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When Max Levchin first started telling the world about Glow, one of the companies to come out of his HVF incubator, last summer, it sounded like little more than an app to help women get pregnant. The app let women track their periods and offered some community features.
But today, the company has added features to its app to help it also cater to women seeking to avoid pregnancy. And it has a new app, Glow Nurture, that caters to pregnant women. It has also raised $17 million in a second round of institutional funding.
Glow released its flagship app in August 2013 and says it has helped 25,000 women get pregnant. As mentioned, the app enables women to chart their menstrual cycles and other data points in order to get better insights about their reproductive systems. The app also taps into crowdsourced and other data to help provide guidance by comparing a woman’s own data to that of others.
Moreover, about half of Glow’s users are now using the app to avoid pregnancy, Glow co-founder and chief executive Mike Huang told VentureBeat.
He added that women who had used Glow to get pregnant began to ask for help with the pregnancies themselves. Two months ago, the company released Glow Nurture for just that purpose.
“How do we help mothers who are pregnant deliver a healthy baby?” Huang said was the question Nurture is helping answer. The app was designed to provide four key elements: information and literature specific to each trimester, data logging, data science that provides insights, and a vibrant community of expecting mothers.
But it’s that data element that’s really at the core of what Glow is all about. It will also be how Glow eventually helps women with other aspects of their health.
“Our goal is to reduce health care costs,” Huang said.
“We started with an app simply trying to help women to conceive. Now we have a lot of women trying to be on top of their menstrual cycle,” he said. For example, polycystic ovary syndrome is highly correlated with irregular periods, something a woman can track with Glow’s app and take action on earlier. With Glow’s crowdsourced data, women can see when their own data is raising red flags and seek medical attention earlier.
But the other area data will eventually help Glow enter is health insurance.
Huang and his team argue that there’s a tremendous amount of data and derived insights that health insurance providers are lacking. A more granular understanding of a person’s health could unlock more accurate risk assessments and ultimately result in better health insurance, according to Huang. Essentially, if we know to a tee how much of a health risk — or not — someone poses, they could access better coverage than if they are blindly lumped into a group about which little is known. It would eliminate blind spots.
“Don’t tell me what you have because if you tell me what you have, I’m not going to help you,” Huang said, describing health insurance providers’ current message to people.
This is also a similar approach to what Levchin is doing with Affirm, his other big data company, which focuses on fixing consumer lending by making lending risk more granular.
However, Glow has yet to start working on the insurance portion of its bigger-picture road map, Huang said. In the meantime, the company has launched its Glow First program, which is a pool of funds to help parents who were unsuccessful at getting pregnant, pay for infertility treatments. Participating parents contribute $50 per month for 10 months, and at the end, the funds are split up among the parents who were unable to conceive. With that said, it’s a bit unclear how the program will prevent couples from abusing it by participating just to get the funds towards treatment.
The company will be putting its new funding towards boosting its data science, engineering, and product teams mainly, as well as the rest of its operations. Formation 8 led this round, with additional participation from Founder’s Fund and Andreessen Horowitz. Formation 8’s Joe Lonsdale and Nellie Levchin will be joining Glow’s board of directors as part of this round.
Disclosure: Formation 8 is an investor in VentureBeat.
Glow was founded in 2013 by Levchin, Kevin Ho, Ryan Ye, and Chris Martinez, and is headquartered in Shanghai, China, with an additional office in San Francisco. The company previously raised $6 million in funding.
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