Sunfish, a new startup built by a former director at one of the oldest surrogacy and egg donation agencies in the world, has raised $4 million to build financial assistance tooling for hopeful parents.
The round, led by Walkabout Ventures with participation from Hannah Grey VC and Fiat Ventures, comes a little less than a year since the Santa Monica-based startup was first founded. The backing is set to help Sunfish scale its product, which helps families find affordable options within the assisted reproduction journey, whether that is egg freezing, embryo preservation, IVF, egg donor journeys or surrogacy.
CEO and founder Angela Rastegar first noticed the dearth of support for assisted reproduction services when she was working at surrogacy agency, Circle. “There’s really not a lot of resources to help the average American understand budgeting, how to plan for a loan, what’s the right size loan for their household, where to get discounts or even how to think about savings based on the cost for raising a family in their city,” she said.
The entrepreneur says nearly three-fourths of the people who go through assisted reproduction make over six figures today, despite there being a demand from folks who don’t fall in that bracket.
The company partners with IVF clinics, surrogacy agencies and egg banks to find clientele who need more financial resources. Then, it helps them navigate discounts, grants, employer benefits and loan options that fit their backgrounds and needs. It also pairs people with a financial adviser and a cost calculator; an AI component to that calculator is going live later this year that could help offer a more predictive picture of how much having a baby could cost depending on different variables related to health and family history.
Baseline, there’s a number of factors that impact the cost of assisted reproduction, such as the number of kids a family wants to have versus the type of resources you already have from insurance or employers. “Typically, to make a baby you need a sperm egg and a womb. If you’re a hetero couple that has all three of those things, that IVF process will be less. If you need to work with an egg donor or a surrogate because you’re a single parent by choice or you don’t have all of those components, if you’re a same-sex male couple, then it’s going to be a lot more expensive,” Rastegar said. The cost range, she explains, can be anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000.
Notably, Sunfish doesn’t supply loans itself but instead helps connect aspiring families to loan providers. Her previous company, Origin Finance, offered and serviced loans for family-building options directly to the surrogacy agency that she worked for. While Origin wound down operations in January, Sunfish became an answer to the same problem area, although with a wider, more venture-scale vision.
Today, Sunfish helps facilitate loans to a medical provider instead of an individual trying to land a personal loan at a higher, riskier rate. While banks may be open to providing loans, Sunfish helps people better visualize what that loan process may look like, such as total loan cost estimations and the multiple phases of loans that may be required.
“This is very different from someone just going out and raising their own facility and just having one set of criteria for which they can approve only one set of borrowers,” Rastegar said. “As more and more lenders are starting to look at this space, and the fertility industry is growing, we wanted to offer the most comprehensive solution to our partners.” The entrepreneur did say they will offer loans in-house in the future, but for now, multiple lenders give the early-stage outfit some flexibility.
So far, Sunfish has received more than $20 million in loan requests across hundreds of applicants, but it declined to share how much capital it has ultimately been able to unlock, citing competitive reasons. The company did say, however, that it has supported hundreds of customers across 32 states, a cohort that has received lines of credit ranging from $12,000 to $100,000.
The startup surely has its work cut out for it. There are a number of competitors in the space, including Gaia, which raised a $20 million Series A round last year to help couples finance IVF treatments. Future Family, which offers 60-month loans to help finance fertility treatments, raised a $25 million Series B last year as well.
While Rastegar may have to play catch-up with these VC-backed comrades, she said that Sunfish’s differentiation is clear: Its ambition is to support parents throughout the full journey, from pregnancy to early childhood to raising a child with long-term financial wellness in mind. While step one may be connecting parents to loans, step two and three could look like savings accounts, investment plays and beyond.
Sunfish’s technology wants to bring affordability to assisted reproduction by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on TechCrunch