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Exclusive: Pregnancy Nutrition Startup Needed Raises $5.8M To Launch New Products, Spur Clinical Research

Illustration of coins as seeds and plants growing

Needed, a perinatal nutrition and education startup, has raised $5.8 million in Seed funding to expand its offerings to address stress, sleep and fertility issues, the company told Crunchbase News.

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The Los Angeles-based company will also use the money to fund new clinical research on nutrition during pregnancy, which it says will demonstrate how well—or not—women’s needs are being met with existing nutrition supplement options on the market.

“Women are feeling really under-supported in this life stage,” Julie Sawaya, co-founder of Needed, told Crunchbase News. “Most women see an OB-GYN as their primary care provider, and an OB-GYN often, while well-meaning, isn’t trained in nutrition and they don’t have a fluency of what the options are for supporting women from a natural and preventative perspective. That is why we created Needed.”

The round was led by Boston-based Seae Ventures, which focuses on health care startups, especially those founded by women and people of color, as well as Portola Valley, California-based Sekhmet Ventures, specializing in beauty and wellness investments. Southern California-based Crescent Ridge Partners and Salt Lake City-based Peterson Partners also jumped into the round.

Arianne Kidder, principal at Seae, said the firm was motivated to lead the round because the current “perinatal nutrition paradigm is broken.”

While most women trying to get pregnant take prenatal supplements, many are deficient in important nutrients and some struggle to get face time with their doctors, she said in a statement to Crunchbase News. “Needed is an innovator of change, education and advocacy in perinatal care and nutrition,” Kidder added.

Indeed, a 2019 study in the JAMA Network Open medical journal confirms that while about 70 percent of expecting mothers in the U.S. take prenatal suplements, many of the 1,003 pregnant women who participated in the study were deficient in key vitamins. Meanwhile, researchers say almost all of the moms ate too much sodium and were at risk of ingesting more folic acid and iron than they needed.

That’s the kind of imbalance Needed’s founders said they are trying to address with the company’s supplements, educational content and growing practitioner referral program.

Sawaya and co-founder Ryan Woodbury, both Stanford University grads, said they created Needed in 2017 because they were left wanting for more information and quality nutrition supplements in their own individual pregnancy journeys. The company’s first line of nutrition products launched in late 2020, then last month it launched its men’s line of supplements.

“Men have been in the plan for a long time, since men are half the equation in terms of a healthy embryo and a healthy pregnancy for their semen quality,” Woodbury said. “I think folks are increasingly understanding sort of the [issues] around the health of male sperm … and I think bringing them back front and center, so they’re part of the equation, is hugely important.”

Sawaya and Woodbury said they hope their newest formulations to help with stress, sleep and fertility will be ready to launch by the end of the year, assuming supply chain issues don’t delay the release, an issue Needed and many organizations have struggled with over the past year.

Despite the supply hiccups, the company has generated more than $1 million in revenue and accumulated more than 10,000 customers since its launch. Although U.S. births declined during the pandemic, Woodbury said business has grown consistently in that time and shows no signs of slowing.

Needed is one of a growing number of venture-backed startups working on improving fertility care and access, an issue that has become top-of-mind for many amid a dip in U.S. birthrates during the pandemic. Crunchbase data shows at least $176 million was invested in fertility startups this year through mid-October, up 89 percent compared to 2020.

Needed’s founders hope their research–a clinical study pushed forward with money from their latest funding round–will help spread the word to more expectant parents, doctors, insurers and even employers that perinatal supplements deserve a closer look.

“Another use of this raise is to enhance the clinical validation, the need for better support for women,” Sawaya said. “We hope that with time, that opens up the conversation around what health insurance should be covering, or what employers should be covering on behalf of their employees. Since keeping women in the workforce is so important, the way a woman feels during pregnancy and after pregnancy is such a driving force behind whether she is likely to return to work.”

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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