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Maven Clinic becomes the first U.S. ‘unicorn’ dedicated to women’s and family health

August 17, 2021, 3:01 PM UTC

Women’s health has long been underfunded, under-researched, underserved, and just generally ignored. That’s left a gaping hole in the market—and it’s one that Kate Ryder has seen the huge potential in filling.  

Today her company, Maven Clinic, is announcing that it has raised a $110 million Series D round. Maven says the new funding values the company at more than $1 billion—making it the only U.S. unicorn in the women’s and family health sector. The round was co-led by Dragoneer Investment Group and Lux Capital. The Bond firm and existing investors Sequoia, Oak HC/FT, and Icon Ventures participated, and Oprah Winfrey also joined the round. The seven-year-old startup’s total funding has now surpassed $200 million.

Through what Ryder calls its “unique combination of care advocates and telemedicine,” Maven assists patients through everything from fertility treatment to pediatric care. Its clients include Fortune 500 companies, such as Microsoft, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boston Scientific, and L’Oréal.

Ryder, who is Maven’s founder and CEO, views this as critical moment for the sector. “We’re in this unique window where the future of family care is going to be decided in the actions of the big players in health care in the next five years,” she says. She talked with Fortune about what comes next for women’s and family health and how COVID-19 has changed the landscape. Edited excerpts follow.

Fortune: What’s the plan for the latest round of funding?

Ryder: We’re going even deeper on personalizing the patient journey in all of its complexity and diversity. Right now the majority of our business is commercial—we work with employers, we work with health plans. Half the births in this country are on Medicaid plans, so if you are lower income, working hourly jobs for a living wage, what does your health care look like? That patient journey is just different. We will continue to build for that.

Also, every path to parenthood and through parenthood is incredibly different no matter where you come from. Maybe you start with IVF and then you get pregnant and then you miscarry, and then you get pregnant again naturally. That’s a very different journey than if you go through IVF again. Or if you had a C-section for your first child, and you’re going into your second pregnancy. It’s really complicated, and there’s been nothing built here for so long.

How has the tone in the investment community shifted when it comes to women’s health and family health since you started the company?

Every time we’ve raised money, people are a little bit more informed about the problems we’re tackling. In the very early days, it was a struggle just to get people to understand that there’s even a problem. It’s hard when there are mostly male investors, when a lot of those investors are probably not on the normal health plan that most Americans are on, and when society isn’t talking about things like IVF, fertility, miscarriage, and postpartum depression.

By the time we got to our Series B, there was also a clamor around more women investors at the table. That round was led by two women, Jess Lee and Nancy Brown, both of whom deeply understand the problem. So having investors suddenly assessing our business and the vision as users and as patients started to really change the game.

The fact that 43% of new moms are dropping out of the workforce after having kids was a little-known problem when we started. Now with so many women leaving the workforce during COVID, we are really talking about gender representation. Much of it comes down to when a woman has a family—is there that right support system in place so that she can continue her career? COVID has also highlighted the racial disparities in care. Where that comes into our industry is that Black mothers die in childbirth at three times the rate of white women. This been a stat forever, but now everyone’s talking about it.

It sounds like COVID made companies more aware of some of the issues they need to address.

Employers were already starting to invest here. But what’s changed is that health plans and health systems are now really investing. That is the growth inflection point that so many digital health companies look for, which is how to partner with the biggest players to drive change.

What else is really accelerating the category?

In other digital health categories you can establish clinical outcomes in an eight-week trial. Fertility and maternity just take a while because someone is pregnant for a long time, and then you need to look at the results. In the last 12 to 18 months our clinical outcomes have been validated through claims studies as well as by external health care economics teams at payers. They compared claims from Maven clients and to a control group [and found that Maven clients cost employers and insurers less]. Maternity is still one of the biggest costs of a self-funded employer and a health plan. The winning company is going to be able to drive a clinical value and return on investment from their platform. We’ve established it now. That’s another big area for us going forward as so much of health care shifts into risk.

Explain what you mean by risk.

One of the biggest trends in health care is that for so long we’ve been in this fee-for-service model. You can see it in a C-section. Either you just get paid for as many surgeries as you do, or you get paid for the outcomes of the mom and baby. So which model is going to drive better health outcomes? Obviously when you’re incentivized to drive healthier outcomes for mom and baby.

People are trying to shift more things into this value-based care model [where groups will take on more financial responsibility or risk for the outcomes of care], because then all the incentives are aligned between provider and payer and patient. This isn’t going to happen overnight, but COVID has certainly accelerated it. With maternity, it’s a huge area, which people are looking at as a great stomping ground to start to prove some of this out.

What is the biggest gap in women’s and family health that still needs to be filled?

It’s this notion of “This is all one journey.” Over the last five to 10 years, employers and plans might have prioritized a piece of it—so pregnancy or fertility or breast milk shipping. But that holistic look of, well, if you prioritize fertility, a lot of those patients end up being pregnant. Then for parents who have kids, the first five years, it’s crazy. You really need this all-in-one continuous platform so that you treat all pathways to parenthood and then parents moving into that family growing phase equally.

I think what COVID has really shown is it’s not just about the family building and the pregnancy itself. There’s an epidemic of burnt-out parents, people just leaving the workforce, and the caregiving crisis.

What have you been hearing most from customers during this crisis?

We’ve always had this virtual care platform, and when COVID hit and forced everyone to engage with virtual care, we suddenly didn’t have that tall order to change user behavior and introduce a new way of consuming health care. We saw it in our mental health usage—we had a 300% spike last year. We saw it in our telemedicine usage across the board. There’s no better time to give overworked, busy parents an easy modern solution. This is in some ways the perfect population to use virtual care, and so that’s been a huge boon to our business.

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