Maven offers access to specialists like midwives and lactation consultants.

By Valentina Zarya
July 25, 2017
July 25, 2017

Being a parent is stressful. Being a parent in the information age? “Utterly overwhelming.”

Those are the words Jenny Davis, mom of a six-month-old, uses to describe her experience with pregnancy and parenthood so far. “Everyone from the UPS guy to random people at the gym gives me unsolicited advice,” she says. And on her Facebook page, well-meaning strangers love to opine on everything from walkers (“hazardous for cognitive development!”) to specific toys (“that one has mold!”).

Davis says the influx of unsolicited advice put her in constant state of anxiety—that is, until she started consulting actual medical professionals. She turned to Maven, a telemedicine startup that specializes in women’s health care, for advice without the need to actually visit a doctor’s office. Davis, whose employer offers Maven as benefit, says the service helped her avoid a late-night trip to the emergency room after a (failed) attempt to self-diagnose via Google.

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Maven founder Katherine Ryder hopes such stories will soon become more common. On Tuesday, the company announced a $10.8 million Series A round, bringing the company’s total funding to over $15 million. The round was led by Spring Mountain Capital, with participation from 14W and all existing investors including 8VC, The Box Group, and Female Founders Fund. The company also announced the addition of two new board members: Spring Mountain’s Lauren Breuggen and Aetna veteran and Bright Health chief business officer Rachel Winokur.

Ryder started the company while working as a VC—and shortly before becoming a mother. Her experiences, along with those of other women in her circle convinced her that “there was a huge and underserved need” for a telemedicine network that specializes in women’s health. “I didn’t understand why there were so many networks but no women’s health providers [on those networks],” she recalls.

The company launched in April 2015 and now has 25 employees and roughly 100,000 users. Maven serves both individual women and employers, who use it as a health benefit for its female employees. As with any other telemedicine network, individual users can book a video appointment directly through the website or mobile app (a 10-minute doctor’s appointment costs $35). How Maven differentiates itself is through the experts it makes available, such as lactation specialists ($25 for 20 minutes) and midwives ($18 for 10 minutes).

On the employer side, companies partner with Maven to offer their female employees a 15-month program called Maven Maternity, which Ryder introduced in early 2016. With pregnancy, postpartum, and return-to-work offerings, the goal of Maven Maternity is to help women have healthier pregnancies as well as help them ease back into work after they give birth. Employees have access to dedicated health teams and on-demand care, such as the ability to text practitioners with health-related questions (e.g. “Is what I’m feeling right now normal?”).

Ryder says the offering makes financial sense for employers, who spend millions on maternity-related costs. For one thing, only 57% of new moms go back to work to the same job. And the costs of motherhood aren’t limited to turnover: maternity is often one of the top expenses for self-insured employers, she notes. A 2013 report by healthcare analytics firm Truven found that the average total price charged for pregnancy and newborn care was about $30,000 for a vaginal delivery and $50,000 for a caesarean section, with commercial insurers paying out an average of $18,329 and $27,866, respectively.

Snap Inc., the parent company of messaging app Snapchat, is one of a few high-profile employers that provides Maven Maternity as a benefit to their employees. (Maven’s other clients, some of which are Fortune 100 companies, declined to have their names made public for this article.)

Ryder is one of a number of female founders trying to disrupt health care, which remains a male-dominated industry. According to a 2012 Forbes report, just 4% of health care CEOs are women, yet women account for nearly 80% of all health care spending.

“Health care today looks like retail did 50 years ago, when you had a bunch of men talking about how best to sell pantyhose,” she says. “Maven is part of larger trend where suddenly there are a lot of female entrepreneurs looking at women’s health—this is an enormous, highly engaged category.”

She’s not far off; about a fifth of female entrepreneurs lead health care startups, according to an April report by TechCrunch.

It’s about time women took their health into their own hands, says the founder: “Why do we have self-driving cars, but when a woman has a miscarriage we as a society don’t support her?”

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