Early 2019-founded pregnancy and fertility startup Stix just raised a $3.5 million seed round of fundraising, cofounders Cynthia Plotch and Jamie Norwood announced Wednesday.
The pair, both former Venture for America fellows, launched the 2021 RealLIST Startups list maker after their own uncomfortable experiences purchasing pregnancy tests. They realized there were droves of women in the same situation, or who had a lack of access to fertility products. Stix products are designed alongside doctors and ship directly to a customer’s house in discreet packaging via one-off orders or through its subscription service.
The company has also introduced other healthcare products like ovulation tests, prenatal vitamins, UTI tests and pain relief. Last spring, the company hosted a “sanity series,” a set of virtual events focusing on mental health and relationships. They’ve since growth their Stix Library, a host of virtual resources and first-person stories around birth control, fertility, sex and relationships.
Resolute Ventures and SWAT Equity Partners co-led the company’s seed round, with participation from previous investors Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, Bullish and strategic angel investors.
When the pandemic hit last year, the duo said they realized how important direct-to-consumer shipping was for women in states where women’s healthcare is more restricted or were locked down heavily because of the virus. And events over the last year have clarified the ways in which the healthcare system “doesn’t work for us,” Plotch said.
Plotch said she and Norwood learned a lot about fundraising during their time in VfA, and through trial by fire — pitching their businesses and having a hundred conversations with investors and people in the VC world. While she said they didn’t specifically seek out women investors, the nature of the company means they look to work with “deeply empathetic” people in general. (At least one investor who ended up funding the startup was a woman.)
“Raising as a woman is hard, and I’m a white woman, which is important to mention,” Plotch said. “As a founder, you feel like you’re there to solve a problem, and it’s harder when a majority of people across the table from you just don’t have that problem.”
But the remote world of the pandemic created has made it easier than ever to connect with investors that would normally take a plane ride to reach, she said.
“It has never been easier to raise money in Philadelphia,” the founder said. “People have come to appreciate building in places like Philadelphia and believe in it in a different way.”
The funding will allow Stix to grow its current team of eight to 11 or 12 by the end of the year, and expand its marketing, supply chain and customer experience teams. (See current open roles on the company’s site.) Current employees will move into a space at Bond Collective coworking space in Center City next month, Plotch said.
“SWAT Equity Partners evaluates brands based on factors that demonstrate how a company can stand the test of time and build brand equity,” Partner Sarah Foley said in a statement. “We believe the unique value proposition Stix provides women to confidently make empowered choices about their health makes it stand out in the market.”