Making the decision to adopt or find an adoptive family is a legally complex, emotionally stressful, expensive, and time-consuming process. PairTree would like to make part of it with its online matching platform, on which expectant mothers and hopeful adoptive parents can find each other without the mediation of an agency or other organization, at least considerably easier and faster. The company just raised a $ 2.25 million seed round, a rarity in the industry.
The path to adoption is different for everyone, but in general they have some things in common: Once the process begins, it can take over $ 50,000 and over a year and a half to organize a match. While some of this involves the usual legal hurdles involved in adoption, a large part of it is simply that there are limited options for adoption and compatibility is not guaranteed. Since many people considering adoption do so after unsuccessful fertility treatment, it can be a lot to deal with and a daunting wait.
Erin Quick, CEO and Co-Founder (with CTO Justin Friberg) of PairTree, said that the modern adoption landscape is characterized by the fact that nearly 95 percent of adoptions are open, meaning there is constant contact between a birth mother and an adopting family .
“They’ll work together forever, and that makes it all the more important to find a highly compatible match,” Quick, a happy adopter herself, told TechCrunch in an interview. But because of the way adoption is generally done – through state-licensed agencies – there are restrictions on how far everyone involved can go.
“It’s so geographically bound,” she said. “It’s governed at the state level and made possible at the state level, not because of state law – there is no rule that says you can’t adopt outside of state – but because the brokers are small nonprofits. They bind themselves to their geographic region because they can serve that. We’re building a platform that makes what people are already doing much easier and more efficient. “
This platform is similar to a dating app in many ways, although of course the comparison is not accurate and does not reflect the severity of the decision. But, like in the dating world, with adoption, there is a cloud of people who want to connect through something that is highly personality and individual needs.
PairTree accepts both expectant mothers and adoptive parents with personality tests – not the light-hearted OkCupid stuff, but a broader, more consistent set of Jungian archetypes that signal a person’s high priorities in life. Think “wants to travel and learn” versus “want to care for and take care of” (not that these are necessarily incompatible) – they serve as important indicators of preferences that may not be easily summarized with a series of checkboxes. Of course, that is not the only criterion. In addition, further demographic and personal data are collected.
The adopters are included in a pool that expectant mothers can view and contact if they wish (in this, Quick suggested, PairTree reflects Bumble, where women have to write first). PairTree also performs basic due diligence purposes such as identity verification and validation of other key steps such as home studies.
When a likely match is found, all relevant information is passed on to the adoption broker, who coordinates the other legal and financial steps. PairTree doesn’t want to replace these agencies – in fact, Quick said they are big proponents of the platform as it can reduce waiting times and improve results. She said, based on her existing successful adoptions, that waiting time can be cut in half or even two-thirds, and thus costs (which include recurring payments to find and do legal work) by a similar amount.
“These are small non-profit organizations; You don’t have a lot of technical skills. When we started, we actually went to lawyers first and were surprised when the agencies started to get in touch, ”she explained.
Agencies referred their users to PairTree, which resulted in traction much earlier, Quick said. And more importantly, they saw great diversity in their early success.
“Adoption has historically been denied by belief-based systems – LGBTQ families and single women have been discriminated against,” she noted. Indeed, just last week a Supreme Court decision upheld the right of religious adoption agencies to refuse services to same-sex couples. Quick took pride in the fact that they have facilitated the adoption of same-sex couples and single parents.
The company will also be donating 5 percent of its net income, which it will hopefully be in volume, to the Lifetime Healing Foundation, which provides advice and support to birth mothers who have gone through the adoption process.
The $ 2.25 million seed round was led by the Urban Innovation Fund, which included the Founder Collective, the Female Founders Alliance, and Techstars. It will surprise few to hear that adoption is not a particularly hot venture capital industry, but the rising interest and investment in fertility technology may have shed light on opportunities in related areas. When it comes to adoption, technology can enable significant improvements, which means startups can grow quickly while having a positive impact.
The company plans to use the money to expand its product portfolio, forge more partnerships and, perhaps most importantly for its users, to develop a native mobile app since 90 percent of the service’s viewers are mobile.
“We are grateful to our experienced and diverse group of investors who share our vision that adoption should be a viable path to parenting for more people,” said Quick in the press release announcing the raise. “Like us, our investors believe in the importance of supporting biological and adopting families along with the adoptees, because adoption is not a single transaction, but a journey they take in the course of their lives.”