Giving Life – Q&A With Carly Leahy


CARLY LEAHY

CO FOUNDER & CCO — MODERN FERTILITY

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This week, we were lucky enough to sit-down with COO and Co-Founder of Modern Fertility for an exclusive Q&A touching on her journey from Google, to Uber to then starting her own business. 

A

s a former Google and Uber exec, did you always have an itch to start your own business? 

I always wanted to “do my own thing” but I had no idea what that “thing” would be–a company, an podcast, a book? When Afton and I starting building Modern Fertility, we both felt really fortunate to be at a place in our lives and careers where we could take a gamble–using everything we’d learned at great companies to build something that we as women need. We went full steam ahead into Y Combinator, a startup incubator.

What was it like to be at Y Combinator? What would you say was the biggest positive and negative experience being part of the incubator? 

Y Combinator was a fascinating experience–and a whirlwind. You carve out three months of your life to only work on your company and (literally) nothing else–with the singular goal of giving your company the best chance of succeeding. It’s amazing what a three month deadline will do.

The best part of YC? The people and the energy. You’re surrounded by entrepreneurs who are as crazy as you are. We loved getting to know the partners and other founders and digging into what they were building for the world––everything from on-demand roofing to better rocket engines. Each company has (very) different challenges but there you are, all side by side, sharing the same intense experience.

What has been your biggest struggle since creating Modern Fertility? Business, personal, or socially related.  

Now, building Modern Fertility, every day is an adventure. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s also funny––your stamina improves and your threshold for what constitutes a “fire drill” increases drastically. A problem that may have sent me reeling in the early days now has a framework (We got through it last time! The sun came up!). We’ve had challenges, figured out how to meet them, and it’s really made us stronger.

It’s a good feeling to know that for the rest of your life, you’ll have a different kind of perspective on the wrenches that life throws you. It’s a kind of superpower that forces you step outside on the third rainy day in a row and say, “Ooo puddles! Fun!”

What makes you passionate about women’s health? Have you always been passionate about the subject or has it developed further once you realized the price of an average fertility test?

Growing up as the middle of three girls, being a woman was always the norm (sorry Dad!). We talked a good amount about periods and pap smears––but pregnancy? We definitely didn’t go there. In school, all I was taught about pregnancy was prevention––you know, Mean Girls style, “don’t do it…or else!” There was absolutely no talk of planning for pregnancy. And by the time I was in my mid 20s I still didn’t think fertility was something I needed to concern myself with. After all, I didn’t want kids anytime soon.

When my co-founder Afton and I teamed up and I started digging into the science behind fertility, I couldn’t believe how much I didn’t know (that I should have known). (And let me tell you, I don’t like not knowing things).

I kept thinking–woah, I wonder if all of my friends know the details here? About menopause timing? Egg freezing and IVF outcomes? PCOS? They didn’t. It was clear that we had a lot of work to do to make sure that women know all of their options from the very beginning. So we started building Modern Fertility.

“I like thinking about how lucky I am to have the opportunity to work on something I love. Gratitude is far stronger than self-doubt.”

What was your work experience like while at Uber and Google? Did you feel that you were given the same opportunities as your male counterparts and that the workplace was fair for all races and genders?

Growing up on the East Coast, my only exposure to California was the TV show, The O.C. (that’s what it’s like, right?!). Silicon Valley seemed like another world––didn’t you have to code to work there?

But when an opportunity from Google came knocking I saw first hand how teams could build things that make our lives better. I was hooked.

At both companies, I worked with some of the smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and had every opportunity to get my hands dirty in everything from product to marketing to design. I was fortunate to learn the ins and outs of great product organizations–and I feel even more fortunate now that I can apply those learnings to women’s health with Modern Fertility.

What are some experiences that stick out more than others?

At Uber we built the UberEATS app from the ground up in three months. We were a small team working around the clock, and when we pressed go, we had no idea what was going to happen. We were blown away by the response—people (a lot of people) were using the thing we built. We pressed on to launch in over 100 cities throughout the next year and launch experiments like UberRUSH and UberHEALTH.

At Google I worked on a program to help small businesses build websites and get listed on Google maps. We scaled the program to hundreds of cities and had the opportunity to work with mayors and chambers of commerce around the country to help business owners get their businesses online. I’ll never forget helping a business owner who had never used a computer before, finally get his website up and running. All the feels.

What is something you are truly passionate about? Is there anything that gives you that full feeling throughout your body and keeps you up at night?

There is nothing better than bringing together a group of good people with a shared goal of building something good for the world.

We’re lucky to have a team of smart, curious, generous people at Modern Fertility. Everyone has her or his own quirks and we all genuinely enjoy one another. The team’s health and happiness keeps me up at night. And when the team is thriving– it’s simply the best.

As an entrepreneur, how do you deal with self-doubt? What do you do to overcome it?

I like thinking about how lucky I am to have the opportunity to work on something I love. Gratitude is far stronger than self-doubt. Sure you can doubt yourself, but when you’re able to back up and say, “Ok Carly, you are lucky to even be able to doubt yourself while doing this every day,” it really puts things into perspective.

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  • Carly Leahy

    Co-Founder/CCO Modern Fertility

    Carly Leahy is the co-founder and CCO of Modern Fertility and a brand builder through and through. She has held brand and marketing roles at Google–leading creative for a grassroots initiative to help small businesses succeed online–and Uber, running content and creative strategy for new Uber products like UberEATS and UberHEALTH. At Modern Fertility, she’s focused on making the science of fertility more human and helpful for women everywhere.

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