Alyssa Atkins Is Changing the Way We Think About Fertility

The CEO and founder of Lilia explains how she made it happen

(Photo courtesy of Alyssa Atkins)
(Photo courtesy of Alyssa Atkins)

Name: Alyssa Atkins

Job title: Founder and CEO, Lilia

Age: 29

From: Windsor, Ont.

Currently lives in: Toronto

Education: BComm, University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business

First job out of school: Franchisee of College Pro, a window-cleaning company

Alyssa Atkins didn’t always know she would end up in tech, but she did know that she wanted to build something that would impact people’s lives in a big way. That’s exactly what Lilia, her at-home-fertility-test start-up, is set to be. Though the product hasn’t launched yet, Atkins and her two-woman team are working to deliver a service that will provide people with easily accessible and reliable scientific information about their fertility. “We’re the most ambitious generation with the most amount of data at our fingertips,” she says, “except [the data we need] to inform what’s arguably the most important decision of our lives.”

The idea for Lilia came to Atkins after the end of a long-term relationship. She was approaching her 30s and realized she had never thought about her fertility. “I didn’t understand this very fundamentally important part of my body and my life,” she says. “I had this burning need for [a tool like Lilia], and it gave me the confidence to start building it out.”

Creating the company has had its ups and downs. Being part of the NEXT Canada entrepreneur network, along with time clocked at education software company Top Hat and multi-platform care provider company CareGuide, helped expose Atkins to the investor and tech community. But the early days were hard, and she was almost talked out of founding Lilia by various naysayers. “Entrepreneurs have this blind optimism,” she says. “If you didn’t, you wouldn’t take the leap and go after what you’re going for.”

It wasn’t hard to get investors interested in Lilia—The Globe and Mail reports that the company attracted $800,000 in pre-seed funding in just five weeks. (Atkins is particularly happy that half the company’s angel investors are women.) But she still doubts herself sometimes, and the pressure to deliver has ramped up since funding closed, but she refuses to indulge in insecurity for too long. “Feel it, acknowledge it and then move past it and get back to work,” she says. “If you stop and give into it, that’s where you will fail.”

She’s convinced that in the next few decades, being proactive about fertility will be the norm. “I feel like I have night-vision goggles on and I can see what the future needs to look like,” she laughs. “In the future, people are going to freeze their eggs upon graduation, and rather than using fertility inquisition as a response to something that’s wrong, people will consider it as part of the normal path of planning your life.” But as that future slowly takes shape, Atkins’ main focus is launching the product. “Knowing we’re going to be the ones to bring this to life and impact so many people makes it really easy to jump out of bed every day.”