Startups Weekly - When your startup’s core mission is set to be overturned

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By Natasha Mascarenhas

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Welcome to Startups Weekly, a fresh human-first take on this week's startup news and trends.

Hey Jane, a digital health startup that scales access to abortion pills, makes sense. It's a direct-to-consumer pharmacy that aims to meet consumers where they are, which is especially important as the pandemic's extended stay continues.

Hey Jane's core product has significant red tape to deal with. It's main product, abortion pills, are banned or restricted in several states. Add in the fact that Roe v. Wade is set to be overturned, and the world's future could clash with the startup's mission to expand healthcare. Hey Jane pretty much underscores the potential — and promise — of telehealth startups. But it also operates at the heart of an over-politicized issue.

Earlier this month, I wrote about how digital health startups are bracing for a post-Roe world. Then, Hey Jane co-founder Kiki Freedman said that the overturn makes abortion care via mail "now likely to be the most viable form of access for most of the country." A hurdle, she expects, will be a lack of education among consumers on medication-induced abortions. The majority of abortions performed in the U.S. are via medication, except she says that a minority of people are educated about the nuances of medical abortion. "It's imperative that we continue to educate people about this safe, effective and common abortion option," she wrote in a statement.

But now I want to do a follow-up to these next-day reactions. Next week, I plan to interview Freedman for TechCrunch's Equity podcast and ask her about how to build a company when the mission may be irreversibly challenged by our government; we'll talk about the origin story, and how they plan to pivot in the future. I want her to tell me what the world is getting wrong about telemedicine's ability to answer the biggest questions in health right now, and where startups could fit into the solution going forward. Also, are they actually raising a growth round? For the answers, make sure to tune into the Equity episode wherever you get podcasts, and, heck, why not start now? 

In the rest of this newsletter, we'll talk about another round of startup layoffs, why your MVP isn't the MVP, and a fintech company betting that it can make even your local credit card crave some Netflix & Chill time.  As always, you can support me by forwarding this newsletter to a friend or following me on Twitter or my blog.


Image Credits: Eshma / Getty Images

More layoffs in startupland

There's unfortunately more where last week came from. Tech workers experienced another hard week of layoffs and hiring freezes, coming from startups such as Section4, Latch and DataRobot. We rounded up some of the known workforce reductions in one post. 

Here's why it's important: Impact was felt across industries ranging from education to security, as well as stages from a post–Series A startup to a recently SPAC'd business. To me, that signals just how pervasive this pull-back truly is, regardless of what phase your company may be in. It's not just the cash-rich tech unicorns that are cutting staff; it's the early stage startups, too.

More layoffs in startupland image

Image Credits: PM images / Getty Images

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Your MVP is neither minimal, viable nor a product

I've been thinking about this headline from Haje Jan Kamps for the past week because it challenges one of those preconceived startup notions that everyone else happily adopts without too much of a fight. Aka, my sweet spot (and my weakness). In this op-ed, Kamps gets into why MVP is "such a profound misnomer" and what to focus on instead.

Here's why it's important: Kamps' new framework, and series of questions that you should be asking your first product, should make the complexities of MVPs a little more approachable. And II'll end with his kicker:

"I don't have a suggestion for a better name for MVP, just don't fall into the trap of thinking of it as a product, being viable or, necessarily, being small, simple or easy. Some MVPs are complex. The idea, though, is to spend as little of your precious resources as you can to get an answer to your questions."

Your MVP is neither minimal, viable nor a product image

Image Credits: SpiffyJ / Getty Images

Jay-Z's Queen A

For the deal of the week that may have flown under your radar, I choose Altro! Co-founded by Michael Broughton and Ayush Jain, this fintech startup believes that credit access should be free — so it found an atypical way to help people build credit.

Here's why it's important: Altros, which raised an $18 million Series A this week, helps folks build credit through recurring payment forms such as digital subscriptions to Netflix, Spotify and Hulu. It stands out because a lot of banks targeted toward low-income, historically disenfranchised people want to circumvent credit scores altogether — while Altros wants to tweak access to an established system. I highly recommend reading Mary Ann's story about the company's origins, fundraising journey and spotlight — and subscribing to her newsletter, The Interchange. 

Jay-Z's Queen A image

Image Credits: Olena Ruban / Getty Images

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

Seen on TechCrunch+

Until next time,


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