Start-up of the week: Ayda

28 Mar 2016

Ayda co-founder James Foody

Our start-up of the week is female health start-up Ayda, which has designed an app and wearable products to help women track fertility levels.

“Ayda is about peace of mind,” said co-founder James Foody.

“We are a female health start-up. Our first products are a wearable and an app that gives more control to couples planning pregnancies.

‘Our market is an ever present and global one. Any couple planning on having a child is in our target market’

Ayda’s mobile phone app is being designed to help women track fertility levels, and a wearable fertility tracker solution is also being developed for launch in mid-2016.

The market

In just one year since starting up, Ayda has participated in an accelerator and incubator programme and has been named a high-potential start-up by Enterprise Ireland and raised more than €500,000 in seed funding.

“Our market is an ever present and global one. Any couple planning on having a child is in our target market,” said Foody.

Foody also played a role in the launch of a Network for Cork’s Young Entrepreneurs in association with the local enterprise offices (LEOs) in Cork.

“Having a good business idea is one thing but being able to network and develop the confidence to meet and speak about you and your idea is a vital skill that comes with practice and experience,” Foody said.

The founders

Foody co-founded Ayda after finishing a master’s in Biomedical Engineering Research. Prior to that, he completed a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at UCC.

In December, Foody was named Ireland’s best young entrepreneur and also took home the Best Start-up Award at Google’s Dublin HQ earlier this month.

His co-founder Ian Kerins is head of operations at Ayda and completed a master’s in Innovation, Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship at UCC. After graduating, Kerins worked at Eirgrid and Tyndall National Institute and founded a start-up called Smudge Hardware.

The technology


The Ayda wearable is placed under a user’s arm to gather data during sleep.

The Ayda wearable ‘listens’ to changes in vital signs during sleep that reflect hormonal changes.

These changes provide insights that enable the user to know their most fertile days to increase chances of conceiving, as well as evaluate their fertility.

The ultimate goal, Foody said, is to be the global leader in the market for fertility apps and wearables.

“We raised over $600,000 last year and are still pre-launch, so luckily funding is not a problem right now.

‘See criticism as free learning that makes you a better entrepreneur’

“The challenges never go away. Some entrepreneurs think ‘if we just get X, then things will be okay’.

“X here could be funding, a partnership, etc, but this is not a sustainable or useful mentality.

“Challenges will not go away in start-ups, they will just become bigger and more significant.

“My advice is: learn to deal with challenges in general from a psychological standpoint and the situational actions required to overcome different challenges will emanate from that positive and competent psychological approach.”

People and support

Foody said he believes start-ups need two things: good people and support.

“Ireland has lots of both. The support we got after winning the best Irish start-up award in IBYE (Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur) last year was amazing.

“The private funding environment isn’t quite there as it is in the likes of San Francisco, but Ireland still has lots of pros for the really early-stage start-ups.

“The first funding we ever received was from Cork South LEO, which helped get us moving in our infancy.

Foody described the new network for Cork’s young entrepreneurs as a fantastic initiative that will give entrepreneurs like himself the opportunity to connect, collaborate and build confidence.

“I fear not networking. Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you prepare then you can directly increase your company’s ‘luck’ simply by talking to more people.

“Networking is huge, just be sure to stay authentic and non-transnational. Nobody wants to do business with ‘me’ people.

“The local enterprise offices in Cork have just launched a networking event to give young entrepreneurs exclusively between 18 to 30 years the opportunity to share resources, collaborate and connect, which is a really positive sign of how many young entrepreneurs like us are there out there to support.”

Criticism is free

His advice to other young start-ups is to value criticism. “See criticism as free learning that makes you a better entrepreneur. Don’t be constrained or deflated by criticism, but do learn from it.

“Early on, my co-founder Ian Kerins and I developed an appetite for criticism as we saw it as a vehicle for breaking up ‘notions’ we had and helping us improve faster.

“Think about it, if you find all the wrong answers quickly then what is left?”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years