital products to global audiences at scale.
It’s rare that you find such a leadership unicorn. Luckily for Clue, we have two leaders in our organization who are passionate about our users and our team, who have these specialized skills in spades, and who model teamwork and partnership that I believe can be an example for the technology industry at large. Choosing to challenge also means challenging traditional notions of what leadership and success looks like.
I am proud to announce that Carrie Walter, formerly Clue’s General Counsel, and Audrey Tsang, formerly Clue’s Chief Product Officer, are stepping up to lead Clue as Co-CEOs. Our mission is about making the world work for women and everyone else with a cycle, so it seems only fitting that we find a new way to lead through a collaborative, supportive and equal Co-CEO relationship that embodies our mission, vision, and culture. I love how Carrie and Audrey articulate their work as Co-CEOs:
About being Co-CEOs, Audrey says: “I look at this as a design challenge - leaving aside the old hero-CEO model, how can we design leadership to work best for the organization and the mission, and to be fun and fulfilling for who we are? How can we intentionally build in accountability, discipline and courage by design? We’ve chosen this setup because it’s agile, our skill sets complement each other, and it increases the learning edge at every turn”.
Carrie adds, “Right - once you accept that good leadership is collaborative, which I think it’s always been at Clue, the question is only how to collaborate. I love 1:1 conversation. And it’s a common experience that our most robust and our most creative ideas are born in a collaborative process. As a female-lead company, Clue’s in a great place to actually just experiment with ways of working that suit us - there is something quite macho about the assumption that leadership has to peak in just one dominant individual. To me, Audrey, our dialogue feels like thinking, but with a brain-upgrade.”
This smart and bold approach is exactly what I want for Clue. I will be stepping into a new role as a Chairwoman of Clue’s Board, where I will continue to be deeply involved in defining Clue’s vision and supporting Carrie and Audrey in their new executive roles. Please join me in welcoming Audrey and Carrie and celebrating Clue in this next chapter of our company story - and the larger history of reproductive health.
As Carrie and Audrey are stepping into this new role together, I invite each of you to join them. Step into new spaces and ways of leadership. Challenge convention and the molds we’ve been given. This is what Clue is about, and we know we are up for the challenge and the joy of showing the world that there’s another way.