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Maven CEO Kate Ryder on providing women’s health care services in a post-Roe United States

·24 min read

On this week’s episode of Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast, co-host Alan Murray talks with Kate Ryder, the CEO of Maven, about the growth of her women's and family health care company, now valued at more than $1 billion. They also discuss the changes—both known and unknown—for women's health care providers, employers and women in the workforce since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Listen to the episode or read the full transcript below.

Transcript

Alan Murray: Leadership Next is powered by the folks at Deloitte, who, like me, are super focused on how CEOs can lead in the context of disruption and evolving societal expectations. Welcome to Leadership Next, the podcast about the changing rules of business leadership.

I'm Alan Murray, and I'm here with my phenomenal co-host, Ellen McGirt.

Ellen McGirt: And I have missed those words. This is the most affirming part of my week, and I thank you for it, and hello everyone. Here's a word of warning: I actually was not able to join Alan for today's interview, and I am regretting it, because she is such an interesting person and has founded a really interesting, and I would say necessary, company. What do you think, Alan?

Murray: Yeah, I wish you had been there as well. Kate Ryder is our guest. She's the founder and CEO of Maven. It's a women's and family health startup. First company in this sector to be worth over a billion dollars, and it's providing services, family health services and women's health services, largely virtually, and as you can imagine, Ellen, it's been hugely impacted by the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision.

McGirt: Can you imagine having a platform that's big at such a critical time? There's so much happening for women, and so much happening for women's health that translates into equity into the workplace and their lives, and I can only imagine how useful this would have been even decades earlier. I know we didn't have the technology piece then. But this kind of access for women and families would have been essential. What what did you want to talk to her about? Why was she a good fit for you?

Murray: Well, first of all, Ellen, this this interview happened in Aspen at our Brainstorm Tech conference. The irony, of course, was you were in Aspen as well, but doing something else and fired up at the moment. So we were all hanging out in the mountains, and Kate was there, so it was an opportunity to speak to her in person. But I think the turmoil around the Supreme Court decision was really, this would have been an interesting interview at any time, but at this particular time, it was really powerful.

McGirt: Well, in my own defense, I was at an ESG conference, and I came back with some amazing potential guests for Leadership Next. So you should consider it a scouting mission, and I promise you it's going to be value added.

Murray: We should go to Aspen more often, but let's talk to Kate.

[Music]

Murray: Kate, let me first of all, just welcome you, thank you for being here, and get you to tell us a little bit about what Maven is and how you got started.

Kate Ryder: Thank you so much for having me. Thrilled to be here in Aspen. So I founded Maven in 2014 because I saw firsthand a lot of the gaps in the in the women's and family health care model. And so, you know, you think about it, about 40% of new moms are dropping out of the workforce after they have kids, and the entire LGBTQ community has been left out of the family-building model, because there weren't benefits for things like IVF for adoption or surrogacy. We have the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world, and we're also the richest country that spends the most on health care. And so you know, what Maven does is we really fill in all of these very distinct gaps through a virtual care and financial support platform. So we have the largest telehealth network and women's and family health. So on the one hand, we provide that holistic care by offering access to over 2,000 providers across 30 specialties across gender and race, and they speak 35 languages. So we bring that access to not only, you know, geographies where they don't have that level of support, but also just that culturally competent care.

Murray: And who pays? Are you working with the health care companies or with the employers or both?

Ryder: Both. Yeah, no, we work with nearly half of the Fortune 15. We work with much of the major national insurers. So Microsoft, AT&T, Blue Shield of California. So we effectively help them you know, offer this more holistic care and then design, you know, enhanced benefits through our Maven Wallet platform, which is our financial support. And then we also kind of bring it together with navigation. So that, you know, with our partners our payers our providers our employers, people have access to their family health benefits, actually know how to use them and get the most out of them. And then we also, you know, through a lot of our programming, help the patients who are going through these IVF journeys where these pregnancy journeys actually get the best outcomes.

Murray: How many families are you serving now? What's the scale?

Ryder: We have about 15 million lives under management.

Murray: That's amazing. Fifteen million. And I don't think most people probably fully understand how much of the health care dollar is spent around pregnancies.

Ryder: Oh, yeah. I mean, you know, with some of our clients, it's their top spend more than cancer, more than heart disease. So, you know, on average, if you look at the self-insured employers and their health care budget maternity might be 10% to 12% of that, which, you know, in some cases is more even than diabetes, depending on the demographics of your population. In some states where Medicaid is disproportionately the payer for births, it's their top spend across the state.

Murray: Wow, and so you started this virtual clinic in 2014, long before the pandemic hit, but the pandemic must have led to massive—I mean, there wasn't that much virtual health care going on in 2014, was there?

Ryder: No no, we joke that no one knew what telemedicine was when we started and that was one of the hardest parts and then suddenly, overnight, everything changed. And so I think sort of that what we've seen is that you don't need to really kind of convince people that virtual care is more convenient, more affordable, and at the same level of quality as in-person, because people just had to do it. And so now what we've seen is more growth of not only on the client side, but on the member side within our clients. So we have some of the highest utilization engagement in the industry across any digital health category. You know, according to our national care partners.

Murray: And you did this because you you felt that this was an area that was badly underserved by the existing health care system, but why was it so badly underserved?

Ryder: Well, I you know, I think women's and family health has has always been underserved even before Roe v. Wade, which is changing the paradigm even more. But I think that the whole care model of person, woman, gets pregnant, woman has the baby, and then maybe she goes back to work, or not so much else that happens whether it's, you know, there's not a straight line, whether it's infertility issues, whether it's alternate pathways to parenthood, whether it's miscarriage—it has a whole mental health component where, you know, 20% of new moms suffer from postpartum depression, and that's never really been served. And so, what we thought was if we brought together all these different types of providers in a care team that could really complement the in person care and fill in a lot of these gaps, we could actually help women not only go back to work, but even on you know, reducing C-section rates because they're empowered with with more information because they have that constant access to providers. Or helping manage risk like, you know, people come into the pregnancy journey with hypertension, or those underlying causes of infertility that could make their pregnancy higher risk. You know, we have care teams working with them to help them manage it, so that they don't have a baby early and prematurely which you know, for the payers is one of the costliest parts of the maternity episode.

Murray: So, well, that was going to be my next question. So for the payers or for the employers, you're adding all the services, but you're not increasing their costs?

Ryder: No, we're reducing it. You know, when you when you have a virtual model, it's just so much more efficient and scalable. And so, you know, by really tackling the clinical outcomes, which leads to better financial outcomes through this holistic care model, it's why, you know, we sign value based care contracts. Now, it's why so many of our clients and parents work with us.

Murray: You talked about these high engagement scores? Do you find that patients actually when they're dealing with pregnancy issues or fertility issues prefer virtual engagement?

Ryder: You know, we do. I think that what we see is a lot of times patients don't even have a fertility clinic when they're coming to us. They don't know how much things are going to cost. There's so much misinformation on the internet. You know, we always say Dr. Google is not necessarily your friend in this category, that people are so anxious, and then on the on their pregnancy side, too. A lot of them don't have doctors. So what will help them find one based on what they're looking for. And then because they have these really compassionate providers on the Maven platform that they can talk to in the middle of the night they can talk to you know, during the week, during the weekends, a lot of our new parents, moms...

Murray: Twenty-four hours a day?

Ryder: It's 24 hours a day, like kids, you know, when they need something, they need something so and you know, we actually it's not just women, but 40% of our members are men because not only through the fertility journey, but through that early parenting where you really need so much support.

Murray: So let's talk about Roe v. Wade. How has the decision and the fallout from the decision impacted your business? Is it limiting your ability to provide services? Are there liability issues for you and in that, how are you thinking about it?

Ryder: Yeah, you know, first it's, it's a, it's a really sad moment for so many women, particularly vulnerable and marginalized women, because they're going to just lose basic access to health care. And I think, you know, there are predictions—the University of Colorado actually just released a study that they predict the maternal mortality rate, which is already the worst in the developed world, will go up by 24% because of this decision. And so, we've known it's been comin,g because back in the fall with with SB8, that was kind of what led you know, everyone to kind of believe, okay, this is not looking good. And then there's obviously the leak.

So on the one hand, what our product does is, we support travel reimbursement through our financial platform. We support pregnancy options counseling through our maternity program. You know, one out of four women will have an abortion in their life. People often don't realize how high that number is because it's just a part of prenatal care. And so we now have pregnancy options counseling as part of our of our maternity product, and so we're counseling and helping members there. But what we've seen on the client side is, you know, a lot of people didn't really know what to do or what to expect. We're talking to our clients and we're talking to our clients

Murray: When you talk about clients you're talking about the...

Ryder: ...employers and the health plans. And then when the decision hit, you saw everyone, even people that said, I don't know what we're going to do yet. Everyone did something. And so that was actually really encouraging.

Murray: And tell me if this is correct, because I haven't seen good data on this. But my sense from the CEOs I've talked to was, it was kind of a split reaction when the decision happened. On the one hand, you know, they had employees who are passionate on both sides of the abortion issue, and they didn't want to get caught up in a political debate. So they didn't want to speak out. But pretty much every large employer who I talked to, regardless of where they are located, went and looked at their benefit plans to make sure that they were providing adequate care to their people wherever they live.

Ryder: Correct, because a lot of the employers already had a travel benefit, whether it was for organ transplantation or some other part of health car,e so they just added a reproductive health service travel benefit on top. It doesn't just include abortion care, it's more///

Murray: It could be fertility as well...

Ryder: ...totally. And so that's what we've really seen. But I think, yeah, we've seen you know, in since the decision was was handed down. We've seen a 67% increase in new opportunities in our pipeline. So, you know, we've seen people that were looking at maybe bringing us on, but then they're like, oh, you know, my priorities have shifted this year. All of a sudden, this is the priority.

Murray: But that suggests that if you work for a large company, or you are covered by a large health care plan, that you're probably going to be taken care of, you're going to have the services that you need. And the real problem is that people who don't have that covered.

Ryder: Correct, I mean, because about 75% of the people who are getting abortions every year are you know, lower income. So those are the people on the Medicaid plans or uninsured that I think there's a real concern about.

Murray: And what can Maven do to help those people?

Ryder: We're working now with the Medicaid population.

Murray: So will Medicaid pay?

Ryder: Well, that's part of our maternity program, though, right pregnancy options now. And so yes, they are paying for that. And in terms of the travel reimbursement, I think that remains to be seen. So we're in conversations right now. But yeah, I mean, I think to really actually effect true impact here. You have to work with the Medicaid population as well.

Murray: So the question is, will Medicaid reimburse for travel as well? Seems unlikely.

Ryder: Well, I think that there's also a huge economic case for actually really supporting these individuals to you know, continue working. In a lot of industries like hospitals or retail or fast food where a lot of their frontline workers are women, if they're having a lot of unintended pregnancies—and unintended pregnancy, right, by the way, is about 50% in this country.

Murray: Fifty percent of pregnancies are unintended. And currently, what percentage of those end up in abortion?

Ryder: I don't know the answer to that. I don't think the data really connects that. Yeah. I mean, I think also now a lot of there's a lot of organizations like Maven as well working to now connect all the dots here because there's just a very clear economic story that I think a lot of businesses understand that, you know, beyond the political beyond the, you know, whatever people think about abortion based on their personal beliefs, this is a huge part of the workforce and a huge part of America that that really needs support.

[Music]

Murray: I'm here with Joe Ucuzoglu, the CEO of Deloitte US, and the sponsor of this podcast for all three of its seasons. Thank you for that, Joe.

Joe Ucuzoglu: Pleasure to be here. Alan.

Murray: Business is facing so many challenges these days, the continued pandemic, the battle for talent, supply chain problems, rising inflation, and now on top of all of that war in Europe, how are companies responding to all this disruption?

Ucuzoglu: Alan, you're seeing a remarkable level of optimism in the face of so many very challenges. And by and large, I attribute that to a recognition that this is just the new normal, the constant curveballs that will be thrown at us but at the same time, given how successfully so many of these organizations have navigated through these things over the past couple of years, a growing confidence that we'll be able to continue to navigate the issues that get thrown at us and grow our businesses. But to do that, we are absolutely seeing a new brand of leadership emerge, grounded in resilience, in agility, in a learning mindset. These are the most important leadership attributes in an environment where we should just expect that change and disruption are going to be at a consistently high level of intensity.

Murray: The problems aren't going away, Joe, right? You have to manage through them.

Ucuzoglu: I had a CEO say to me recently that, if you put together a list of the top 20 risks one week, something big is going to hit the next week, and it probably isn't even on that list. And that's just a reflection of the number of different phenomena in the world right now and the level of complexity that businesses are managing through.

Murray: Joe. Thank you.

Ucuzoglu: Alan, it's a real pleasure.

[Music]

Murray: Give us a sense of both the demographic spread of your client of your not your clients, but your patients and the geographical.

Ryder: So, about—so, we are global. About 10% of our patients are global, about 60% of our clients who have global offices, you know, use Maven globally. There's a huge trend as well right now in global family building, because fertility benefits are really uneven across the world. And if you're one team, you know, across the world, you have to do something here. And then you know, we work with primarily commercial populations, although this past year is when we've now dipped our toes into Medicaid. So that you know, what will hopefully be seen increasing over the next few years.

And then, you know, in terms of the most popular industries we work with—you know, technology, banking, financial services, consulting, retail health care—and you know, we are pretty geographically diverse. I think counterintuitively, some of our first clients, were not the tech companies in San Francisco, actually big companies in the south. Because when we came, you know, when we launched in 2015, some of those companies had just recently kind of maybe put in the fertility benefits. They're like, okay, you know, I just focused on this category so I'm going to focus on other things, but then there was there was so much support, people looking for support around return to work and kind of more comprehensive fertility on maternity benefits that then the Southern companies that hadn't done anything yet or Midwestern or east. They just kind of bought our full platform and then finally the tech companies, you know, Microsoft and many others, they finally came about around oh wait, we actually need a full family building benefit of like fertility maternity parenting pediatrics, the whole the whole nine yards because with the pandemic and all the parental burnout, a lot of a lot of that disproportionately hit but members that we see.

Murray: That's interesting. I want to go back to that but before we leave the Roe v. Wade conversation, are you worried about the company having legal liability in these states?

Ryder: Well, I think there's still a lot that are uncertain about what's happening. I think, you know, for us, we will always support member well being we're always gonna be in compliance with the law.

Murray: Can you do both, I guess, is the question?

Ryder: Well, you I think you have to be in compliance with the law to be able to support member well being. So there's a lot that is still uncertain. So we are, you know, monitoring, monitoring everything. You know, I think there's states where they are criminalizing support for helping members get care. And so there's a lot of question marks in the last week even, you know, there's talk about not allowing people to travel and coming down on those companies that are supporting that travel in Texas. So again...

Murray: Where are your people located?

Ryder: Our headquarters?

Murray: The nurses who I talk to on your platform, or are they distributed?

Ryder: Distributed. Yup. So we have care advocates all across the country and and the world actually, we have.

Murray: ...but some of them may be in states where abortion is going to be where, you know, new laws are going to kick into place.

Ryder: Exactly. And so, you know, to be in compliance with the law they would not be helping patients.

Murray: Do you have competition?

Ryder: You know, like, there's competition in every category, but no one really does what we do. I mean, we're the only company that is that end to end...

Murray: ...comprehensive virtual...

Ryder: ...menopause now, and we're the only company that works with health plans and employers and Medicaid. So, so what...

Murray: How large is the market here?

Ryder: Well, we think it's a $200 billion market when you take all of women's health services and family health and children's health services and you put it together. That includes you know, the actual surgery and in person procedures and whatnot. So it's enormous. Women also control 80% of decisions in healthcare. So when you're actually working with this consumer, you have the ability to also influence outcomes in other areas.

Murray: So what what what are the limits to your growth? What are the challenges you face right now? I know you've had this crazy pandemic period with explosive growth, but what where do you go from here?

Ryder: So I think we're in an interesting window right now where there's kind of two simultaneous trends. The markets are spiraling down which is a massive problem for everybody, but then there's so much growth ahead in digital health and we're in this unique window where the biggest payers and providers and those who kind of have designed the system and the rules are open to partnerships and digital innovation. They're asking themselves those questions because the pandemic just kind of blew everything up, so to speak. But I think that window is going to close in time, and they're going figure it out. And so for us, it's just really important. We're really focused on growth over the next kind of three to five years?

Murray: Do you have the resources that you need?

Ryder: Yes, we raised 200 million to date. We became a unicorn last year with a billion dollar valuation. And so and we continue to, thankfully have capital sources.

Murray: If the markets hadn't gone south. Would you have been close to considering IPO?

Ryder: You know, probably, I think that the main thing that we want to do before we go public, regardless of our revenue is ensure that we understand that we're the ones taking the debt and Medicaid and that we can predict kind of how that looks. And so that's it's hard. I mean, I always ask the question to people and Medicaid and, you know, government organizations and Medicaid plans: Tell me the best virtual solutions in the Medicaid market that serve kind of women and families and nobody really has answers for that. So, you know, again, it kind of feels like where we bet we're in 2014, where no one had ever had a holistic care model, women's and family health that they were selling to employers, like we really did kind of create that category. And now in Medicaid, no one's really done what we're doing and so we want to see that through before going public.

Murray: Talent is a challenge in every business these days. It's certainly a challenge in the healthcare industry. How does Maven compete for qualified nurses, doctors, the high level talent you need to make your services work.

Ryder: Yeah, I think the the main thing there is you know, we're really mission driven or really patient centered. I think anybody any provider who works with Maven that you know, that's what they see the second they walk into, you know, virtually walk, you know, hypothetically, but I think that ultimately, if you're authentic in what you do, and you're mission driven, and you're very good at communicating that, it's not hard to recruit talent.

Murray: You can get them. They want to work for you. Yeah, it's actually a nice combination of, of mission and flexibility.

Ryder: Exactly. And, you know, we do have disproportionately female providers, a lot of them are part-time or moms themselves and so they it's just a beautiful part of healthcare to work in because you have the patients that you know, there's extreme anxiety and uncertainty but mostly it's joy because you're bringing a new child into the world and you're raising a child. And then there's, you know, questions around of course, fertility and menopause, but it's not like you're sick, it's just a phase of life.

And then on the provider side, the providers have seen how underserved this has been for so long, that they're excited to kind of step up. I think that in telemedicine, you're starting to see two types of companies, one that are kind of 1-800 dial a doc, where it's a very commodified experience, and it's commodified for both the provider and the patient. And then in ours, it's not commodified at all. We're not, you know, telemedicine is like a part of our experience, it's not the only thing we offer. And with the providers, they have their whole own app called M Practice. And we have a whole provider community team that is helping them do more than just see patients and so I think that shines through in our providers.

Murray: Well Kate Ryder, fascinating what you're doing really, you know, it feels like the right business for the right moment. I wish you the best of luck. I should have mentioned at the outset, you did, that we're sitting together in Aspen, Colorado, at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference. I hope you get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather some while you're here, but thanks so much for being here and being part of the conversation having me.

Murray: Leadership Next is edited by Nicole Vergalla, written by me, Alan Murray, along with my amazing colleagues, Ellen McGirt and Megan Arnold. Our theme is by Jason Snell. Executive producers are Mason Cohn and Megan Arnold. Leadership Next is a production of Fortune Media. Leadership Next episodes are produced by Fortune's editorial team.

The views and opinions expressed by podcast speakers and guests are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of Deloitte or its personnel. Nor does Deloitte advocate or endorse any individuals or entities featured on the episodes.

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com