Home / Tech / This CEO got $3 million from investors including Serena Williams’ VC firm to fix a problem with women’s healthcare that even the star tennis player has struggled with

This CEO got $3 million from investors including Serena Williams’ VC firm to fix a problem with women’s healthcare that even the star tennis player has struggled with

Melissa Hanna

  • Mahmee, a maternal and infant health startup, announced Monday it raised $3 million in seed funding.
  • The round was led by Arlan Hamilton’s ArlanWasHere Investments and included backing from Serena Williams’ venture firm Serena Ventures, as well as Mark Cuban.
  • Mahmee cofounder and CEO Melissa Hanna told Business Insider that they intentionally created an app that works across mobile, desktop, and tablets to allow for doctors for the mother and baby to share information and coordinate care.
  • Hanna told Business Insider that she struggled to raise funding for the five-year-old company because she wasn’t willing to drop out of graduate school, but ultimately thinks the diverse range of seed investors better represents her employees and customer base.
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Tennis star Serena Williams made headlines when she publicly shared her health struggles during her pregnancy and shortly after the birth of her first child and brought national attention to the maternal mortality crisis in the United States.

Now, her venture firm is backing a startup that is trying to solve this crisis. Mahmee, pronounced like “mommy,” announced Monday it raised $3 million in seed funding from ArlanWasHere Ventures, Serena Ventures, and Mark Cuban, among several other early-stage investors.

The maternal health startup was designed by mother-daughter team Melissa and Linda Hanna to connect a mother’s care team with her child’s to create a comprehensive plan that takes both parties needs and health issues into account by working directly with health care providers and payers like insurance companies and Medicaid.

“Maternity and infant healthcare is the last mile of healthcare innovation, as it the broader women’s healthcare industry,” Melissa Hanna said. “It’s why we’ve been so left behind in healthcare. Our bodies have not been respected or cared for in the ways that they should, and we are not empowered to advocate for ourselves.”

Read More: This CEO just raised $11.5 million to fix the broken field of fertility treatment by helping companies offer it as an employee benefit: ‘A problem I couldn’t let go of’

Melissa Hanna gives the example of a new mother that is breastfeeding to underscore the degree to which there’s a huge disconnect between the baby’s doctor and the mother’s.

The pediatrician will monitor the baby’s weight and will note if their growth is not growing normally — but they’re likely out of the loop on whether or not the mother is having issues with breastfeeding that might be the cause. For her part, the mother may be working with a lactation consultant, but that specialist may not know about the baby’s growth.

Hanna says that with Mahmee, both providers would be connected, so they can team up to come up with a plan that accounts for both the baby’s nutrition, as well as the mother’s difficulties.

“If you don’t have that perspective on the mom and the baby’s health, how are you going to be able to proactively provide care to this family?” Melissa Hanna asked. “It’s a missed opportunity to deliver preventative medicine, so we developed the ability to aggregate and analyze all this data over time.”

Diversity makes all the difference in the world

The HIPAA-compliant tool was developed for mobile, desktop, and tablet, Melissa Hanna said, after seeing the lengths her mother had to go to to keep different parties up to date on medical developments as a maternal health specialist, largely relying on text messaging. 

Melissa Hanna initially pushed back on working in maternal healthcare because she didn’t want to work in her mother’s shadow. But one night at a birthday dinner, Melissa Hanna realized her mother’s intricate text message system couldn’t work at scale. 

“I just thought that’s not secure at all and it’s totally cramping my mom’s lifestyle,” Melissa Hanna said. “If my mom is doing this and she’s very actively involved in maternal care, why isn’t this centralized in a way where we can get a better handle on it?”

Potential investors saw the potential in Melissa Hanna’s project, but advised her to drop out of graduate school to commit to the company full time before signing the check. She wasn’t ready to give up a sure thing, her business and law degrees, for the new venture and ultimately rejected the investors she felt weren’t aligned with her vision.

“When we started meeting with people who were aligned, these people were very diverse in many ways as well,” Melissa Hanna said. “The diversity of our investor group reflects the diversity of our organization and our patient population, and it makes all the difference in the world.”

SEE ALSO: This Brazilian immigrant CEO thinks that Silicon Valley investors need to do more to help customers outside America, even if their income is lower

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