Could a Lack of Investment in Women Be Shelving Some Amazing Baby Products?
A revolutionary new app-enabled bottle and breast pump that claims to be more comfortable for moms is having trouble getting funding. Here's why.
Raise your hand if traditional breast pumps scare you. And/or you have worried about how much breast milk your baby is getting. Yeah, so, everyone. Well, what if there were app-enabled baby products that not only offered a more comfortable pumping alternative for moms, but also kept track of how much you pumped, and how much milk your baby was taking at each feeding? And then, helped you schedule your baby's feedings for the future? Luckily, these godsends actually exist. But one, the Naya Smart Breast Pump and Bottle, may be doomed to fail in today's business climate.
Created by mom-of-three Janica Alvarez and her husband Jeffrey, the Naya Smart Breast Pump features soft suction cups that mimic the feel of a baby's mouth, instead of hard, vacuum-like cones we are used to seeing with pumps. Naya also claims to distribute its suction over a larger area of women's breasts, making the pumping experience less, well, awful.
Beyond that, the accompanying bottle and app track how much milk moms pump, and how much their babies consume, enabling new parents to track their babies' feeding patterns, and plan better for future feedings—features that are great for working moms and for those who want to involve their partners in baby's feedings. "Too much guesswork and frustration can lead women to stop breastfeeding altogether," says Alvarez. "Sixty percent of women quit breastfeeding prematurely because of issues with their pump or out of fear that they aren't providing enough nutrition to their growing baby. The reality is, mothers are doing a great job! The Naya Smart Bottle makes it much easier to meet your baby's nutritional needs by giving you insights into when your baby feeds, how much baby feeds and the total calories and fat baby consumes. It gives moms the confidence that baby is getting exactly what she needs. We collect all of this information in the Naya Health Tracker so mom has this information at her fingertips."
Alvarez claims that Naya delivers 30 percent more breast milk and is 20 percent faster than alternatives, thanks to its water-based system, and adds that the company is also planning to sell a smart bottle that will be able to track the volume, calorie count, and fat content of breast milk and input them into an app. And you can use that smart bottle with the Naya pump—or with another pump of your choice.
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This all sounds great, right? As in, you're ready to buy. So why is Naya having such a tough time raising money to fund its revolutionary baby products? According to Bloomberg, Alvarez initially raised an astonishing $6.5 million from investors. But soon, she ran into, um, some challenging personalities, that belonged to, ahem, males. Some men commented on her physical appearance in meetings, and even asked her how she planned to run a business and be a mom. "Investors would say, 'Let me go talk to my sister; let me go talk to my wife,'" Alvarez told Bloomberg.
Consider that the breast pump industry is 93 percent male, according to The New Yorker. So sadly, Alvarez realized she had to bring her husband with her to pitch meetings to be heard. Guess what? No one questioned if he could run a business and be a parent.
Still, the company, which secured approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, had to recently launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funding. Naya has secured nearly 50 percent of its goal at the time of writing. But if the product doesn't meet its full funding goal by Saturday, October 21, well...it's not good.
About why she turned to Kickstarter, Alvarez has said, "If [venture capitalists] don't want this, then we know parents and mothers do." Because it seems baby products and products for women and moms aren't a priority for as many powerful people with deep pockets as one would suspect. Even though motherhood is, seemingly, big business.
Or, is it that female-lead businesses are undervalued? According to CNN, a study that looked at data between 2011 and 2013 "found that teams comprised entirely of men were four times more likely to get VC funding than those that had even one woman on their executive team." In fact, companies led by women got less than 5 percent of all venture capitalist funding last year. "Harvard Business Review published research to support that there are many subconscious biases at play with both female and male investors when evaluating a female-led company," Alvarez says. "More is expected out of women or moms no matter the stage of the company. Women are pushed much harder than the majority of male CEOs and founders. Women are expected to achieve more on less capital."
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To be fair, there may be a few other reasons Naya's baby products aren't taking hold in the industry. Due to an Obamacare mandate to insurance companies, they must cover the cost of breast pumps for mothers postpartum, and Naya isn't the brand you'll find in most hospitals. Plus, at $999, Naya's pump is super-pricey. (Special Kickstarter pricing of $649 is available right now, while supplies last.)
Here's hoping Naya's Smart Breast Pump and Bottle gets the attention and funding it deserves. To find out more, check out the Kickstarter campaign.
Melissa Willets is a writer, mom and coffee devotee. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.