Marcia and Gabe Deutsch have been at it for fifteen years and counting; the LA-based entrepreneur couple has been trying to perfect swift, accurate and increasingly automated semen analysis. While they have ‘conceived’ a suite of technologies to let you know all about the soldiers you're commanding, their latest is the most sophisticated one yet.
The YO Home Sperm Test, which was launched in India on Thursday, is a US FDA-cleared kit that lets one both view and measure the number of motile (moving) sperm in their sample, on their phones, from the comfort of their homes with 97 percent accuracy.
Medical Electronic Systems was established in 2002 and is the company behind the YO Home Sperm Test. Founders Marcia and Gabe Deutsch come with formidable experience in healthcare – Marcia has been a registered nurse, a nurse manager, and founded a market-topping medical bill management company for health insurance corporations. Gabriel, on the other hand, is a Certified Public Accountant who has been the CEO of various healthtech companies.
MES has been producing and supplying commercial-grade automated semen analysers for the global market for over 15 years, with over 3,500 of the company’s Sperm Quality Analyzers (SQA) installed in hospitals and independent laboratories.
YO Home Sperm Test was initially launched in the US in April 2017, marking the company’s first stride in the B2C space. Since then, thousands of YO kits have been sold, with very few problems reported.
Marcia and Gabe had actually been toying with the idea of developing a home sperm test for years. A long-standing gap in the market was that existing tests did not provide automatic results, and only measured sperm count, including even dead ones.
“Fertility potential is measured by moving sperm concentration results, and not by just counting the number of sperm, for they could all be dead. It takes a moving sperm to fertilise the egg. The problem we had was that in order to have a unique and valuable product that tested moving sperm, a computer was required to process the algorithms. When smartphone technology became mainstream, we rejoiced and decided to merge our technology and expertise with the smartphone platform,” says Marcia, who holds the position of Co-CEO.
YO was crafted to fill a specific gap – literally and figuratively.
One simply needs to collect their sperm sample in a cup provided in the kit, add in a ‘liquefying powder’, let it sit for ten minutes as the sample turns pink, and then, drip it on to the ‘YO slide’.
The YO Slide is a fixed coverslip, so the sample is both sucked into the slide and is contained within. The slide then goes into a slot of the ‘YO clip’, that gets clasped to your phone. Unprompted - Marcia clarifies that the slide and the sample on it will never come in contact with your mobile phone.
The testing device then shows a sort of X-ray video of the sperm sample using the light source and video camera of the smartphone – without any need for focusing of the image - and within two to three minutes, and displays the final results on the screen, in jargon-free understandable language. The FDA and CE cleared kit reports moving sperm concentration - a very valuable parameter to assess fertility potential and sperm health. “Its accuracy rate is over 97 percent,” Marcia claims.
There are two tests per kit – the Yo Clip being reusable. It privately and automatically saves your test results, and comes with an easy to follow app with clear step-by-step instructions.
These are proprietary algorithm-run analyses, using signal and image processing technique.
The entire process takes no longer than 20 to 25 minutes. The test results, backed by the sperm video can be shown to a doctor for further treatment if needed.
YO will be launched in Tier I and Tier II cities in India first, and can be purchased online on Medical Electronic Systems’ website and Amazon. The company is also in talks with Flipkart.
Marcia and Gabe started getting word out by showcasing YO at medical conferences and employing medical spokespersons in various countries. “You can make the mistake of thinking everything in every country is the same as your home country – it isn’t. There are different medical issues, payment methods, people can be offended in one country with the same information another embraces. To deal with this, we work with local PR firms, social media, designers so that we hopefully won’t offend people,” says Marcia.
In fact, after launching in the US in April 2017 they saw 50 percent of the orders came from women – which, they discovered, was because women make a household’s health-related decisions. That said, they grappled with generally low awareness about fertility. “There is a lot of mis-information on the web. It is our ‘mission’ to provide truthful and relevant professional information on our site and in our marketing so that people will become aware of this global problem,” she says.
Given that young millennials were their primary target, Marcia decided to tap social media to study consumer behaviour. “Learning about millennials and understanding them was my first big challenge. I didn’t even have a Facebook account and had no idea what a blog was two years ago! I embraced the learning curve, and it was a steep one. I can’t say I’m an expert now, but I’ve learned a lot and really appreciate this group of wonderful people. When you deal with distributors or other relationships in a B2B structure, you don’t really meet your final customer. With YO, we’ve been face to face with the consumer, hearing from them, interviewing them, coaching them and teaching them,” she says.
“One man wrote to us that he scored a ‘Low’ and then, as YO advised, went to see a doctor. The doctor discovered he had a varicocele and treated it to solve the original issue. Another man ran into our YO Team at the CES conference in Las Vegas. He told us he and his wife were pregnant because of YO. It identified a problem he was having which his doctor treated, and they just had their baby in April,” she says, of all the moments that have made this journey worthwhile.