Not all these apps are made by men, of course. In fact, one of the most popular versions, called Clue, was developed by Ida Tin, fueled by a similar problem that Rivers faced. “I was using condoms for contraceptives and I was starting to wonder why there were no better options for me to keep track of my cycle,” Tin said. Much of the design of Clue, which is decidedly non-floral, was natural to Tin. “I just took it totally for granted,” she said, “like of course it's not going to be pink. That seemed very natural. I didn’t want it to be your secret diary… I wanted it to be a very straight, natural part of life.”
It took two years for Tin and her team to build the app into something they were ready to release. By the time they finished, they had competition. Glow, a Clue competitor headed by Max Levchin, the founder of PayPal and a chairman at Yelp, launched just a month before Clue. “We were very lucky because about a month before we launched Max announced he was launching Glow,” Tin said. “That was lucky for us because he kind of validated this category of apps, and he could do that because he’s a celebrity and he’s a nerdy guy who knows about data. I think that was a great help for us.”
Had Tin launched the app herself, without Levchin’s male validation, would people have taken her seriously? She’s not sure. “I’ve had investors, really, very good, experienced, high-profile investors who will say, ‘I’m not a woman, I don’t understand your product,’” she said. Tin said she’ll sometimes hear investors say thing like, “I don’t invest in products I can’t try myself,” which rules out any female health-tracking products for male investors. “I’ve never been treated badly,” she said, “but I think it just takes more to have them write the check for a female entrepreneur tackling a female health problem.”
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The promise of Quantified Self, the community, is “self-knowledge through numbers.” It’s a broad aim, and one that, in theory, overlaps with the apps and devices in the market. Collecting data can help people better understand themselves, their lives, their needs. But who are those people?
Boesel points to one example of how many even within the QS community assume their users are men: passive tracking apps. These apps run in the background of your phone, and using your movement, theoretically determine things like whether you’re depressed or active or inside too much. This works based on the assumption that your phone is always in your pocket. “Inevitably some dude gets up at a conference and said something how your phone is always on you,” Boesel said. “And every time I’ll stand up, and I’ll be like, ‘Hi, about this phone that is always on you. This is my phone. And there are my pants.’” Passive tracking apps would think that I stay at my desk from morning to night without once getting up to go to the bathroom. Many apps operate under the assumption that your phone is always connected to you, in pockets that women don’t really have.