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Exclusive: Aster nabs $2.4M for pregnancy care platform

Illustration of four toy blocks with symbols of a check mark, a pregnant person, a heart, and a baby.

Illustration: Victoria Ellis/Axios

Aster, a pregnancy care and tracking platform that virtually connects patients and providers, raised $2.4 million in pre-seed money, CEO Fifi Kara tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Maternal mortality rates in the U.S. are much higher than in other developed countries, while 80% of deaths during pregnancy are preventable.

Meanwhile, Black women in the U.S. face disproportionately high rates of maternal mortality, per the CDC.

  • "If you solve for the most marginalized groups, you can solve for everyone," says Monique Woodard founder of Cake Ventures, which led the round.

Details: Other investors include Cornerstone, Zeal Capital Partners (BBFI), Octopus (FCF), Blueprint, Everywhere and select angel investors.

  • The original target for the seed was $1.5 million, Kara notes.

How it works: The San Francisco-based software platform connects patients and providers to track pregnancy and book appointments.

  • Its scheduling tool considers prior conditions and risk levels, to help schedule prenatal appointments in an optimal time frame.
  • Aster also offers a remote vital signs tracker, with a blood pressure cuff, glucometer and urine analysis test strips.
  • The company is adding a transcription service to easily record conversations between patients and physicians, Kara says.

The big picture: Remote monitoring can help detect key risks like gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia early. It not only means prevention of potential complications, but also early treatment, which contributes to reducing maternal mortality.

What's next: Giving Aster more than two years of runway, fresh funds will be used to move out the platform out of the pilot phase

  • There are currently 30 clinics in pilot, some of which are being onboarded over the next month, Kara says.
  • "We have an end-of-year target of 100 clinics to be onboarded," she says.

What they're saying: "If you get pregnant today, you are likely to have a worse outcome than you would have 20 years ago," says Kara.

  • "There are closures all over the place," she adds, noting need is particularly high in Alabama, Alaska, Ohio and Maryland.
  • "Aster is going after smaller and independent clinics who were not sucked up into a big network and that is good for long term impact for maternal and prenatal health care across the country," says Woodard.

State of play: There is a wave of health care startups aiming to help the pregnant population.

  • Mahmee, a maternal health startup raised $9.2 million of Series A funding.
  • Sonio, a ultrasound technology company, raised $14 million in Series A to expand in the U.S.
  • Allara, a virtual care platform for women of reproductive age with chronic hormonal conditions, raised $10 million in Series A funding.

Flashback: Aster was founded when co-founder and sister, Lailah Kara-Newton, had a near-death experience with her pregnancy.

  • Her son was born not breathing, as Kara-Newton has undiagnosed preeclampsia.
  • The experience could have been prevented if Kara-Newton's urine and blood pressure had been checked more regularly and at an earlier date.

😊 1 good thing: "Her son Eesa is a happy and healthy 4-year old boy now who loves Spiderman," Kara says.

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