Health Tech: Eran Amir On How GoStork’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall Wellness
Solve a problem that exists — At its core the technology must solve a problem that exists in order to make a positive impact. Do a significant amount of people have this problem and can technology fix it or alleviate a pain point? If so, and if you feel uniquely fit and passionate enough to build it — that’s when you know you have something.
In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eran Amir, Founder and CEO of GoStork.
Eran Amir is the Founder and CEO of GoStork, the first marketplace where fertility consumers find, compare and connect with top fertility providers. With more than 20 years of experience, Eran Amir has worked as both a software development and product management executive in Israel and the Greater New York Area. The development of GoStork combines his professional skill-set with a personal mission. After undergoing a long, difficult, and costly process to expand his family via surrogacy and egg donation, Amir vowed to help other intended parents avoid the complexity and confusion he experienced. His passion led to the creation of GoStork, which proudly names Amir’s two daughters as co-founders.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?
I grew up in Israel right outside of Tel Aviv with my parents, brother and sister in a very loving and supportive family. My mom was extremely involved in my life and education and my father worked very hard as a carpenter to support us. I was really into athletics and was even a competitive horseback rider. As far as school — my subjects were anything related to numbers — eg. math and physics. This interest eventually led me to product development.
Family has always been very important to me and at a young age I learned how to become a caretaker. A very formative part of my childhood began when my sister was born in a very high risk situation that deprived her brain from oxygen. This greatly affected her development and she never developed beyond essentially the level of a one year old. She needs to be cared for 24/7 and growing up I helped take on that role supporting my mother. From a young age, I also knew I wanted to have a family of my own — but we’ll get to that part soon!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Although I’ve worked at big companies, including global banks, there was a particularly memorable project that I worked on at a start-up that helped shape my career. Years ago, on my first day at this company as a product manager, they had me take a personality test and then the CEO called me into his office. He told me that Cisco was having a contest that all of its partners could enter (tens of thousands of them) and he wanted me to create our entry. His vision was to build a software on top of their hardware that would show personality cues of a person you’re talking to. The goal was to reach a deeper understanding of how people communicate and then help people adapt to each other — to enable better collaboration. So, I took the general concept to create our entry, including a video demo of the product… and we won! It is now used in-market, with just one use case being to help sales people interact optimally with potential clients.
What I learned during that process early on in my career has really stayed with me. I had the tech skillset but taking the test as well as thinking through this product, gave me a deeper understanding behind people’s personalities and behaviors (including my own) and how influential this component can be to building a successful business.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I try to learn something from everyone I work with. However, one specific example occurred before coming to the United States, when I was in the Israeli Army. As an Officer, I had grown into a role where I led a team of 70 — and while one may immediately think about the more obvious aspects of that role, such as combat training, it also required a ton of logistics, small details and accountability (just one of so many examples: do we have enough water with us when we go out in the field for training? If I didn’t account for this, it may not happen, and that’s on me). My Commander taught me to document everything I needed to remember — immediately after I receive a request or come up with an idea — and to leave as little as possible to human error. There are so many moving parts when starting your own business and especially one in the health tech industry. This advice and way of working has translated over to building a business and helped me stay on track and accomplish everything that needs to get done.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You have to have a lot of passion for what you are doing… if you don’t, any rational person would give up.” — Steve Jobs
I left my 20 years career in technology to become an entrepreneur only because I discovered something I couldn’t be more passionate about. I took my life savings to do my surrogacy journeys to have my children and to create GoStork, to help make the process easier for other intended parents around the world. It’s definitely hard to build something from scratch but I am so passionate about what I’m doing that I’m not willing to ever give up.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Just roll up your sleeves and get it done: You can’t be afraid to do something just because you never did it before. My background is in technology but when I started GoStork I had to expand my skill set to fundraising and sales. I took myself out of my comfort zone and I developed a strict habit of focusing on doing things immediately so I can check it off my list as opposed to pushing it off to later (which we often do for things outside of our comfort zone). You never realized how much you can accomplish by taking on this approach.
- Adaptability: This trait comes in two forms for me so far — and that’s the ability to adapt a product as well as myself. User experience is so important to me but we’re also a first-to-market product and we’ve had to learn quickly — so I always have to be ready to adapt the product based on data and user feedback. I also had to adapt my skill set and communication style from leading product development teams to now in my general management role as an entrepreneur and even a sales person before I could hire anyone to help me with that.
- Connection: The ability to genuinely connect to your audience is so important when building your business. I have become open to sharing my struggles and story around starting a family and also get to listen and learn from other people’s personal experiences, which helps me continue to create a better and better company for them. I’ve learned that everyone from GoStork users to our partners and VCs appreciate understanding how my passion for this company comes from my personal experience — and that my journey is how I discovered a way to help others.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?
Approximately 1 in 8 couples struggle to become pregnant or sustain a pregnancy. 1 in 6 couples require fertility assistance in order to start and grow their families . That includes male-female couples who will encounter infertility as well as same-sex couples and single people.
Before GoStork there was no central platform that provided all of the information needed when starting a fertility journey. Everyone’s family planning process is different and may include the need for a gestational carrier (surrogate), egg donor, fertility clinic or even financial assistance. Knowing where to start can be confusing and overwhelming. There is also a general lack of transparency around how much various fertility services cost, how long the journey may take, the steps in the process, and so much more. All of this has created barriers for people to start or grow their family and because of my own personal experience I wanted to create a solution.
How do you think your technology can address this?
GoStork is the first marketplace where fertility consumers find, compare and connect with top fertility providers.
GoStork has marketplaces dedicated to surrogacy agencies, egg donor agencies, and fertility financing, as well as one-on-one, personalized concierge services. Depending on the intended parents’ needs they may benefit from using one or all of the marketplaces to help plan their journey. Instead of having to research and contact each provider individually, GoStork gives people the ability to view and compare providers in one place — as well as provides a chat tool to connect with them directly and a booking system to book appointments with them. Each marketplace has its own unique features but cost transparency is core to all of them.
The Surrogacy Agency Marketplace allows people to search through 60 top surrogacy agencies. People can compare surrogacy agencies based on experience, number of babies born, services offered, average wait time to match with a gestational carrier, carrier screening process and cost breakdown.
The Egg Donor Marketplace combines over 10,000 egg donors from many different agencies all in one place — allowing for far more choice and diversity. Before GoStork, finding the right egg donor to meet your preferences could often require going through multiple agencies with much smaller databases and even paying for registration fees and still not finding a match. Now intended parents can see a wider range of egg donors in one place, compare options and costs, and filter by various criteria — including not only appearance, race and ethnicity but also their family and medical background, education level, as well as if they have ‘proven fertility’, including egg donation history for experienced donors.
Who to work with to create their family is one of the most important decisions a person can make in life. Our marketplace eliminates a great deal of work, stress and confusion but also really helps our users be more informed and empowered as they make these crucial decisions.
GoStork will continue to launch new marketplaces, and add features and benefits related to our current product suite. The next marketplace to launch this year will be the Fertility Clinic Marketplace which takes a customized approach to matching fertility consumers to clinics based on their personal needs and unique fertility journey. I look forward to sharing much more about that soon!
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
I developed GoStork after I went through the surrogacy process for the first time in 2017. I always knew I wanted to be a father but as a gay man I knew my journey would be difficult and expensive. I was actually still single when I started the process. I had hoped to have a partner but gave myself the cut-off of 40 years old to begin the journey if I had to do it alone… which I did. But then I met my now husband, Dr. Michael Gowen, right after I matched with my gestational carrier, and he has been an incredible partner as well as father ever since.
During my first journey I found the process to be confusing and overwhelming. I didn’t know where to start and there was nowhere to find all of the basic information I needed in one place. There was also a lack of transparency around the costs involved and no ability to compare fertility providers. Despite all of my best planning, there were still a lot of surprises and confusion along the way. It was all worth it after I had my amazing daughter, Ariel, but I knew there had to be a better way.
I began to consider that with my passion born out of my personal experience, combined with my tech background, I could create a solution using technology to solve the problem that I, and so many other intended parents, experienced. I left my 20-year career in product and technology to create GoStork which launched in June, 2020.
How do you think this might change the world?
GoStork’s vision is for anyone with a dream to start a family to have access to an inclusive, trusted, transparent resource that supports their path to parenthood.
My world changed once I had my first daughter and I want to be a part of helping other families make their dreams a reality. I am now in the process of having a third child via gestational carrier and I want to give hopeful parents around the world the knowledge and support to do the same.
Can we avoid this question? Or can you help with a positive spin?
I believe that knowledge is power. The more informed a person is about starting a fertility journey the better, even if it makes them realize they may not be ready to start it just yet. It’s a very hard journey. Going into the process fully informed helps relieve stress and confusion and allows intended parents to be more prepared.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)
- Understand your audience’s pain points — Develop your audience’s customer profiles so you know who they are and what their needs are. While I developed GoStork based on my personal experience, what I went through is very different from a woman moving onto surrogacy for example after several failed IVF cycles — and the physical and emotional toll that would have already taken. Take the time to understand the needs, perspectives and emotional state for all of the people you are trying to help.
- Create a user friendly product — Every product’s user experience should be seamless but especially when you’re building something for a user that is already going through something difficult. You want your tech to make it easier and not add to further burden and confusion. Make user testing a priority, then listen and implement feedback. Don’t be afraid to consistently iterate.
- Clear communication — People first think of this in relation to Sales and Marketing — but the product must communicate with your audience well. Does the messaging in each feature connect with clarity and utilize sensitivity when necessary? Does it continuously build trust throughout the user journey? Always be open to user suggestions and be willing to adapt.
- Create something unique or better — Ideally what you are developing is different from anything else out there. When I was going through my surrogacy journey I could not find anything that helped with aggregation, comparison, and cost transparency. However, just because this was my experience I still did market research to confirm this (via both online research and talking to many other intended parents). This helped me understand how to truly make something that is unique and needed.
- Solve a problem that exists — At its core the technology must solve a problem that exists in order to make a positive impact. Do a significant amount of people have this problem and can technology fix it or alleviate a pain point? If so, and if you feel uniquely fit and passionate enough to build it — that’s when you know you have something.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
If you are experiencing a problem, it’s likely others are as well. I had a personal experience which drove my passion as I mentioned — after countless hours of research and conversations with others, I realized I was far from alone in my experience. I found it essentially impossible to make an informed decision about some of the biggest (meaning most consequential and most expensive) decisions of my life — around who to work with to start my family. So, that’s how I started to formulate my mission — which I now share with my team: to provide inclusive, trusted access to affordable fertility care. And that’s what we work to do every single day. You are more likely to succeed if you truly understand the hard data, the specific problem and the size of it, paired with the emotional need and benefit. That intersection is a great starting point to having a fulfilling career for yourself as an entrepreneur and to making a positive impact for others.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Jony Ive, AKA Sir John Paul Ive is an industrial and product designer and was the Chief Design Officer of Apple for many years. I’m inspired by his work — and in fact in 15 years, I never missed watching a single Apple event live — whether related to any product update, software or hardware.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow GoStork on:
- Instagram: @gostorky
- Facebook: GoStork
- LinkedIn: GoStork
- Twitter: @gostorky
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.
Health Tech: Eran Amir On How GoStork’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.