Jenny Saft is CEO and co-founder of Apryl: a fertility benefits platform helping companies offer staff access to inclusive fertility services, from sperm/egg freezing through to adoption and IVF.
The idea for Apryl was sparked when Jenny decided to freeze her eggs. The process was complicated, invasive and expensive – and she wasn’t offered support from her employer, despite having access to other health benefits. She wanted to build a solution; and since launching Apryl in 2018, Jenny has helped thousands of employees navigate fertility care. Current clients include Soundcloud, wefox and Béa Fertility, and this year Apryl raised €4.1 million in seed funding in a round led by Breega.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
My name is Jenny Saft and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Apryl: a fertility benefits platform helping companies offer staff access to inclusive fertility and family forming services. Prior to starting Apryl, I worked in project management and Business Development at several different companies, including Fyber in San Francisco and Dutch fintech Adyen.
I was inspired to start Apryl following my own experience of freezing my eggs. Despite my previous roles being at large companies building highly advanced tech solutions, when I wanted to explore egg freezing at age 32, they were in no position to help me. Fertility benefits weren’t yet a ‘thing’ in Europe so I had to do my own desktop research, eventually opting for my nearest fertility clinic with no clear idea what to expect, how much it cost, or what the treatment involved. During my consultations with my fertility doctor, the process still fell short: I received little guidance nor emotional support from the clinic, and the process cost me thousands. I felt that there had to be a better way.
I had the idea for Apryl: a company that could help modern employers offer inclusive fertility benefits to every employee, from egg freezing to adoption and IVF. Not only to make treatment more accessible and affordable, but also to offer the support, guidance and advice that I had missed. I joined forces with my co-founder and close friend, Tobias Kaufhold, and together we started the Apryl journey in 2019.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I’ve never had a specific career plan. In fact, I never wanted to start my own company! I’ve always thought I’m better at helping others build theirs. Having said that, I do feel that my career has evolved naturally to lead me to where I am now, as a co-founder and CEO. Working in business development and strategy at large companies gave me a deep insight into how businesses run, what makes them thrive, how to motivate people, but also what not to do. These lessons have been invaluable in building Apryl. If I had sat down and planned my career I’m not sure I would ever have envisioned myself building my own fertility business. So maybe it’s best to approach your career without a plan, so you feel free to embrace the ideas and opportunities that come your way.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
A key challenge for us was rebranding the business earlier this year. When we started out we were initially called Oviavo, as our focus was primarily on egg freezing and not the wider fertility ecosystem. But as our ambition and product offering grew, we realised our brand needed to evolve, too. Rebranding is a daunting process as a startup: it’s not something you want to make a regular thing, so it’s critical that you invest in the process and get it right. We came up with Apryl: a word that carries associations with spring, change and new beginnings, which felt like a natural fit for a fertility company. The rebrand was a challenge, but one that was definitely worth taking on when we did, so that our company could enter its next chapter.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Our most recent funding round. We raised €4.1 million in a seed round led by Breega and joined by some brilliant VCs: Atlantic Labs, Crista Galli Ventures, Myelin VC, Alliance for Impact Ventures and Westttech Ventures. We’re incredibly proud to have such an experienced cap table and access to invaluable operational support, which will really help us scale the business and make the best possible hires going forward.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
My personal experience of the issue I’m trying to solve. Having been through the egg freezing process myself, as a single woman without a partner, I understand how scary and intimidating it can feel to walk into a clinic and handle those conversations entirely on your own. It can be an incredibly confronting experience. This is why I wanted to build a platform that could not only make it easier for people to afford fertility treatment, but that could also bridge the gap in support, so that people can walk into fertility clinics armed with the information they need to make the best decision for them. The ‘fertility concierge’ element of our product is one of the things I am most passionate about, as that level of personal, friendly and impartial support is something I didn’t have when I went through treatment. But it’s so important.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I think mentoring is really important. I’ve been lucky enough to have great mentors in my life: people that saw my potential and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Looking back, we never labelled it as mentoring, but that is what is was at its core.
Now, I am lucky enough to be part of the Atomico Angel programme, which gives me the financial resources to invest in early stage startups and mentor fellow founders. Through the programme I’ve started working with some incredible founders from diverse backgrounds, and it’s been a brilliant way to give back to the startup community and act as a mentor to those who would like my support.
I believe a good angel investor should always act as a mentor when you need one: someone that listens to your problems, shares their views, and is there to give you a pep talk and keep you going when you need that boost.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
There are so many different things that we need to do to create gender parity. But for me, a key issue is widening access to fertility and evolving family values so that women are able to participate in the workforce. Historically, women were in charge of the children and men brought home the money. Now this is changing and more women are taking on jobs traditionally done by men, but we’re still stuck in a labour system that’s designed by men for men. In order to create equality, we need more women in management positions, creating supportive and inclusive workplaces for women from the top down. Which means introducing things like menopause leave, fertility leave, fertility benefits and subsidised childcare costs to make it possible for women to work and earn money whilst having children (should they want to). I’m a big supporter of female quotas (I know no one wants to be the woman who got the job because of a quota) but it accelerates the process of change and will help us create more female role models in leadership positions with the power to effect change.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Always follow your gut feeling. If you have the feeling that there’s something you need to do and explore, do it. If there’s something that doesn’t fully align with your values, don’t do it. And never take a job because of the money: everyone’s values are different, but looking back I would definitely have told myself to focus on culture and role-fit when deciding whether to take a particular job.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Our next challenge is making the very best hires we can to grow our team and scale the business in Europe. We’ve got an incredibly strong core team in Berlin, but we’re now looking to cement our presence in the UK and we need great people to help us do that. Eventually, we hope that fertility benefits are not a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘need to have’ for every organisation. We want to help millions of people across Europe access the support they need to start a family. It’s only a matter of time.