Big Data

How Max Levchin is using ‘big data’ to make a difference

Serial entrepreneur Max Levchin on stage with Kara Swisher

Above: Serial entrepreneur Max Levchin on stage with Kara Swisher

Image Credit: Christina Farr / VentureBeat

SAN FRANCISCO — The goal for Mixpanel‘s first conference is to make data seem less boring. So the startup invited serial entrepreneur Max Levchin to share his big vision for a new fertility app to help women get pregnant.

Levchin introduced the “Glow” app at the D11 conference this May, making the audience supremely awkward with frequent mentions of vaginal mucus. Levchin, the former chief technology officer at PayPal, said he was inspired to develop the app because fertility is “an information problem.”

Today, Levchin is already quite the health care and fertility expert. He drops knowledge about ovulation cycles and the rhythm method. “Once the egg has dropped, you won’t conceive,” he told AllThingsD editor Kara Swisher on stage today at Mixpanel’s Data Driven conference.

“By the way, this wasn’t intended to be a conversation about sex,” he joked in response to nervous giggles from the audience.

Glow is still awaiting approval from the Apple App Store, although you can sign up now. Once it’s available, you’ll be able to sign in track a variety of vital signs, including your menstrual cycle, morning temperature, when you last had sex, the results of ovulation test or pregnancy tests, weight, stress level, and your cervical-mucus consistency.

Levchin also revealed some of his personal reasons for developing the app. Many of his close friends have found it a struggle to conceive, and they have spent thousands of dollars on fertility treatments.

“I have seen this [fertility problems] firsthand, and I have seen how desperate people become,” said Levchin. He hopes the app will help more women conceive naturally and prevent thousands of dollars on medical bills (which people can incur seeking expensive fertility treatments).

Levchin also had some thoughts to share about how data will directly benefit consumers. One of his favorite examples is using data analytics to establish credit-worthiness. Using data from Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites, a new generation of startups can establish whether people are likely to default on a loan.

LendUp is already using “big data” to provide small loans to people in need. It’s a darn sight better than the alternatives — LendUp can offer instant loan decisions, lower interest rates, and no rollover fees. Read more on this topic here.

When asked about other exciting opportunities for big data, Levchin said he’s most interested in health care, finance, education, food, and transportation. He believes he’s just “scratching the surface” in health care and finance and implied that transportation will be next on his agenda. A far-off dream is to tap energy from hurricanes and other natural disasters as a new “green” fuel source.

This is the first conference hosted by Mixpanel, a venture-backed analytics startup based in San Francisco. The speakers, which also include Box CEO Aaron Levie (I will be moderating that panel) and Path’s founder Dave Morin, were all asked to discuss ways to put data to work.


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