Entrepreneur Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal, Chairman of Yelp, and Yahoo! Board Member, launched his latest project, HVF in 2011 to tackle modern problems with data-driven strategies. Two companies have successfully spun out of HVF, Affirm and Glow. While Affirm tackles the challenges of the financial industry, Glow focuses on helping couples get pregnant. Max answers some of my questions regarding Glow.
Using data and machine learning, Glow asks women using the app to input a few details about their menstrual cycle, basal body temperature, etc., to reveal a personalized fertility calendar, showing the “% chance of pregnancy” for each day. A companion app for the partner helps make the experience more inclusive for the couple.
A: Data analysis is your specialty, but manual data entry is prone to human error. In what ways does Glow more accurately collect information?
ML: Today, mostly through excellent visual and experience design, and some basic gamification ideas, we make it easy and compelling to stay on track with your logging. Soon, however, we envision integrating with personal trackers, both software and hardware (existing and new), to make the process entirely passive. We have just partnered with MyFitnessPal, which makes tracking calories, BMI, and fitness events a lot easier for MFP users that also use Glow – they never have to do it twice. This is a very nice feature, with a lot more in the same vein coming soon.
Unlike other pregnancy apps on the market, Glow has a very special community sourced, non-profit program called Glow First. Couples using Glow First contribute $50/month to a pool for a 10-month duration. If the couple becomes pregnant during those 10 months, their contributions stop. At the end of the 10 months, the pool of donations redistributes to couples who aren’t pregnant. With proof of medical costs, Glow First will pay for infertility treatments at an accredited infertility clinic of the couple’s choice. Max has personally donated $1 million of his own money to the Glow First program.
A: Glow First is the first of its kind – to collect and offer a pool of community contributions in an industry that insurance companies refuse. What makes First work today versus in the past?
ML: It’s actually not the first time this type of a financial mutual-help system has been built – it works really well in small communities where people know each other and adverse selection is not a major issue. But it has not been done at scale. Smartphones and real-time communications enable this change – you can learn as much as you need before making a decision, and once you choose to go forward, the process is almost frictionless.
Glow announced last month that the app has helped over 1,000 people get pregnant so far.
A: The Glow app is beautiful in its design. Can you speak as to how design is important to Glow and more generally?
ML: It’s absolutely a critical part of the approach. Conception is a very intimate, and frequently for our users, a complicated process – it’s key we do not disrupt it, but enhance it, and where we can, add beauty and simplicity. There has been a fair amount of research showing that any form of stress negatively affects likelihood of conception. We hope to bring peace and calm to our users through our design, in addition to all our data-driven goodness!