Image: Aster

Aster, a San Francisco-based health-tech startup, has raised $2.4 million in seed funding, led by Cake Ventures’ Monique Woodard in partnership with Cornerstone VC. The company, co-founded by sisters Fifi Kara and Dr. Lailah Kara-Newton, aims to transform prenatal and postnatal care with its predictive and preventative pregnancy care platform for both patients and providers.

This funding round, which also saw participation from Zeal Capital Partners (managing Barclays Black Formation Investments), Octopus Ventures, Blueprint, Everywhere Ventures, and select angel investors, will enable Aster to scale operations, move from private pilot to nationwide availability in the US, and recruit key operational roles. The platform is designed to be a comprehensive management tool for pre and postnatal care in the US.

Aster’s inception was deeply personal. Co-founder Dr. Lailah Kara-Newton’s own experience with undiagnosed preeclampsia during the birth of her son, Eesa, highlighted the need for improved care. Aster’s technology aims to address such complications early on, improving patient experiences through better access, monitoring, and clinical guidance.

“We’re at a pivotal moment in maternal health and more broadly, women’s health,” said Fifi Kara, Co-founder and CEO of Aster. “Pregnancy complications cost the U.S. $54 billion per year and 80% are avoidable. Our company was founded because of a personal experience – my sister and nephew had an incredibly scary birth – and we were all deeply inspired to change what could, and should have been prevented for future mothers.”

For patients, Aster’s app offers three core features:

  1. Communications: Facilitates easy communication between patients and their care team throughout the pregnancy journey, offering asynchronous messaging and telehealth video visits.
  2. Remote Patient Monitoring: Allows patients to monitor their health remotely and share real-time data with their provider. It facilitates the collection of vital health metrics like blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose, and urinalysis testing.
  3. Resources: Provides educational content and guides from care providers, ensuring consistent and comprehensive care management.

For providers, Aster offers vertical software with cutting-edge technology for enhanced clinical admin management, remote patient monitoring support, and expanded practice capabilities. This empowers providers to deliver top-tier care, driving both patient satisfaction and business growth.

“I invest in founders who want to deliver innovation to large, legacy industries like healthcare, and solve the biggest problems for future generations, ” said Monique Woodard, Cake Ventures. “The state of maternal health in the United States is disturbing and urgent. With the highest maternal mortality rate among high-income countries, it is unacceptable that pregnancy for American women can still feel like a dangerous undertaking, and the data shows that the situation is even worse for Black women. The Aster team are the right founders to tackle this important problem through technology and personal experience.”

Founded in June 2023, Aster initially focused on midwifery-led care, birth centers, and nurse practitioner-led care. It plans to serve OB/GYN providers soon. Currently, Aster has onboarded 30 clinics and is active in multiple U.S. states, including California and Texas. By the end of 2024, Aster aims to work with over a hundred providers, serving approximately 20,000 patients in the $100 billion maternal and infant market.

The providers from the private pilot period span the country and include practitioners like Oakland Village Midwifery in California, Bloom Maternal Health in Texas, The Birthing Place in New York, In Bloom Midwifery in California and Strength in You OB/GYN in Maryland. The platform Aster is building is especially crucial to providers serving patients in remote areas – the company is excited to onboard clinics in Alaska, Alabama, Ohio and more that have recently signed up for the upcoming Beta program. 

“As maternal health providers we are always looking to improve our client’s experiences and provide better outcomes and experiences for expectant mothers and their babies,” said Myla Flores, founder of The Birthing Place in Bronx, NY. “We have been waiting for a solution like Aster – it supports our clinical team’s workflow tremendously so we can give our clients the world class care we strive for and they deserve.”

Aster’s ultimate goal is to cover the full spectrum of women’s health, from gynecology to menopause, starting with the crucial stages of pre and postnatal care.

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