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Serena Williams and Mark Cuban Invest in Startup Fighting Maternal Mortality

July 15, 2019, 12:00 PM UTC

After Serena Williams gave birth to her daughter in 2018, she shared the life-threatening complications she experienced—and how, as a black woman, she was three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes.

Now Williams—through her firm Serena Ventures—has invested in Mahmee, a startup working to end the maternal mortality crisis affecting black women in the United States. About 700 women die from pregnancy-related complications in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Three in five of those deaths are preventable, and one-third of those deaths happen up to a year after the birth.

Williams was joined in the $3 million funding round by angel investor Mark Cuban, returning investor the Bumble Fund, as well as ArlanWasHere, the joint project between Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital and Cuban, among others. The deal is the first lead investment for ArlanWasHere.

“I am incredibly excited to invest and partner with Mahmee, a company that personifies my firm’s investment philosophy,” Williams said in a statement. “Given the bleak data surrounding maternal death and injury rates, I believe that it is absolutely critical right now to invest in solutions that help protect the lives of moms and babies.”

Mahmee co-founder and CEO Melissa Hanna.

Mahmee, founded in 2014, offers an online platform that allows women to track their health and the health of their child after giving birth. The platform connects users with supplemental health professionals, like lactation consultants, and lets them ask questions they feel don’t rise to the level of contacting their doctor. Unlike other telehealth platforms, Mahmee does not prescribe birth control or other medication. Its stated goal is to “close the gaps” in maternal and infant care.

“Technology’s not going to save the world, it’s not going to save the maternal health care industry,” says Mahmee CEO Melissa Hanna. She co-founded the company with her mother, Linda Hanna-Sperber, a longtime nurse and lactation consultant, and a third co-founder, Sunny Walia. “It can be a component of a solution here,” she says.

By selling its service through health systems and hospitals—like current partners Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles—Mahmee works to reach consumers of all income levels. A woman who receives health coverage through Medicaid, for instance, can use the Mahmee platform if her hospital offers it.

According to Hanna, Williams connected with Mahmee through Hamilton. Serena Ventures has invested in more than 30 companies and increased its public profile in the past year. “It was a really important moment for our team to have support from someone like her,” Hanna said.

With its funding, Mahmee plans to hire more engineers, clinicians, and sales staff to support its expansion; the startup is focusing on cities with especially high maternal mortality and morbidity rates.

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