From the moment that Will Sacks and Kati Bicknell met at the Reno Airport in 2009, they knew they wanted to make something together. Kati was flying into Reno and needed a ride to Burning Man, and she found a car share from Will on the Reno craigslist. “We started scheming instantly about things to create together. Like literally minute one. In the hotel room after Burning Man we had this idea to start a charter city and Kati started writing it all down on napkins. We made a fake company at Burning Man. We were going to rebrand Cheez-Its as burner chow.” Unfortunately, “burner chow” and their charter city didn’t happen, but Kati and Will continued producing ideas until one finally fit.
A few months later, Will and Kati had their best creative idea yet. Kati started practicing the Fertility Awareness Method and she shared her experiences with Will. The Fertility Awareness Method is a family planning system based on a woman’s observation of physiological signs of the fertile and infertile phases of her menstrual cycle. The method is relatively simple, each morning a woman records her cervical secretion and her body temperature, then she applies this data to a calculated chart which determines her time of fertility and infertility. This method can be used to avoid or plan pregnancy. In 1950, Dr. John Billings, an Australian physician, created the ovulation method of family planning which was the first natural method that linked cervical secretion to fertility awareness. Although not widely used in the United States, there have been many studies proving that the FAM does actually work. In 2007, the Oxford Journal published a study by P. Frank-Herrmann on the Fertility Awareness Method. The study stated that, “The STM [Fertility Awareness Method] is a highly effective family planning method, provided the appropriate guidelines are consistently adhered to.” Despite the long history and positive results of the Fertility Awareness Method, the technology used to support it has been outdated and frustrating. In Kati’s own words, “This is a really valid method of contraception that’s almost impossible to practice because the technology around it is so bad. It wasn’t a matter of ‘let’s make it better.’ It was like, ‘I need to use this and I need to have a tool that I can use.’”
One week later, Kati and Will began talking about creating their own company centered on the Fertility Awareness Method. Will wanted to be an entrepreneur since high school but his only background in fertility was his 8th grade health class. Luckily, Kati had taken a Doula training course where she “really got a sense of how women’s bodies function.” Through her yoga practice, Kati also gained a holistic approach to healing. “I have a trust in the body to heal itself given the right environment. If you’re taking care of yourself and you’re conscious about what you’re doing and what you put in your body it’ll function more awesomely than if you’re just trying to cover everything up with pharmaceuticals and devices.” With Will’s business skills and Kati’s healing knowledge, the two of them came together to create Kindara, an online Fertility Awareness application that you can use to chart your cycle to avoid or assist in becoming pregnant.
Now, two years later Kati and Will are entering their second round of fundraising. The website charting software is currently available at Kindara.com and they plan to offer a mobile application in the next six months. The journey from great idea to functioning business is just as difficult as you might think. Kati and Will learned the hard way that talking to your customer base is hugely important. Initially, the duo created the web application based on Kati’s specification, without really talking to their customer base. After the initial beta round and doing customer interviews, they realized that most customers actually wanted a mobile application.
The business has also tested their friendship causing them to analyze how they communicate. Will is a male engineer and Kati is a female artists, both of them come from very different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Their differences enable them to have a variety of perspectives but deciding on which idea works best for each situation can become daunting. Since founding Kindara they’ve had to ride the waves: sometimes feeling productive and accomplished while at other times feeling murky, stalled and lacking confidence.
Despite the uncertainty and struggles, the upswing can be very satisfying. One of the best stories of Kindara happened while Kati was out of town for a weekend. On a rainy Saturday day, Will decided to go to a fertility awareness workshop with a friend of his. While at the workshop Will met a woman who loved fertility awareness and wanted a wireless thermometer (a technology that Will and Kati are currently developing). The woman ended up writing Kindara a check for $10,000 to help fund the new hardware.
Will and Kati have a lot of knowledge to share as two young entrepreneurs, but the main message they have is, you’ve got to be in it to win it. Kati lays it all down, “Pick a topic that you’re really passionate about that you actually really care about bringing into the world. It’s going to get so hard at times that if that end goal isn’t so big that you’re willing to sacrifice absolutely everything in your life to get it then you won’t do it. The business won’t succeed because it’s going to take every shred of everything that you have just to bring it to fruition. I say that after two years of being in it. It’s not easy.” Kati and Will spent a lot of time in the last two years learning new skills, asking others for feedback, being open to change and riding the ups and downs that come with working on a big project. It has pushed their boundaries and enabled personal growth. Will explains his feelings about Kindara, “If you believe in it, it gives you the resolve at the deepest level to make it work. Just like all the art at Burning Man. People just don’t make art because they think it’d be kind of cool to make a big piece of art and get it out there. You really need to have a vision that you want to come into existence. The business is the same. Kindara is an art project for us, something we’re creating because it needs to exist.”
Having the resolve to keep going no matter what the circumstances is a trait that most burners share. After spending some time in the Black Rock Desert, our perception changes and the impossible no longer exists. Will and Kati definitely have the Burning Man vibe in their positive energy, passion and drive. When asked about Burning Man’s influence on their business, Kati had this to say, “Just being open to unconventional solutions to problems is a big part of it to me. We go to Burning Man! We’ve survived on so little and with so much creativity. Doing that every year makes me feel like I can do that in my real life. In this life, I can literally do anything. We can take more risks. We can live in a tent if we needed to. It’s never going to come to that but knowing that if it came down to it, I could survive in the desert makes me feel pretty invincible.”
Kati and Will are about to embark on yet another adventure. Kindara was recently accepted into the Haxlr8r program in Shenzhen, China. Haxlr8r is a very competitive accelerator program which helps start-ups with hardware prototypes become successful companies through product development, connecting with investors, customer testing and other amazing opportunities. Kati and Will we be flying out to Shenzhen on February 28th where they’ll work on Kindara from March until June. At the conclusion of the program they’ll head to the bay area and meet with investors. Burn After Reading can’t wait to see what the duo and their company will come up with over the next three months.