I came to San Francisco from Germany by way of China to immerse myself in the world's most advanced startup culture. And after exploring its meetups, conferences and hackathons, I also found the city to have the most sexually progressive community I've ever seen. I was intrigued by Gay Pride, the Castro and the overall tolerance towards all sexual orientations. I see myself as homophile (opposite of homophobe), and far from being a prude, yet I never expected to find myself shirtless in leather talking about sexual health at the Folsom Street Fair. But a friend said, “Volunteer with us at the Mr. Friendly booth” and I did.
CC: Folsom Street Fair 2012 by torbakhopper
Ever since I’ve been sexually active, my fear of HIV regularly drove me to the Gesundheitsamt in Freiburg, Germany. Sometimes with a partner before going all the way and sometimes alone after I quite literally screwed up. Living in China, I experienced testing taken to the next level. There, full medical screenings - including sexually transmitted diseases (STD) - are required for all foreigners desiring student or employment visas. On the one hand, this practice is discussed with much controversy - see for example this discussion on Robert Koehler's blog. But on the other hand, it made the sexual health conversation a whole lot easier when you could just ask for the type and the issuing date of the visa rather than ask for STD status directly ;-). Compared to China, San Francisco’s culture is a lot more sexually progressive, yet when I started dating here, I found the sexual health discussion with a partner to be a lot more uncomfortable.
2. The Sexual Health Problem
So back to the Folsom Street Fair - which after all is the world's largest leather and fetish street festival and actually the third largest one-day festival in California (Carly Schwartz put together some intriguing photos on this blog post - so you can get an idea)! As I was standing at the Mr. Friendly HIV Awareness Campaign booth and talking with folks about STDs, I started to wonder about the magnitude of the sexual health problem. And when I later that day went home to research statistics about sexual health in the US, I was appalled to discover that there are still over 19 Million new STD infections every year in this country alone (see a more detailed write up by William Hudson.)! - It is still a huge problem!
So I was thinking... San Francisco: the world capital of innovative startups and probably the world's most sexually progressive community - there MUST be an app for this. Managing your health with apps has already become quite the trend. There are over 7,500 different mobile health apps for the Apple IPhone alone, that range from managing medications for chronic diseases, to tracking your exercise regime, to monitoring your eating habits. I did a search for “STD” on Google Play and this is what I found:
Screenshot of Google Play, searching for “STD” on Feb 1, 2013.
… Apps about Indian Area Codes??!!! I decided that I knew what I wanted my next Startup to be about.
3. Starting up BeforeWeDo
I went to the Founders Institute Incubator and Startup Leadership Program and created BeforeWeDo. I see a huge potential to combine social web, mobile apps and new STD testing technology to bring sexual health to the 21st century. I want to empower sexually active singles to understand and manage their sexual health and make it incredibly convenient and easy for them to get tested regularly. Based on the user’s personal demographics and sexual activity, BeforeWeDo recommends personalized STD vaccinations and screenings. The service is anonymous and recommendations are provided without judgment or bias. Users can then schedule testing appointments or, even easier and more private, can have FDA approved in-home test kits delivered regularly to their door.
BeforeWeDo brings clarity, convenience and peace of mind to its users - and ultimately makes regular STD testing a new standard for sexually active men, women and everyone else in between. Join us and let us bring sexual health to the 21st century!
- Kudos to +Alyssa, +Monisha, +Randy and +Erny for their thoughts and help with editing this article (my first language is German after all ;-).
- Thanks a lot to the folks at Founders Institute and the Startup Leadership Program for their great support and mentorship! Stay tuned for more articles about these programs from me!