Abortion pill startup Hey Jane to seek new VC funds
Many venture capitalists took to Twitter on Monday night, decrying news that the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. Soon they'll have a chance to put their money where their mouths are.
Driving the news: Hey Jane, a U.S. telemedicine startup specializing in abortion pills, plans to seek a Series A round later this spring.
- To date it's raised $3.6 million in seed funding, from backers like Gaingels, Dorm Room Fund, Moving Capital and Koa Labs.
What to know: The business model itself isn't novel. This is direct-to-consumer pharmacy, much like Hims or Ro. The difference is that Hey Jane's primary product is politically controversial, and telemedicine sales of abortion pills are either banned or restricted in 19 states.
- The majority of those restrictions are specific to the pill provider (i.e., Hey Jane), not the deliverer or user. That means a user could travel across state lines to pick up the pills at a post office, or theoretically have them sent to a friend's address or other mail forwarder in one of the six states to which Hey Jane currently delivers. There also are some overseas telemedicine providers who send into the U.S.
- These laws are in constant flux, and sure to get more complicated if SCOTUS rules as expected.
The product: Over half of all U.S. abortions are now done via medication, with less than a 1% adverse reaction rate. Hey Jane pills are only for medication abortions at 10 weeks or earlier, which usually can be taken without medical supervision.
- According to 2016 data from the Guttmacher Institute, around two-thirds of U.S. abortions occur within the first eight weeks (88% within 12 weeks).
- The FDA in December changed its guidance on abortion pills, permanently allowing people to access them through telemedicine and receive the pills by mail, where permitted by state law.
Big picture: Hey Jane is using abortion pills as its cornerstone offering, but also had expanded into birth control pills, and hopes to build a diversified digital clinic for women's health.
What they're saying: "We're building a platform for the really stigmatized, underserved health needs for people with uteruses," explains company founder and CEO Kiki Freedman, a former Uber project manager who launched Hey Jane after hearing of new abortion restrictions in Missouri.
- "One of our core learnings has been the power of creating this wraparound layer of emotional support and online community," she adds. "You wouldn't think of customer loyalty in the traditional way when it comes to this, but it has created insane appreciation that leads to new users via word of mouth."
The bottom line: Hey Jane is a small piece of a giant, divisive national issue that involves health, liberty, politics, law and business. Whether it becomes a bigger player will be up to investors.
Go deeper... Red states crack down on abortion pills
Oriana Gonzalez and Ashley Gold contributed to the reporting of this story.