What does a PayPal co-founder have in common with a sperm donor? Both have helped women get pregnant, though Max Levchin went about it in a more unconventional way.
Levchin, who’s now on the Board of Directors for both Yelp and Yahoo, is tackling the heart-wrenching and sometimes insurmountable problem confronting many couples: infertility. In May 2013, he helped launch Glow, an app that aims to help would-be parents to conceive.
“I have made it my most recent mission to solve meaningful problems,” Levchin told Scott McGrew on the July 20 episode of NBC Bay Area’s Press:Here.
There is no other software as prevalent or easy-to-use today as an app, so, fittingly, Levchin created Glow. Its stated mission is “to provide you with information and insights about your body and your health, whether you're trying to conceive or not.”
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Glow allows women to enter various data, including their basal body temperature, mood, diet and exercise level, to determine the most effective time to conceive. The information is used to create an individual profile for the user and a software model to figure out how likely a woman is to be ovulating during an 8-hour window. Levchin describes his research as one of the largest fertility studies ever conducted.
But how willing are women to divulge such personal information to experience the most personal experience of their lives? According to Levchin, it’s rather simple.
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“I think a vast majority of the users that self-select for Glow have a very clear set of priorities on their mind,” he said. “They would like a baby and they have not been successful … Fundamentally, privacy and value are a trade-off.”
Interestingly, the idea for Glow comes from the same mind that co-founded Affirm, a financial services company that offers consumer credit at the point of sale.
When asked what prompted this innovation metamorphosis, Levchin said, “The real reason is that I woke up one morning and I said I’m really good at data, and there are many, many problems in the world – some are boring, some are cool, some are exciting, and some are really profound. And if I could just marry up the data part and profound problems I’ll leave a legacy that means something.”
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It’s a refreshing ambition, especially considering the latest criticisms facing Silicon Valley, most notably for its bombardment of seemingly useless apps. One of note is the single-word messaging app called Yo, which has the sole function of users texting the word “yo” to other people. It was recently valued at up to $10 million.
A year since its launch, Levchin has seen the incredible effect Glow has had on countless couples, including an associate who had been struggling with having a baby and served as an inspiration in the development process. “It’s amazing,” he said. “You kind of go, ‘Wow’, this whole math thing actually solved an extraordinarily important real-world problem.”