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February 24, 2019
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Extend Fertility banks $15M Series A to help women freeze their eggs

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Fertility services are raising venture cash left and right. Last week, it was Dadi, a sperm storage startup that nabbed a $2 million seed round. This week, it’s Extend Fertility, which helps women preserve their fertility through egg freezing.

Headquartered in New York, the business has secured a $15 million Series A investment from Regal Healthcare Capital Partners to expand its fertility services, which also include infertility treatments, such as in vitro and intrauterine insemination. The company has also appointed Anne Hogarty, the former chief business officer at Prelude Fertility and vice president of international business at BuzzFeed, to the role of chief executive officer. Hogarty replaces Extend Fertility co-founder Ilaina Edison, who had held the C-level title since the business launched in 2016. Edison will remain on the startup’s board of directors.

Extend Fertility, in its New York cryopreservation and embryology lab and treatment center, completed 1,000 egg-freezing cycles in 2018.

“A lot of amazing things have happened for women over the last century,” Hogarty told TechCrunch earlier this week. “Now, women are permitted and encouraged to seek higher education, pursue a career, follow their dreams and end up with a partner who’s the right partner, not just any partner. Doing all those things has pushed the window for when women want to start a family from their 20s to their 30s and unfortunately, one thing that has not changed in that time is the biological clock.”

Hogarty explained Extend’s fertility services are more affordable than other options because the service was built specifically with egg freezing in mind, and the company later expanded to offer infertility treatments, whereas other services were established to provide IVF and other infertility treatments and integrated cryopreservation tools later.

We are really purpose-built to be an egg-freezing-first company, where many legacy institutions that were providing infertility services have legacy costs that come with … inefficiencies bred over decades and outmoded technology in their labs that may not be the most efficient and effective,” she said. “We have a state of the art lab with the latest equipment.”

It’s the classic innovator dilemma,” she added. “Infertility services are extraordinarily expensive and reproductive endocrinology is a new area of medicine. There are a lot of people and institutions that have been taking inordinate amounts of money for their infertility services so they weren’t looking to serve this population of women looking to preserve their fertility.”

One egg-freezing cycle with Extend costs women $5,500, and additional cycles come at a sticker price of $4,000. Each cycle includes a fertility assessment, private consultation, anesthesia and any monitoring a patient may need during their cycle. The costs don’t include medication, however. Extend can prescribe medications — which typically cost between $2,000 and $5,000 for fertility patients — but they still need to go through a third party to get their prescriptions filled and paid for. 

For reference, FertilityIQ, an online platform for researching fertility care providers and treatments, says the typical cost per cycle for egg freezing is more than $17,000 in New York City or $15,600 in San Francisco. Most egg-freezing services, including Extend, do not accept insurance, as most insurance providers don’t cover the steep costs of fertility or infertility treatments.

Some companies, however, are beginning to offer benefits that cover these costs. Facebook and Apple, for example, began subsidizing egg-freezing procedures for employees in 2014. Spotify and eBay, for their part, will pay for an unlimited number of IVF cycles.

Hogarty said Extend’s price point makes it one of the lowest-cost players in the market.

“We want as many women as possible to benefit from the advances from egg-freezing technology,” she said.

Extend Fertility, which has previously raised $10 million, plans to use the latest investment to open labs in new markets and expand its infertility services.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Spotify, eBay set standard for fertility benefits, study finds

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The technology sector awards women and same-sex couples the most comprehensive fertility benefit packages, according to a survey by FertilityIQ, an online platform for fertility patients to review doctors and research treatments.

The company asked 30,000 in vitro fertilisation (IVF) patients across industries about their employers’ — or their spouse’s employer’s’ — 2019 fertility treatment policy, and allocated points based on their support for IVF procedures and egg freezing, among other services.

Silicon Valley semiconductor business Analog Devices and eBay led the ranking. The two companies offer employees unlimited IVF cycles with no pre-authorization requirement, meaning employees do not need permission from insurance providers before seeking certain medical services. Pre-authorization has historically impacted lesbian, gay or unpartnered employees from accessing care quickly or at all, FertilityIQ co-founder Jake Anderson explained

Spotify, Adobe, Lyft, Facebook and Pinterest were amongst the highest-ranked technology businesses, too.

“I think a lot of people see the tech sector as being unenlightened when it comes to family values but it’s still the sector that makes the fertility benefits the most widely acceptable,” Anderson, a former consumer internet investor at Sequoia Capital, told TechCrunch.

FertilityIQ’s fertility benefits survey results.

Despite an initial outpouring of skepticism, Facebook and Apple became leaders in the fertility benefit category when they began paying for their female employees to freeze their eggs in 2014. Since then, smaller firms have opted to beef up those benefits to stay competitive with their much larger and richer counterparts.

“The Lyfts, the Airbnbs and the Ubers of the world, who clearly need to compete for those companies for talent, have effectively matched those companies dollar-for-dollar despite a much smaller war-chest,” Anderson said. “These companies that are worth 1/1000th of these bigger companies are effectively going toe-to-toe to offer whatever women need.”

Anderson and his wife, FertilityIQ co-founder Deborah Anderson, noticed improved benefits in 2018 from companies implicated by the #MeToo movement, such as Vice Media, Under Armour and Uber.

“Silicon Valley is notorious for talent moving around on you but it’s probably not coincidental that some of the companies that were in the spotlight in the #MeToo movement have added really generous benefits,” Deborah Anderson told TechCrunch.

Uber, for example, now pays for its employees to complete two IVF cycles but still requires pre-authorization.

One in 7 Americans struggle with infertility and the rate of IVF procedures only continues to increase, with the latest data indicating a 15 percent year-over-year growth rate. IVF costs roughly $22,000 per cycle, per FertilityIQ’s survey, a cost which has similarly increased 15 percent since 2015.

That’s a whole lot of cash for a fertility patient to dole out. If companies foot the bill, they’ll have a better shot at retaining talent.

“Best we can tell, there is no question that employees that get this benefit and use it are more loyal and more likely to stick around,” Jake Anderson said. “The company that helps you build your family is the company that you remain committed to.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

eBay beats in Q4 on sales of $2.9B and EPS of $0.71, but GMV of $24.6B is up only 1%

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As eBay gets increasing pressure from activist shareholders like Elliott Management and Starboard to reform its business and turn it into a high-growth tech stock by overhauling its main Marketplace, refreshing management and rethinking its other businesses like StubHub and classifieds, the e-commerce platform delivered a set of Q4 results that were solid if a little lacklustre.

The company today said that for the quarter that ended December 31, it posted revenues of $2.9 billion with non-GAAP net income of $670 million or $0.71 per share. On both counts, it just beat analyst expectations, which were respectively $2.87 billion on EPS of $0.68. But as a sign of the flagging business that activist shareholders have been highlighting, gross merchandise volumes were $24.6 billion, up just one percent on a year ago, even as revenues rose six percent.

In what might be a small concession to those requests for reform, eBay said it repurchased approximately $1.5 billion of its common stock in the quarter, and that it plans to “return approximately $7 billion to shareholders through dividends and repurchases over the next two years, with approximately $5.5 billion to be returned in 2019.”

It also provided some guidance for the full year: net revenues will be between $10.7 billion and $10.9 billion, growing between just 1 percent and 3 percent, with GAAP earnings per diluted share from continuing operations in the range of $1.83$1.93 and non-GAAP earnings per diluted share from continuing operations in the range of $2.62$2.68.

“We delivered record earnings for the fourth quarter and full year 2018,” said Devin Wenig, President and CEO of eBay Inc., in a statement. “In 2019, our focus will be on further improvements to the eBay user experience, while pursuing significant long-term growth opportunities in advertising and payments. We are confident in the strength of our business and future growth prospects, as demonstrated by our decision to institute eBay’s first-ever dividend and increase our share repurchase program.”

Active buyers are up four percent to 179 million, with the Marketplace, its core platform, accountung for $2.3 billion of its revenues, and $23.2 billion of GMV. StubHub, its ticketing business, accounted for $314 million of sales, while classifieds brought in $263 million of revenues.

The company is often compared against Amazon, which started out of the gate around the same time as eBay, but has gone on to diversify into a vast array of business areas and has truly changed the face of commerce as we know it. eBay hasn’t quite had that impact, and arguably its greatest acquisition, of PayPal, was spun off several years ago into its own business, which is thriving (it will report results later this week).

eBay has been trying to diversify its own business in the meantime, in areas such as promoted listings and other services to expand how merchants and buyers can spend on its platform. It said that revenues from promoted listings are up 150 percent across 200 million listings from 600,000 active sellers.

It’s also trying to move into more services around its sales, for example around installation and authentication services for higher-end items such as jewellery.

It also provided some guidance on Q1, where it expects revenues of between $2.55 billion and $2.60 billion, which will be representative of flat to two percent growth on a year ago — one more sign of the kind of sluggish growth that Elliott is pinpointing in its reform plan. Non-GAAP earnings per diluted share from continuing operations in the range of $0.62$0.64.

I’m listening to the earnings call and will update this post with any additional points that are notable.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Elliott Management letter puts eBay on notice to improve stock performance, sell StubHub

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Elliott Management, a NYC investment firm well known for its activist streak, released a letter today sent to eBay’s management. The letter put the company on notice that the stock needs to do better, much better. And it outlined a five-step plan, including selling StubHub, it believes can get eBay there.

Elliott is making this request as managers of funds owning more than 4 percent of eBay’s stock. It believes that with some tweaks, the company stock, which sits at $33.71 this morning (up over eight percent) could be worth substantially more. In fact, the company believes if eBay follows its advice it could increase the stock price to $55-$63 per share.

Elliott, which doesn’t tend to be subtle in its assessments of a company’s performance, didn’t pull any punches in its statement regarding the letter to eBay. “Despite its remarkable history as one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms, eBay as a public-company investment has underperformed both its peers and the market for a prolonged period of time.”

While the letter took great pains to compliment the company, pointing out that it has successfully morphed from an auction marketplace for used goods to a full-fledged eCommerce marketplace in its own right, it was clear that it believed eBay is grossly underperforming.

The firm dug into the issues, as it sees them, in the letter itself. “Over the past five years, eBay’s total return has been more than 100% lower than peers and ~35% to ~65% lower than the technology indices. Moreover, eBay has declined 20% over the past year alone relative to a roughly flat equity market,” Elliot wrote in the letter.

It went on, “Most disappointing, however, is that this significant underperformance has occurred despite strong end-market performance. As the broader internet universe has flourished, especially e-commerce peers, eBay’s stock has floundered.”

The company didn’t just complain though. It outlined a five-step plan to improve the stock. For starters, it wants eBay to look carefully at moving StubHub and eBay’s classified properties and concentrate more fully on the core marketplace, which it believes is the true gem here.

Along those same lines, the company wants eBay to revitalize that marketplace, which it believes has been mishandled badly. “eBay’s Marketplace is a strategically valuable asset that has weathered prolonged, self-inflicted misexecution. Management should turn its singular attention to growing and strengthening Marketplace,” Elliott wrote in the letter.

It also believes the company could improve its operational efficiency. “Today eBay suffers from an inefficient organizational structure, wasteful spend and a misallocation of resources,” Elliott wrote. Next, it wants more capital returned to stockholders and finally it needs a management review and greater oversight.

eBay did not respond to an email request for comment on this proposal. If that changes, we will update the article.

News Source = techcrunch.com

In emerging markets there are no copycats, just budding entrepreneurs

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Every year I teach an MBA course at Stanford about the exciting opportunities for tech investors and entrepreneurs in developing economies. When we designed the syllabus back in 2013, Rocket Internet was still firing on all cylinders in four continents. The unapologetic machine built to copy big Internet American companies created billions of dollars for the Samwer brothers and its backers. During Rocket’s golden years, the best startups in the developing economies seemed to inevitably have an original reference in Silicon Valley.

Accordingly, we added a class about the opportunity of replicating business models to seize this information arbitrage. Call it the second-mover advantage.

Despite my conviction about the model, the copycat word  —  short for replicating startups and attached to these ventures  —  annoyed me from the start. More than a term to describe a straightforward recipe to launch, I see it as an unconscious way to belittle an entire group of hard-charging founders and investors.

Indeed, while in foreign eyes, we have been building a Mexican Kickstarter, a Middle Eastern Uber, an Indian Amazon, or a Colombian Postmates, I argue visionary founders are taking a simple idea that already exists and creating new worlds.

On the Internet, there are Einsteins and there are Bob the Builders. I’m Bob the Builder’, Oliver Samwer, Founder of Rocket Internet

Gateway to entrepreneurship

While impact is the final goal, founders can approach the journey in different ways. The most common approach in the startup world is to use the business method or more pompously, the design thinking methodology. “Fall in love with the problem, not the solution,” mentors keep telling a succession of startups clusters in acceleration programs. The best and “leanest” way to product market fit is by starting small then keep iterating the solution until you nail it.

A second way to start is favored by engineers and scientists: take a new promising technology or a forgotten molecule, then find a big problem. Keep iterating until you find a problem worth solving, like a hammer looking for a nail.

A third way is starting like painters create, building skills by copying classics, or like a new chef cooks by starting with iconic recipes: replicate a proven idea and iterate until you find traction.

Until a few years ago it was ostensibly the only way to scale in developing economies. The model helped raise local capital from risk-averse investors who needed reassurance. The playbook to scale was unfolding a couple of years ahead and served as a guide to founders without previous startup experience and no local role models. The potential acquirer was identified and sometimes contacted in advance. Founders weren’t crazy and investors weren’t dumb.

Replicating a business model has served in emerging ecosystems as the gateway to entrepreneurship and venture investing.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/A_Marga

Riding the next wave

According to conventional wisdom, new ecosystems around the world grow through the following three stages, be them in developing economies or more developed countries. First, local and foreign entrepreneurs replicate successful models focused on local markets. Then as the ecosystem evolves, founders start applying existing technologies to solve local problems. Finally, as the tech space matures new technologies begin to flourish.

In my opinion, those stages never happen sequentially as stated by ecosystem observers. Successful startups that started with a foreign inspiration can outgrow the master. If they are not bought into submission by the first mover, some of the most famous copycats reinvented the original and made it better: Mercado Libre is much more relevant in the eCommerce space than eBay . Flipkart is hardly an Amazon, not to mention WeChat. These companies are in turn some of the most prolific tech innovators on the globe. Truly ecosystems evolve organically in unique ways reflecting their history, geopolitical environment, economic structure and cultural features.

Two ways to defend the status quo: “It’s been done before” and “It’s never been done before.” — Thibault @Kpaxs

In defense of talent

Recently, it’s hard to hear American observers use the word copycat to describe any American company. After all, Guilt replicated VentesPrivees and Lime, Chinese dockless bike sharing and many more examples. All American startups are treated as innovators while the rest as mere followers.

Recently, Chinese or Indian startups seem to be given the benefit of the doubt regarding their originality. Is it because these regions have become more innovative? Maybe. But it’s also because these ecosystems have gained the respect of Silicon Valley. Indeed, Chinese consumer tech surpassed decisively the US as the most important country in terms of investments.

So here’s my humble suggestion to our wealthier and more accomplished colleagues: stop using the c-word with founders. It’s offensive. Most probably, these founders are facing more challenges to build their companies and lower odds for success that the first mover. If anything, they have more merit than the originals.

As for founders, when they call you a me-too, remember all teams started somewhere, somehow. In fact, most started like Bob the Builder before turning into Einsteins. The truth is, it doesn’t matter where you start. You can start by applying a new technology or protocol. You can start with a problem you feel passionate about. You can start by replicating a business model. It doesn’t really matter if you take a big swing at the future and trust you will figure out how to make it happen. It doesn’t matter what label they use while you change the world for the better.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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