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April 11, 2022 Tech 25

2022 Tech 25: Nest Collaborative’s telehealth offering helps new mothers overcome lactation challenges

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED Nest Collaborative has developed a telehealth lactation consultant service for new mothers.

Amanda Gorman dismisses the idea that she’s an entrepreneur.

To hear her tell it, she’s a nurse and mother who encountered a problem and fashioned a solution. In the process, she mastered writing effective appeal letters to insurance companies.

The story of Nest Collaborative is a bit more nuanced. After eight years as a traveling emergency room nurse, Gorman found she liked San Francisco and settled in. She went back to school to earn her certification as a pediatric nurse practitioner, got married and had a baby.

That’s when she discovered pre-natal literature hadn’t prepared her to deal with lactation problems. It just wasn’t as easy and natural as she’d expected, and internet research wasn’t the answer.

Frantic, she finally turned to a certified lactation consultant who helped her solve the problem — at $300 an hour.

The more she talked to new mothers, she discovered her experience wasn’t unique. There had to be a better way and the idea of Nest Collaborative was born.

Amanda Gorman

The math was daunting: there are just 18,000 certified lactation consultants and 4 million babies born each year. The Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — mandated insurers would pay for lactation training, her research found. It just wasn’t happening.

It was 2017 and she and her husband, also a medical professional, had moved to Maryland where Gorman made some contacts with a tech incubator. The wheels were starting to turn as she built contacts with lactation consultants, learned the basics of starting an online business and targeted New York City as a place to test market Nest.

By 2019, the family had moved to Farmington to be closer to her husband’s family, and Gorman found startup mentorship and financing support from CTNext and Connecticut Innovations. A pair of lawsuits resulted in insurers being ordered to pay for lactation training.

Not long after, the pandemic made teleconferences an everyday occurrence and turned telemedicine into an acceptable practice.

The solution was obvious, Gorman maintains. Her team of lactation consultants started booking online appointments and she started writing letters challenging insurers who declined to pay.

In 2020, she set out to raise $300,000 in startup funding. Instead, she raised $2.1 million. Another $2.1 million wasn’t far behind. Now she is heading out to raise more in a Series A funding.

Today, Nest has 40 consultants in 20 states providing services to all 50 states. Same-day appointments are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Consultations are available in a variety of languages — Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, Portuguese, Urdu. Next up are Tagalog and Mandarin.

Insurers are paying rates comparable to a primary care provider visit, Gorman says. And Bloomfield-based Cigna Corp. has named Nest as a provider within its employee benefit program.

Yes, it has become a business, Gorman acknowledges, but really it’s still just a pediatric nurse practitioner using technology to get a neglected job done.

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