Silicon Valley women are keen on frozen eggs, and start-ups want it to be easy.

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 Silicon Valley women are keen on frozen eggs, and start-ups want it to be easy.


Khosla Ventures, an investment company focused on information technology, is one of many women who decide to freeze their eggs.

For various reasons, thousands of women do this every year. The goal is to prevent accidents. They dont want children yet, but they worry that their eggs may no longer work when they decide to try. They havent met the right partner yet, but there is a possibility of infertility in the future or for other reasons.

But Simmons is a notable figure among her peers: shes one of the few women investors in a startup dedicated to solving many of the major problems of egg freezing.

In the course of his own experience, Simmons saw great room for improvement. For many women, especially those with no or only partial insurance, it costs thousands of dollars. Its also a very complex process, requiring hormone injections in clinics and regular blood withdrawals.

To change that, Simmons, who is in his early 30s this year, invested in several startups in the field. Viture is a biotechnology startup invested by Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce, to use technology to make egg freezing more economical and convenient. Higia is a wearable device that can be placed under a bra to detect breast cancer in advance and to track fertility, which may help women understand whether and when to freeze their eggs.

Simmons says she is currently negotiating to invest in several other companies that are also linked to egg freezing and broader womens health. Im keen to rethink this for women, she said.

Since the American Society of Reproductive Medicine stopped classifying eggs as experimental procedures in 2012, the number of women choosing to freeze their own eggs has soared. In 2009, only 500 women participated, but by 2016 the number had risen to 9,000. This is the latest data, but given the expanded coverage of frozen eggs, it is expected that by now the number will be much larger. As a result, American fertility clinics generated nearly $2 billion in revenue in 2017, and such clinics are springing up nationwide in the United States.

Many employers in technology and other industries want to retain talent by providing employees with a certain degree of egg freezing benefits coverage. Among them are Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Yahoo and Uber.

David Schlanger is the CEO of a company called Progyny, which works with many of these large employers to help women get these benefits. Around one in eight women suffers from such fertility problems, Schlanger said. For the first time in history, waiting time for women to have children is getting longer and longer, he said.

Despite this demand, venture capitalists have always paid little attention to womens health technology and insufficient investment. Five years ago, global investment in this area barely exceeded $100 million, according to Pitchbook. This is partly due to the fact that more than 90% of men in venture capital are men. As some recent reports have pointed out, access to capital is such a huge challenge that some women entrepreneurs have to take their husbands to meetings so that they can be taken seriously. Pitchbook is the most authoritative data research and analysis company in Silicon Valley, mainly engaged in enterprise data survey and analysis, investment data and recommendations worldwide.

But now thats starting to change. As market demand brings business opportunities, Simmons is becoming one of many women who are committed to doing more in womens health.

Piraye Yurttas Beim, a scientist and entrepreneur, founded her own company, Celmatix, after realizing that most women could not get their birth window in time.

So her company has developed a genetic test called Fertilome to screen for potential fertility risk factors for women. Bem was one of the early adopters of the test, which prompted her to quickly monitor her pregnancy plans.

I found that I inherited a genetic risk factor for premature menopause. When I was in my twenties, if I knew that my clock was faster than the average womans, I would think about some different decisions, Bem said.

Bem hopes that one day women will take contraceptives to help them maintain ovarian function. This is just one of many opportunities for women in reproductive space and other fields.

Science and tools are there, she said, but we really missed the financial support needed to build these companies and create a future for women. (Tianmen Mountain)

Source: Responsible Editor of Netease Science and Technology Report: Wang Fengzhi_NT2541