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As our region fast becomes a hotspot for biotech and health tech startups, there’s a wealth of firsthand experiences and hard-earned insights floating around. We recently chatted with Andy Olson, CEO of Path Fertility, whose company has not only thrived in the Fuel for Your Health accelerator but also found a community in Bentonville that changed the trajectory of their company. Join us as we unpack the real stories behind local entrepreneurial journeys—sharing the clever tactics, crucial hacks, the highs and lows, and everything in between that could help guide your own startup voyage right here in NWA.

Here’s a glimpse into Andy’s experience in a dynamic Q&A session:

Tell us about the genesis of Path Fertility and its mission in the health tech space.

Path Fertility was born out of a need to address significant gaps in reproductive health diagnostics, particularly on the male side. Male fertility is a women’s health issue. When men go undiagnosed, women are put through fertility treatment that will not work. Our mission is to raise the standard of care for the 1 in 6 people struggling to conceive. It’s about offering more personalized and precise healthcare solutions to couples facing fertility challenges.

How has your journey with Path Fertility led you to Northwest Arkansas?

We were drawn to NWA for Startup Junkie’s Fuel for Your Health ten-week accelerator program because of its focus on strategic partnerships with enterprises and community networking opportunities which are crucial for a startup in the health tech field. The decision to participate in the local accelerator program here was pivotal as it helped us hone our messaging, better understand the enterprise market, and develop a commercial strategy around integration into fertility benefits offered by large self-insured employers.

It sounds like the community was quite welcoming. Can you tell us about the pivotal encounter that happened at Blake Street House?

Yes, it is a truly remarkable place! From our (my co-founder, Kristin, and my) first happy hour with the Fuel team we met amazing people who were intensely interested in helping our company succeed. After just one cocktail we were connected with individuals who quickly introduced us to key fertility benefit providers, members of the Bentonville Chamber, and leaders at Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield. At our morning workout classes we were welcomed into the community with open arms, and developed amazing friendships that led to thoughtful and supportive conversations even in the locker rooms – we have never experienced anything like this, anywhere.

Directly from these relationships we have started contract negotiations with two large self-insured employers to integrate our new male diagnostic into their existing fertility benefits and have also identified a potential new market in livestock and cattle fertility.

How have local collaborations and community engagements influenced Path Fertility’s growth and operations?

We’ve been able to engage with various stakeholders—from local healthcare providers to business leaders—which has opened up numerous opportunities for collaboration. For example, our close interactions here have enabled us to take a deeper dive into the needs of large enterprises, and how we can impact their key initiatives like recruiting and retaining talent. How we can help solve their challenges, and how we can message that effectively. This knowledge has been invaluable!

What does this experience tell you about the business environment in Northwest Arkansas?

It’s incredibly supportive and interconnected. The community that Fuel integrated us into has led to substantial business opportunities. The ecosystem is ripe with possibility, especially for startups looking to make meaningful connections and grow rapidly. The community is genuinely invested in helping new businesses succeed.

Looking ahead, what are the strategic goals for Path Fertility in the context of its operations in Northwest Arkansas?

Our primary goal is to solidify our presence in the region as a leading innovator in reproductive health solutions. We plan to expand our research and development efforts here, leveraging the rich talent pool and innovative spirit of the area. Additionally, we aim to enhance our community engagement by participating in more local events and initiatives, which will help further establish our brand and expand our local network.

Based on your experiences, what advice would you give to other startups considering moving to NWA?

Come with an open mind and be ready to engage with the network. The opportunities here are immense, especially if you’re willing to dive in and participate fully. Whether it’s through attending local events, joining gyms, or simply networking in informal settings, NWA has a unique way of opening doors for those who are ready to step through them. The relationships you build here can be transformative for your business, offering both strategic advantages and operational support that are hard to find elsewhere.

Path Fertility’s strategic approach to business development, combined with the supportive environment of Northwest Arkansas, is setting a new standard for innovation and growth in the health tech industry. Our conversation with Andy highlights how Northwest Arkansas is not just a place for business growth but a community where unexpected opportunities can lead to significant breakthroughs. The supportive, tight-knit nature of this region offers a unique advantage to startups and established businesses alike, making it a prime destination for companies looking to innovate and expand.

About Path Fertility

Path Fertility is a trailblazing biotechnology company that leverages epigenetic technology to address complex diseases, particularly in the realm of reproductive health. Their innovative approach uses a proprietary epigenetic platform to identify dysregulation across multiple genes and pathways, which helps in pioneering new categories of diagnostics and therapeutics. This cutting-edge technology is particularly focused on transforming the diagnosis and treatment of conditions like infertility, enhancing the precision and effectiveness of medical interventions.

About Andy

Andy Olson, MBA, co-founded Path Fertility with a vision to raise the standard of care in male infertility. After watching friends struggle with a frustrating diagnosis of unexplained infertility, he felt compelled to use his 20 years of experience in commercializing molecular, DNA-based diagnostics to help those searching for a better path to parenthood. Previously, Andy has led the commercialization of healthcare products in five separate start-ups, seeing four of them through to successful exits. He has also contributed to successful FDA 510k submissions and has led efforts to establish new CPT codes and reimbursement determinations for novel molecular diagnostic tests. Andy holds a Bachelors of Science in molecular biology from Brigham Young University and an MBA from the University of Houston’s C.T. Bauer College of Business. He is a husband and father of four amazing kids and enjoys skiing, cycling, and competing in the LOTOJA 200-plus-mile road bike race from Logan, Utah, to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that is completed in one day.

About Kristin

Kristin Brogaard received her PhD in Molecular Biology from Northwestern University developing a novel epigenetic technology that allowed for single-base pair resolution mapping of DNA binding proteins genome-wide. To continue her training in technology development, Dr. Brogaard worked as a postdoc with Dr. Leroy Hood, a pioneer in preventive and personalized medicine technologies, developing new methods for low-level antibody capture and quantification in blood for early detection of autoimmune diseases. After her postdoc, she continued to work with Dr. Hood as the director of a human-subjects clinical trial based on Dr. Hood’s vision of the intersection of systems biology and personalized medicine. From the results of the clinical trial, the team launched a scientific wellness start-up, Arivale, where Kristin was the Director of Program Management and responsible for directing the formation, communication, resourcing and tracking of Arivale’s quarterly strategic objectives and their associated key performance indicators. Kristin co-founded Path Fertility and acts as Chief Scientific Officer to combine her passion for epigenetics and personalized medicine. Outside of work Kristin loves to hike, cook, and spend time with her husband, two kids, and crazy dog.