Professional tennis player Serena Williams has been vocal about her harrowing postpartum experience giving birth to her first child.
So it’s no wonder that she, through her firm Serena Ventures, is backing Los Angeles-based maternal and infant health tech startup Mahmee in its new $3 million seed round. Arlan Hamilton’s ArlanWasHere Investments led the financing “with support from Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund.” Prolific investor and “Shark Tank’s” Mark Cuban and Pipeline Angels also participated. Previous investors include Cross Culture Ventures, Acumen America, The Helm, Backstage Capital, Bumble Fund, and others.
CEO and co-founder Melissa Hanna came up with the idea after seeing her mother, Linda, work for years as a labor and delivery nurse. Linda was one of the first women in the US to become a board-certified lactation consultant and went on to design health giant Kaiser Permanente’s breastfeeding center, a program that was replicated up and down the West Coast. Over the years, Linda expressed frustration at the lack of connective technology in maternal care and with just how much in general maternal and infant health care “had been left behind by the tech world.
“We started to realize that maybe this sort of solution wasn’t going to happen unless we built it,” Melissa told Crunchbase News. Despite her extensive experience, Linda expressed concern with the complexity of the healthcare industry.
“The more we dug into it, we realized just how siloed the data is in the industry,” she added. “So the vision for the platform became one of aggregating the data and creating a much better pictures for moms’ and babies’ health over time. At the same time, we realized the opportunity to build software that could connect a community of providers, pediatricians, ob-gyns, lactation consultants and build a care program experience that could exist outside of a traditional hospital setting.”
So in late 2014, the mother and daughter teamed up with Sunny Walia to found Mahmee. They spent about 18 months on R&D before they launched their first product. In 2016, Mahmee began serving patients with its data-driven model designed to “prevent critical gaps” in care. The company also began engaging organizations and groups to explore an enterprise business model. Mahmee’s platform works by linking a mother and baby’s health history and data, engages, checking on and monitors patients through “maternity coaches” and escalating concerns to doctors so that a mother and baby’s care plan “stays up to date and critical red flags aren’t missed and interventions are performed when needed” according to Melissa. It does this through a HIPAA-secure, online dashboard that is available to new and expecting parents as well as their medical providers.
To the Hannas, the need was paramount. About 700 mothers die and 50,000 are severely injured each year from birth complications, according to the Center for Disease Control, which also notes that for every 5 mothers dying in the United States from pregnancy and childbirth, three could have been saved.
So far, Melissa said Mahmee has helped reduce NICU readmissions for neonatal jaundice by 60 percent, and escalated almost 1000 cases of moms’ critical care problems to physicians including life-threatenign conditions such as ike sepsis, postpartum hemorrhage, or suicide risk.
The company’s seed raise is in large part a response to what Melissa describes as an influx of interest from health systems, insurance companies and large hospital networks. To make its product accessible to families across all income levels, the company has partnered with such organizations to make it available as a benefit.
Mahmee currently has over 1,000 providers and organizations in its network, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, AltaMed, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and UCLA.
Williams said the startup personifies her firm’s investment philosophy.
“Given the bleak data surrounding maternal death and injury rates, I believe that it is “I absolutely critical right now to invest in solutions that help protect the lives of moms and babies,” she said in a press release.
Mary Grove, a partner at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest, said the Mahmee team “brings deep clinical and industry expertise” to address “a massive unmet opportunity to improve maternal and infant outcomes by leveraging both personalized care and tech infrastructure at scale.”
Despite the big names involved in Mahmee’s seed round, Melissa said the fundraising process was not without its challenges and that it took a long time to find people who were “truly aligned” with the vision for the company and founding team.
“My experience was very consistent with others at this stage,” she told Crunchbase News. “Not everyone is biased against female founders or founders of color. But there are still investors out there who for some reason can’t put their finger on it or are just hesitant to invest in someone like me as CEO of a company.”
But the diversity challenges were just one piece of the story.
“The business has a complicated business model. Healthcare is complicated,” Melissa added. “So the space we’re in is not something that speaks to all investors. But fortunately, Arlan Hamilton being one of our earliest investors and advocates paved the way to finding investors are open-minded and willing to work alongside us to build out the vision for the company.”
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