The coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves through our healthcare system. Resulting capacity challenges have affected both emergency/ICU departments serving COVID-19 patients and regular primary care clinics, maternity wards, etc.
Expectant mothers are being confronted with lack of access to their trusted in-person care teams like OB/GYNs and midwives. In addition, the number of visitors mothers can bring for support in the delivery room is being limited (or visitors are outright prohibited). As the virus marches on and devastates hospital infrastructure around the world, moms confront the real possibility that they may not be able to comfortably or safely deliver their babies outside the home at all.
June Motherhood is a maternal health platform that is well-positioned to serve this population of moms in a time of great need .
June’s digital-first business model
Founded in 2019, June offers live, small group classes and 1:1 appointments with a variety of expert providers including birth and postpartum doulas . Upon registering, members get access to a trial class, enabling them to sample June’s providers, curriculum, and community. As part of June’s subscription offering, members get access to 3, live small group classes per month and are grouped with a small cohort of other expecting and new moms in a similar stage of pregnancy. The experience is completely virtual.
Today, the June team is small with three co-founders and half a dozen experts in the network, including birth and postpartum doulas, childbirth educators, breastfeeding counselors, and registered nurses specializing in newborn care.
How does June create value?
June is a two-sided digital platform, pairing moms with virtual maternal care providers from anywhere in the country. All stakeholders benefit from participating:
- Value for moms: June is priced to be more cost-effective for a mom relative to traditional options. June helps to address expectant moms’ anxiety and uncertainty about the birthing process using data-backed approaches, without the inconvenience and cost of finding and vetting an in-person provider or attending an in-person birth class.
- Value for providers: June expands the addressable market for any one provider, far beyond the geographic limitations of where she (or he) was willing or able to travel. June also gives a doula a layer of trust and credibility in an environment where there is no single standard for doula certification.
- Value for society: In addition, research suggests that using providers such as doulas reduces risk of C-Section or complication during high-risk deliveries, which means better health outcomes for moms and babies if more women can access doulas affordably.
The platform clearly creates value through the matchmaking process and cross-side network effects, which grow as more members join – but June also fosters strong same-side network effects. Moms in the support groups can help each other through the process when nursing, postpartum depression, baby’s sleep, and other issues may arise.
Moreover, maternal healthcare decisions heavily rely on trust and word-of-mouth – which means a high virality quotient. As more moms join the platform and tell their friends, June will earn more referrals and continue the user growth flywheel – in a way that’s competitively sustainable.
How does June capture value?
June’s value-capture model is a recurring monthly subscription, currently priced at $75 a month. This includes 3 live classes per month, in addition to access to June’s pre-recorded class library and community of expecting parents in the same stage.
As of 2018, the average American woman with an uncomplicated pregnancy spent $30,000 on the healthcare costs associated with preparing for and having a baby, according to a study done by the CDC (see Business Insider article). So, in relative terms, $75 a month for 9 months of June membership ($675) represents a tiny fraction of the total addressable opportunity for overall maternal care.
From a cost standpoint, June pays each provider as an independent service provider based on the services rendered. This reduces fixed costs and allows greater flexibility to scale its member base. Also, because June is all virtual and mostly small-group, June’s variable unit costs are lower than traditional competitors.
Response to COVID-19
COVID-19 has changed the game for most businesses, but June’s model was optimized for this virtual-only environment from Day One.
“We’ve always been a completely virtual support service for expectant new moms,” said Tina Beilinson, June’s co-founder and CEO. “Our platform allows expecting and new parents to feel supported and heard in a time when traditional in-person resources have disappeared.”
The June Motherhood team has reacted quickly to the evolving situation by:
- Offering a new, free virtual childbirth education class once a week, hosted by an experienced June Motherhood doula
- Providing new educational resources to moms who are considering home births
- Keeping providers employed and busy on the platform, to help them preserve cash-flow during the economic downturn
- Mobilizing providers to communicate ideas and options for care as the situation changes
As a trusted source for birth education, June can be a lifeline of reassurance for moms and employment for independent providers.
What’s next for June?
June Motherhood has been live for four weeks, and already has over 300 active customers. The million-dollar question is whether June’s growth trajectory will be sustained in the long term, absent the forcing mechanism of coronavirus.
In my opinion, June will continue to succeed.
There is ample whitespace in digital maternal care, and the platform clearly creates value for both sides. In a consumer segment that is built on trusted relationships and mom-to-mom referrals, June’s rapid user growth today will result in future sustainable advantage over competing platforms.
To some extent, lifetime value of a June customer is capped since most women in the US only bear children once or twice in their lives. However, June is horizontally expanding its product offering to include coaching add-ons, postpartum support, and more. Over time, this will increase the spend per mom and increase providers’ earning potential.
June hopes that with additional scale, they will also have the resources to pursue payer partnerships – in other words, work with employers and health insurers to get June reimbursed. Today, third party insurance companies pay high reimbursement rates to traditional healthcare providers for C-Sections, complicated births, or long labor-related hospital stays; June could help save money for all parties if it could reduce the incidence of these issues.
- June Motherhood is a start-up company incubated out of the Rock Accelerator at HBS. The founder team is three MBA ’20 classmates: Tina Beilinson, Sophia Richter, and Julia Cole. The team provided input on this blog post to confirm accuracy before publication.
- A doula is a person experienced in childbirth who provides advice, information, emotional support, and/or physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth. Unlike midwives, who are typically licensed medical professionals that assist in birthing, doulas function more as educators, coaches, and support providers. Doulas in general are less expensive than either midwives or board-certified obstetricians and have been proven to be equally effective at addressing new moms’ common, everyday pregnancy concerns.
Virtual interview with CEO and co-founder, Tina Beilinson.