June Motherhood: Delivering advice and education to expectant moms in the time of quarantine

Incubated out of HBS, June Motherhood is an exciting digitally-native maternal care education platform. As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on and consumers are thinking differently about all in-person experiences, June is well-positioned to support both sides of its network and grow rapidly.

The coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves through our healthcare system. Resulting capacity challenges have affected both emergency/ICU departments serving COVID-19 patients and regular primary care clinics, maternity wards, etc.

Expectant mothers are being confronted with lack of access to their trusted in-person care teams like OB/GYNs and midwives. In addition, the number of visitors mothers can bring for support in the delivery room is being limited (or visitors are outright prohibited). As the virus marches on and devastates hospital infrastructure around the world, moms confront the real possibility that they may not be able to comfortably or safely deliver their babies outside the home at all.

June Motherhood is a maternal health platform that is well-positioned to serve this population of moms in a time of great need [1].

June’s digital-first business model

Founded in 2019, June offers live, small group classes and 1:1 appointments with a variety of expert providers including birth and postpartum doulas [2]. Upon registering, members get access to a trial class, enabling them to sample June’s providers, curriculum, and community. As part of June’s subscription offering, members get access to 3, live small group classes per month and are grouped with a small cohort of other expecting and new moms in a similar stage of pregnancy. The experience is completely virtual.

Today, the June team is small with three co-founders and half a dozen experts in the network, including birth and postpartum doulas, childbirth educators, breastfeeding counselors, and registered nurses specializing in newborn care.

June Co-founder team

How does June create value?

June is a two-sided digital platform, pairing moms with virtual maternal care providers from anywhere in the country. All stakeholders benefit from participating:

  • Value for moms: June is priced to be more cost-effective for a mom relative to traditional options. June helps to address expectant moms’ anxiety and uncertainty about the birthing process using data-backed approaches, without the inconvenience and cost of finding and vetting an in-person provider or attending an in-person birth class.
  • Value for providers: June expands the addressable market for any one provider, far beyond the geographic limitations of where she (or he) was willing or able to travel. June also gives a doula a layer of trust and credibility in an environment where there is no single standard for doula certification.
  • Value for society: In addition, research suggests that using providers such as doulas reduces risk of C-Section or complication during high-risk deliveries, which means better health outcomes for moms and babies if more women can access doulas affordably.

The platform clearly creates value through the matchmaking process and cross-side network effects, which grow as more members join – but June also fosters strong same-side network effects. Moms in the support groups can help each other through the process when nursing, postpartum depression, baby’s sleep, and other issues may arise.

Moreover, maternal healthcare decisions heavily rely on trust and word-of-mouth – which means a high virality quotient. As more moms join the platform and tell their friends, June will earn more referrals and continue the user growth flywheel – in a way that’s competitively sustainable.

How does June capture value?

June’s value-capture model is a recurring monthly subscription, currently priced at $75 a month. This includes 3 live classes per month, in addition to access to June’s pre-recorded class library and community of expecting parents in the same stage.

As of 2018, the average American woman with an uncomplicated pregnancy spent $30,000 on the healthcare costs associated with preparing for and having a baby, according to a study done by the CDC (see Business Insider article). So, in relative terms, $75 a month for 9 months of June membership ($675) represents a tiny fraction of the total addressable opportunity for overall maternal care.

Doulas are shown to improve health outcomes for new moms

From a cost standpoint, June pays each provider as an independent service provider based on the services rendered. This reduces fixed costs and allows greater flexibility to scale its member base. Also, because June is all virtual and mostly small-group, June’s variable unit costs are lower than traditional competitors.

Response to COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed the game for most businesses, but June’s model was optimized for this virtual-only environment from Day One.

“We’ve always been a completely virtual support service for expectant new moms,” said Tina Beilinson, June’s co-founder and CEO. “Our platform allows expecting and new parents to feel supported and heard in a time when traditional in-person resources have disappeared.”

The June Motherhood team has reacted quickly to the evolving situation by:

  • Offering a new, free virtual childbirth education class once a week, hosted by an experienced June Motherhood doula
  • Providing new educational resources to moms who are considering home births
  • Keeping providers employed and busy on the platform, to help them preserve cash-flow during the economic downturn
  • Mobilizing providers to communicate ideas and options for care as the situation changes

As a trusted source for birth education, June can be a lifeline of reassurance for moms and employment for independent providers.

June Motherhood is offering free, weekly virtual birth education classes during the pandemic

What’s next for June?

June Motherhood has been live for four weeks, and already has over 300 active customers. The million-dollar question is whether June’s growth trajectory will be sustained in the long term, absent the forcing mechanism of coronavirus.

In my opinion, June will continue to succeed.

There is ample whitespace in digital maternal care, and the platform clearly creates value for both sides. In a consumer segment that is built on trusted relationships and mom-to-mom referrals, June’s rapid user growth today will result in future sustainable advantage over competing platforms.

To some extent, lifetime value of a June customer is capped since most women in the US only bear children once or twice in their lives. However, June is horizontally expanding its product offering to include coaching add-ons, postpartum support, and more. Over time, this will increase the spend per mom and increase providers’ earning potential.

June hopes that with additional scale, they will also have the resources to pursue payer partnerships – in other words, work with employers and health insurers to get June reimbursed. Today, third party insurance companies pay high reimbursement rates to traditional healthcare providers for C-Sections, complicated births, or long labor-related hospital stays; June could help save money for all parties if it could reduce the incidence of these issues.

 

Footnotes

  1. June Motherhood is a start-up company incubated out of the Rock Accelerator at HBS. The founder team is three MBA ’20 classmates: Tina Beilinson, Sophia Richter, and Julia Cole. The team provided input on this blog post to confirm accuracy before publication.
  2. A doula is a person experienced in childbirth who provides advice, information, emotional support, and/or physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth. Unlike midwives, who are typically licensed medical professionals that assist in birthing, doulas function more as educators, coaches, and support providers. Doulas in general are less expensive than either midwives or board-certified obstetricians and have been proven to be equally effective at addressing new moms’ common, everyday pregnancy concerns.

Sources

Virtual interview with CEO and co-founder, Tina Beilinson.

https://www.junemotherhood.com/

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/doulas-are-laboring-under-coronavirus-restrictions.html

https://cheddar.com/media/how-june-motherhood-is-supporting-expecting-moms-amid-covid-pandemic

https://medium.com/@madeleineahernlivingston/the-next-era-of-telehealth-with-june-motherhood-your-virtual-partner-in-pregnancy-14cb4983425c

https://www.businessinsider.com/how-much-does-it-cost-to-have-a-baby-2018-4

https://www.dona.org/what-is-a-doula/benefits-of-a-doula/

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7 thoughts on “June Motherhood: Delivering advice and education to expectant moms in the time of quarantine

  1. Love that this is a HBS founded company! June’s value prop is extremely timely given all of the limitations in the healthcare system and restrictions that have been placed on access to resources for expecting mothers. I can see how they will be able to capture more users given that in person classes can’t take place but am skeptical if a large enough segment of expectant mothers will choose to take digital classes once normal life resumes. I would imagine this is a very emotional and important decision and you would want that personal connection that is hard to foster over a screen. However, I believe it is super valuable for mom’s to have a support system and community to lean on. It seems to me that there is more value for the doula and insurance side of the platform by eliminating geographic constraints and reducing overall costs. It will be super interesting to follow along!

  2. Thanks for writing about June, Megan! I’m a huge fan of the team and think it’s awesome what they are doing. I agree with Ali’s comments above, it will be interesting to follow June post-Covid to see how they continue to engage mothers when social distancing measures have been relaxed. In the meantime, this is a great way to build critical mass in both supply and demand. I was recently reading about ‘death doulas’ – similar to birth doulas but instead of helping to bring a life into this world, they help people on their way out. This probably doesn’t fit in with June’s value proposition, but it is an interesting thought as a way to extend the overall LTV of a customer through additional offerings throughout a person’s life. I like that they are already working on building out their products horizontally – a great strategy!

  3. So exciting to read about one of our very own! I love what June is doing and think that in addition to the network effects you described, they are also uniquely benefiting from the timing of COVID. As a new start-up, they are likely seeing more traction at this early stage than they otherwise would be and they are hopefully taking advantage of all the new users to run rapid experimentation and get a sense for what is working and what isn’t!

  4. Great blog post Megan! I think a big factor for success in this space is trust given how intimately the doula will be involved in this special moment. As such, referrals will likely be really important for June. Although a given woman many only have a few children, I think is a big opportunity for June to offer a creative referral rewards programs to broaden their customers base.

  5. Thanks for this great post, Megan! It’s so exciting that it’s an HBS founded company! I really believe that June Motherhood has an incredible value proposition, which is further enhanced during COVID-19. While I agree with Alli Iglehart in her comment above that pregnancy is a very emotional process and that in-person classes are likely preferred by most expecting women, I think that June Motherhood could be extremely helpful for women who have very demanding jobs and crowded schedules. The flexibility of being able to take classes from the comfort of their own home or directly from their offices, is for sure very valuable and could help working women save a lot of time.

  6. Thank you for writing this post! This is such a sensitive topic for many families around the world right now. And I agree, I believe the the the companies who will emerge ‘heroes’ in this pandemic are the ones who are well set up for the virtual world. June is a perfect example of such heroes. I believe that in these crisis times many mothers might be going through anxious times and June’s value proposition of providing a support system to the mothers will prove to be critical for the mental health of mothers.

  7. Great piece Megan! Thanks for sharing. June is extremely well-positioned for this crisis and beyond. June’s target customers is a population that is truly undeserved with a strong pain point that can greatly benefit from June’s offerings. I like June’s approach to make reliable information accessible, and for June’s customers to feel supported with a community that care. The situation that expected mom’s face is already is social isolating even without the COVID 19 pandemic, so I see great potential for the company beyond this pandemic.

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