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PayPal founder takes on the fertility industry with Glow

"Having babies is a moral imperative for the human race. What's been missing for people who can't is data and financial arbitrage," says Glow founder Max Levchin.

Glow's Max Levchin, with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg
Dan Farber/CNET

Max Levchin was one of the founders of PayPal, sold a slide-sharing service to Google, helped start Yelp, sits on Yahoo's board, and started HVF to fund efforts to use analog data to solve big problems. His latest company, Glow, veers off into a new area, with a mobile app that uses massive data to help families have babies.

"Having babies is a moral imperative for the human race. What's been missing for people who can't is data and financial arbitrage," Levchin said during an onstage interview at the D: All Things Digital conference here.

Fertility/infertility represents a $5 billion market and an area that affects 1 in 5 women trying to get pregnant, Levchin said. Insurance companies, however, categorize treatments for infertility or just problems getting pregnant as an elective procedure, with costs that can be in the $30,000 range.

Levchin's Glow app, not quite yet available for iOS, provides "state-of-the-art ovulation prediction" with a fertility tracker that forecasts a fertility window based on data entered by users. Glow analyzes several data points, such as emotional distress level and morning temperature, and will also integrate with a variety of health data sensors through an API.

Glow First, a companion financial piece for the Glow app, is a nonprofit program created to help make infertility treatment more affordable by pooling risk. For users who were active daily loggers for 10 months and didn't get pregnant, Glow First pays for costs for medical care at accredited infertility clinics. The money, split evenly across couples who didn't get pregnant, comes from a community fund derived from $50 per month contributed by all approved Glow users. Doctors will be able to use the Glow data as a basis for recommending approaches. Levchin committed $1 million of his own money to kick-start Glow First.

"We want to solve the ridiculous state of not having insurance," Levchin said, adding that Glow will eventually seek regulatory approval for its service.