Parents often dream of passing their business to their kids, handing over a legacy to the next generation. It’s not uncommon for fathers to pass a company on to their sons, grooming the son from birth to take over.
We rarely hear about businesses founded by mother-daughter teams, and even rarer when they become major players in the industry.
Girl power does exist in business formations. Some examples are Bella Weems-Lambert and her mom, Chrissy Weems, who co-founded Origami Owl, a multi-level marketing custom jewelry company. NuFACE, a leader in at-home beauty devices, was
These mom-and-daughter combinations are not typical in tech.
Melissa Hanna and her mom, Linda Hanna, are taking on entrepreneurship and protecting the lives of moms and infants through an online platform called Mahmee. Mahmee helps coordinate prenatal and postpartum healthcare for mom and baby with hospitals and health systems.
Linda is an expert in maternal health with more than 40 years experience in the field. She is Mahmee’s chief clinical officer. Daughter Melissa is CEO of the company. Along with their chief technical officer and co-founder, Sunny Walia, they’re helping to educate and support physical and emotional health of their clients from pregnancy to the first birthday. They’ve introduced a tech system allowing health practitioners to stay connected with all providers of health services for both mom and baby. Mahmee also offers education on nutrition, birth plans and more.
Mahmee is focused on helping to reduce maternal mortality. The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Seven-hundred-to-900 mothers die each year from birth complications and another 50,000 are injured.
In the past year we were sort of a virtual first responder in over 500 situations with mothers we identified as having an escalated health concern. We brought these issues to their doctor’s attention and helped with six life-threatening clinical concerns.Melissa Hanna, CEO of Mahmee, a tech company that works to reduce maternal mortality.
Black women in the U.S. are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts, according to the Centers For Disease Control — a higher rate than Mexico, where nearly half the population lives in poverty. And Black infants are twice as likely to die as white infants.
In 2018, Mahmee helped to identify more than 500 patients facing a health risk and escalate it to their physician’s attention, Melissa told Moguldom. Six of th patients were experiencing life-threatening issues.
Moguldom spoke with Melissa Hanna about working with her mom to save lives and how they raised more than $1M from investors.
One of the lessons has been trusting your gut and keep fighting for what you know is right for your company. Early on there were a lot of investors we met along the way who didn’t agree.Melissa Hanna, CEO of Mahmee, a tech company that works to reduce maternal mortality.
Moguldom: Why did you start Mahmee?
Melissa Hanna: I started Mahmee after working with my own mom in the maternal healthcare industry. She is an expert in maternal health, postpartum and breastfeeding and has worked in the field for over 40 years. I understood there is a clear need for more comprehensive solutions in the industry because of the exposure I’ve seen in the market through her. Prior to launching Mahmee, I worked in education technology. Seeing multi-stakeholder platforms being built for the education industry, I realized there was an opportunity to do something similar in the healthcare industry.
Moguldom: What is it like working with your mother?
Melissa Hanna: It’s been really rewarding to work with my mom because she is a foremost expert in this space. She’s someone I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford with her background in healthcare. She’s a competitive advantage. To have a successful startup, it starts with the team. Co-founder relationships are so critical to the success of the company. Picking good co-founders is really important. To work with my mom gives me a chance to have this really deep, trusting relationship with a co-founder who is unconditionally supportive and loving. We have been able to continue that in the way we built the company together. Even with our third co-founder, our CTO, the three of us work very closely and have a very strong bond. But certainly, this mother-daughter relationship is a unique aspect of the company.
You have to find the right kinds of investors — people who agree with the vision and believe in that vision.Melissa Hanna, CEO of Mahmee, a tech company that works to reduce maternal mortality.
Moguldom: What do you feel have been some of your memorable challenges since you started Mahmee?
Melissa Hanna: I think some of the challenges I personally faced as a founder and CEO are getting credibility and recognition in the market. We’ve always been very focused on providing high-quality patient care and high-quality experiences throughout the platform. If you work with us or are one of our patients, you know we focus on quality and we’re good at what we do. One of our challenges has been getting everyone else to know what we do and getting ourselves out there. We’re not really prone to self-promotion so it’s actually been a challenge to get the word out about the work that we’re doing. I had to learn how to go out there and fundraise and make a name for the company.
Moguldom: What do you feel have been some lessons you’ve learned?
Melissa Hanna: Understanding where to position the company in the healthcare technology industry. For instance, determining if we are a “health tech” company or are we a “health care” company or are we something in middle? Understanding it was OK to be in the middle. Giving ourselves permission to build a software-plus-services platform was a lesson. We believed from the beginning technology only was not going to change the stats for moms and babies in this country. AI chatbots and recommended articles are not enough to actually save women’s lives. We always knew there had to be a real person-to-person service component of the work we’re doing. So, one of the lessons from all of this has been trusting your gut and keep fighting for what you know is right for your company. Early on there were a lot of investors we met along the way who didn’t agree with that and asked if we really needed physicians with our company. I knew in my heart that Mahmee had to be able to not only provide a digital solution training parents but also be a channel for delivering a unique kind of healthcare. This was a big lesson that has proven to be very valuable. Once you understand your position, you have to find the right kinds of investors — people who agree with the vision and believe in that vision. Doing this has continued to prove it was the right call for the company.
You do (as minorities) have to work twice as much (on the fundraising process) but it doesn’t mean you have to settle in any way.Melissa Hanna, CEO of Mahmee, a tech company that works to reduce maternal mortality.
Moguldom: What are some of your notable wins?
Melissa Hanna: I can tell you a few different stories but overall, I can say in the past year we were sort of a virtual first responder in over 500 situations with mothers we identified as having an escalated health concern. We brought these issues to their doctor’s attention and helped with 6 life-threatening clinical concerns. Mahmee isn’t just an educational tool. We’re actively engaging with mothers and doing a proactive clinical intervention when we identify issues that can potentially become very serious medical concerns. We can escalate concerns to the attention of the physician(s) responsible for that patient. Oftentimes between your doctor’s appointments and hospital visits, things change about the health of mom or baby. Us being able to actively monitor the patient or new parents and see who’s struggling is a big win for the company and the healthcare industry.
Moguldom: You mentioned going through the process of fundraising. Can you please share how much you’ve raised in capital?
Melissa Hanna: We have a mix of angels and VCs. Our VCs include Backstage Capital, Cross Culture Ventures, The Helm, Bumble Fund and Acumen America. What’s really interesting about our investor group is that 40 percent of our investors are former patients. Mahmee helped them with their own children. They were so moved by what we’re doing that they decided to invest. Overall, we’ve raised over $1 million to date.
Moguldom: Having raised over $1 millio, what are some other key takeaways you had from the fundraising process?
Melissa Hanna: Fundraising has always been a challenge for me. It’s not something that came to me easily. Understanding the investor market, how to navigate the industry, learn what investors are looking for and how to present were all skills I had to fight to learn along the way. Key takeaways or advice I could give others is you do (as minorities) have to work twice as much, but it doesn’t mean you have to settle in any way. We may not have raised as much money as other companies in our in our market, but we have investors who truly believe in the value that our company is creating and share our interest. I think it’s one of our key takeaways. It’s worth the wait to find the right people to build a company with.
Moguldom: What do the next five years look like?
Melissa Hanna: Our goal for Mahmee is to introduce a new model of maternal health care. It’s very focused on patient experience. Mahmee has an opportunity to introduce value based bundled care from maternity. This has been a big challenge in our country, to change the model of healthcare to be very focused on positive outcomes, and to focus on presenting serious medical issues, life or death situations, and long-term illness from occurring during or after pregnancy. The industry has not done a good job of preventing these kinds of issues in this country. So, the next five years for the company is to bring a new model of care to make it possible for other organizations to do this alongside us. We are partnering with the largest health system and insurance companies in the country to make this a reality. For every mother, our goal is to increase access to comprehensive maternal healthcare for all women, and we can’t do it alone. When I look at the future of our company, I see a lot of collaborations and partnerships with other healthcare organizations also wanting to change the statistics and see a meaningful change in the country.