Rhea reaps $10M more led by Thiel

Fertility remains a pressing concern around the world — birthrates are down in many countries, and infertility rates (that is, the ability to conceive at all) are up.

And given the emotional struggles people face when coping with infertility, it’s not surprising that the opportunity is so big. Yet equally so that the sector remains still largely fragmented and disconnected.

Rhea, a Singapore- and New York-based reproductive health service provider, aims to tackle this challenge by bridging the global value chain and using technology.

Rhea said Thursday that it has secured $10 million in funding to continue expanding its service. Previous backer Thiel Capital led this latest infusion, with participation from LifeX Ventures, Blue Lion Global, and FJ Labs.

With the new money, Rhea plans to acquire more clinics in 2024, broaden its services in new markets, and grow its team of reproductive health professionals to establish a high-quality standard of fertility care across the globe. Rhea now has more than 380 staff across 12 markets.

The latest funding came on the back of its initial $20 million in 2023 and an acquisition of Embryonics, an Israel-based startup that has built AI-based IVF software solutions, earlier this year.

The startup also announced today its launch of Rhea, which is an end-to-end reproductive health service connects prospective families in Asia with complementary operations in North America and Europe.

Rhea’s ecosystem is comprised of GenPrime, a global network of owned and partner clinics; Rhea Labs, an integrated technology platform that uses data to speed up time to market and incorporate quality product feedback to enhance patient outcomes; and a suite of fertility wellness partners, including Moom Health, Elix Healing, and Madam Partum, to offer more comprehensive reproductive health services.

Rhea has integrated Embryonics‘s AI-driven diagnostic tools into its product development pipeline and exclusive regional distribution rights with leading medical partners. Rhea Labs is also developing RheaX, a global gamete exchange company that develops creative solutions to improve the process of matching and transferring gametes. The partnership with Baylor College of Medicine, a health sciences university in the Texas Medical Center will help develop the exchange.

Rhea was initially incubated by Recharge Capital in response to the growing trend of women and families globally desiring more flexibility and options in family planning, CEO of Rhea Margaret Wang told TechCrunch. Lorin Gu, the founding partner of Recharge Capital, founded Rhea, and Wang, who joined Recharge first as an advisor in January 2023, took over Rhea as CEO in September.

GenPrime was originally planned to consist of a small roll-up of Southeast Asia-based clinics. However, the firm’s members, based on their own experiences with fertility, wanted to build a company that would provide not just the clinical network (GenPrime) but also medical devices, insights, and a comprehensive set of wellness services on the platform.

“The traditional approach is one that’s highly siloed and relies on third-party players – we’re innovating around integration to link different parts of the value chain together and combining not just an elevated physical clinic experience but the application of technology along the way,” Wang said.

A recent report shows that global birth rates have decreased by half in the last 70 years, with more than half of countries below the replacement rate. (Some quick stats: South Korea has the world’s lowest birth rate, Singapore fell below 1.0 last year, and China, the largest market in the region, saw its population decline for the second consecutive year.)

“Rapidly declining fertility rates around the world are a signal of a looming population decrease, the effects of which are particularly impacting countries in Asia,” Wang said.

In addition, each country has its own regulations, making it challenging to navigate the fertility journey with unique requirements. For example, China’s National Health Commission prohibits single women from using assisted reproductive technology (ART), including egg freezing. The services are only available to married heterosexual couples in China. As a result, numerous Chinese patients need to journey across the AIPAC region to receive fertility services, Wang noted. In Singapore, Elective egg freezing for women aged 21 to 37 was only legalized in July 2023.

Rhea’s platform connects prospective families in Asia dealing with diverse regulatory challenges related to reproductive health. Despite the abundance of new options available, researching, gathering information, and making informed decisions remains a daunting challenge due to the emotional and vulnerable nature of the experience, Wang explained.

“On the clinic network side, we look to players like CCRM and Spring Fertility with their similar patient-first focus and, of course, IVI RMA and EuginGroup for the scale,” Wang said when asked about its industry peers. “But these all are generally throughout Europe and the United States. In Asia, the groups are much smaller and either within single countries (which carry single-country risk) or across the microregion. But none are thinking about the end-to-end ecosystem, global first, and the way in which we develop and integrate technology and devices. Rhea remains differentiated as it is the first integrated ecosystem for intended families centered in Asia.”

The outfit is currently in the growth phase, building on the assets it acquired last year and expanding its integrated model to reach wider customers. As an example, Rhea acquired a medical tourism company specializing in outbound demand from China for fertility services.

“This company normally refers patients to partner clinics, but by joining our company, we can now direct demand to clinics we own, know, and trust the quality of experience. The overall business margins improve because now we’re not just capturing parts of the experience (lead generation referral or individual services) but rather that whole patient journey,” Wang said.

The company makes money from its clinic services, generating leads for partner clinics and companies, and holding exclusive distribution or development rights for technology and medical devices.

To deliver an integrated ecosystem of service, Rhea introduced its senior advisory group that includes Dr. Milton Leong, a pioneer of IVF in Hong Kong and founding president of The Hong Kong Society for Reproductive Medicine; Cynthia Hudson, VP of clinical strategy at TMRW Life Sciences; Dr. Javaid I. Sheikh, Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar; Dr. Michael Coburn, Professor and Chair of the Department of Urology at Baylor College of Medicine; Bea Camacho, Director of Southeast Asia for IDEO; Weylin Liew, co-founder of Fertility Support SG and Global Sustainability Portfolio Manager and Head of Active Engagement at Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC.

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