Sunfish, founded by a former director of one of the world’s oldest surrogacy and egg donation services, has received $4 million to develop financial aid software for hopeful parents.
A little over a year after its inception, the Santa Monica-based firm has closed a funding round headed by Walkabout Ventures and included participation from Hannah Grey VC and Fiat Ventures. Sunfish will use the funding to expand its offering, which provides families with information and resources to make informed decisions about assisted reproduction procedures including egg freezing, embryo preservation, IVF, egg donor trips, and surrogacy.
When CEO and creator Angela Rastegar was working for a surrogacy firm called Circle, she first saw the lack of support for assisted reproduction services. “There aren’t a lot of tools to assist the typical American understand budgeting, how to prepare for a loan, what’s the correct size loan for their household, where to find discounts, or even how to think about savings based on the cost of raising a family in their city,” she added.
In spite of interest from those with lower incomes, the entrepreneur claims that nowadays, approximately three-quarters of assisted reproduction patients earn more than $60,000 per year.
Clients in need of additional funding are identified via the firm’s collaboration with IVF centres, surrogacy agencies, and egg banks. Then, it directs them to the most appropriate grants, scholarships, workplace perks, and loan programmes based on their specific situation. It also connects people with a financial advisor and a cost calculator; later this year, the calculator will incorporate artificial intelligence to provide a more predictive picture of what it might cost to have a baby given a variety of factors related to the mother’s health and the parents’ genetic makeup.
The cost of assisted reproduction may vary widely depending on a variety of circumstances, such as the number of children a couple intends to have and the financial support they have access to through their insurance provider or their place of employment. Normally, a fertilised egg must be fertilised by sperm, and a womb must be available, in order to produce a baby. If you’re a heterosexual pair with access to all three, the cost of IVF will be lower; if you’re a single parent by choice or lack access to all three, such as in the case of a same-sex male couple, the cost will be much higher. It may cost anything from $20,000 to $200,000, she says.
Sunfish is unique in that it does not give loans directly but rather acts as a broker between borrowers and lenders. Her former employer, Origin Finance, provided and serviced loans for various types of family expansion strategies for the surrogacy business where she now works. In the same space where Origin was focusing on winding down operations in January, Sunfish emerged as a solution with a broader, more venture-scale perspective.
Instead of an individual attempting to get a personal loan at a higher, riskier rate, Sunfish now facilitates loans to a medical provider. Even if a bank is willing to provide credit, Sunfish makes it easier for borrowers to imagine the whole scope of the loan procedure, including potential costs and repayment schedules.
Rastegar said that this was extremely different from a situation where a single lender used a single set of criteria to accept just one group of borrowers by building their own facility. “As the fertility sector continues to expand and more lenders take notice, we felt it was important to provide our partners with the most complete solution possible.” Although the entrepreneur has promised in-house lending services in the future, having access to funds from a variety of sources is helpful for the young company’s growth and development.
Sunfish has turned off sharing how much funds it has unlocked, claiming competitive considerations, after receiving loan requests totaling over $20 million from hundreds of applicants. The business, however, claims to have helped hundreds of clients in 32 different states by providing them with access to credit lines of between $12,000 and $100,000.
Indeed, the company has its work cut out for it. Gaia, one of several companies in the market that helps couples pay for IVF, received $20 million in a Series A investment last year. Future Family, which helps people pay for reproductive procedures with 60-month loans, also secured $25 million in Series B funding in 2018.
Rastegar acknowledges that Sunfish may be playing catch-up to its VC-backed competitors, but she insists that the company’s differentiation is clear: its goal is to assist parents throughout the entire journey, from pregnancy through early childhood and beyond, with a focus on ensuring the child’s long-term financial wellness. The first stage may include introducing parents to loans, whereas stages two and three may involve things like savings accounts, investment opportunities, and so on.
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