4 min read

Our favorite moments with Ida Tin, legendary founder of Clue

Catch up with Ida Tin, a femtech visionary and the founder of Clue.

4 min read

Our host, Harald Dunnink, recently sat down with Ida Tin, the founder of Clue.

Ida is a legend who has built one of the most beloved health apps in the world, used by millions and lauded for its dedication to data protection and user education. In this conversation, Harald and Ida went deep, discussing everything from the beginnings of Femtech to the future of our economy as we know it.

We’ve pulled some of our favorite highlights below, and you can listen to the whole thing by searching for Memberful Design on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your audio inspiration.

Ida and Harald began by talking about the principles behind the Clue app, which helps women and people with periods track their cycles. One of the founding principles of Clue was to protect users’ privacy — even before it was a legal requirement.

“When we started out in 2013, data privacy was not really a thing yet. GDPR didn't exist, but I still had this very deep kind of intuition that if you ask people for some of their most personal health data, they’re going to care what you do with it. It seems like a no-brainer, but you know, that doesn't seem to be a no-brainer in the industry actually, which is a bit scary.”

A side effect of Clue’s initial approach to data privacy was that it made the app incredibly inclusive — allowing people all around the world offline access when internet connections were scarce.

“We didn't want to collect any data. We didn't have a really good reason to hold it, so we made the app so that people could also use it if they were offline. That also felt important in a global context. We tried to be hyper inclusive, from the technical side and also the way we spoke to people.

As Clue grew, they built the infrastructure to collect and safely store data from members. This both enabled greater functionality in the app and was a gift to the scientific community.

“For me, it's so important to say that we shouldn't shy away from using data. Data is an amazing, amazing tool that can give us understanding of things that we can't connect in our brains with just a limited personal dataset. It's a huge gift for science.

At some point we also thought, okay, now we can actually build a backend and we can make sure that we can take good care of this data. It has enabled us to build things that benefit users — and it has helped us move science forward together with our science collaborators."

Ida talked about her unique leadership style, based on collaboration, and how this leads to more consensus and understanding over time.

“I try to get many perspectives on an issue, and then take the time to discuss your way through it with the management team or even the broader team, in some cases. You end up with a really high level of shared understanding.

So when the implementation comes, it's. because everybody gets it. They understand why we’re making these decisions.”

In 2022, when abortion protections were gutted in the United States, it had a huge effect on Clue and their community. Ida explained how their leadership stood up and how their principled approach to building an app became one of their biggest strengths.

“It was a devastating moment in history. There was this fear that the government could use data tracked in period apps to prosecute users because they would maybe see they had been pregnant and then stopped being pregnant. What we saw was that we had a huge spike. A lot of people downloaded Clue, and I think there were two reasons for that.

One was, they understood that data privacy was actually really important. Having a company that was based in Germany means there is no way that the American government could actually prosecute us. And we also had leaders who said — we will never do that. We will never give your data away.

During Clue’s evolution, they launched a membership program that provides more content and features to paying users. Ida explained why this source of income was so crucial to both the company and to creating a better, stronger, and more useful end product.

How you make money defines you, that's who you are. And it's very expensive to build apps. For a long time in digital everything was free and it took a long time for people to understand that when the product is free, you are the product.

Making money gives you freedom as a company to do things in your own way. If we end up having to raise money from investors forever, then that limits our freedom to how much we can spend on cool things. So there is a balance — you need to be a sustainable company because that gives you the freedom to do the right thing for users. It's not bad to make money, we just need to make money in the right way."

The conversation also turned towards the future of tech, and whether there’s a shift towards social good endeavors.

"We need to make this [world] work for everybody — and tech in particular has a really long way to go because there is an insane mobilization of power and wealth. But I do feel that there is this undercurrent where lots of companies start thinking, no, no, we cannot just exploit. We have to actually be a net good. And it's wonderful.

I'm very hopeful that we will see a lot of entrepreneurs who have this deep conviction that it's not about just maxing out the system and then leaving a burning pile after two years. That's not a good outcome."

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. For the full conversation, listen to Memberful Design on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. See you there!