Investing in Oath: a 21st-century community for new parents and parents-to-be

PortfolioFeb 9, 2022

I first met Camilla Hermann back in 2017, a chance encounter at a coffee shop when I learned she was building a pediatrics company for the modern day parent. Then I got pregnant with my pandemic baby and found myself with a million small questions I didn’t want to burden my obstetrician with (“Is it safe to eat sushi?” “How about a glass of wine in the third trimester?”) After confiding in a few friends, I learned that Camilla had moved ahead with her idea — called “Oath” — and was in the process of building a 21st-century community for new parents and parents-to-be. It sounded like the exact thing I was looking for.

Once I signed up with Oath, I filled out a questionnaire to determine my location, stage of pregnancy and lifestyle. Within a few weeks, Oath connected me to a circle of about a dozen mothers at a similar stage of pregnancy, along with a set of clinical experts like Nurse Judy and Dr. Ted Handler to answer my questions within hours. A facilitator — a mother of older children — immediately introduced herself to welcome me into the group. Within weeks, I found myself using this app more than I use Instagram or Twitter. It was a judgment-free space for us to share our anxiety about birth or struggles to breastfeed. Even in a pandemic, I had found a new group of women going through the same journey at the same time. It was the kind of experience that every mother deserves.

So when I joined my fund — OMERS Ventures — I knew exactly where I wanted to place my first bet. Fortunately, the partnership understood both the mission and the business case immediately. There are few other moments in life that are more overwhelming and stressful than having a child. Millennial parents have $1.3 trillion in spending power, according to Marketing Dive, and the first year of a child’s life represents a particularly expensive period. When our consumer tech experts dug into the metrics, particularly on engagement and retention, we knew this team was onto something special.

So we’re thrilled today to announce our $6 million investment in Oath — and our first bet in both the pediatrics and women’s health space. Those who have followed my work, both as a journalist and VC, know that I’m deeply passionate about supporting women. Despite that women make 80% of the health care usage and buying decisions, the opportunity remains underserved. Thankfully, companies in the women’s health sector like Maven Clinic and Tia are paving the way.

There are now more exciting companies than ever, but in my research I still saw a number of gaps. Direct-to-consumer is a big one, as most of the companies getting funded were focused on the self-funded employer. Community is another. Medicaid is a third. Camilla and her co-founder/ chief nursing officer Michelle Stephens are building a company that aims to tick all three of those boxes.

Before making our investment, I interviewed dozens of new parents. We found that so many people feel they’ve been left on their own to figure out what to do after getting discharged from the hospital. Many of us don’t have the ‘village’ nearby to call upon, whether it’s grandparents, aunts or fellow parent friends. What concerns me most is that many overwhelmed and overburdened parents are turning to groups on Facebook. There, they may receive bad advice that is grounded in subjective experience versus clinical evidence. Other parents shared confusion about how to select products to foster development or introduce their kids to new foods. Oath is helping parents navigate all that by drawing on advice from both doctors and nurses — as well as other parents.

On a national level, this lack of support for new parents is having dire consequences. The U.S. is failing its mothers, and that’s particularly true for our BIPOC women. For so many reasons, including the lack of postpartum care and paid time off, this country has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world. There are so many information gaps once new parents are sent home, and many don’t know what to look for.

Oath is committed to building that community for a diverse community, regardless of income, language and other factors. But Camilla and Michelle are getting started with a monthly subscription fee for users to access asynchronous messaging and educational content. Video-based visits are also available via the app.

So I want to take this opportunity to give a huge thanks to Oath for bringing OMERS Ventures along for the ride. We’re truly thrilled to be part of your journey. Learn more about Oath here.