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Now Might Be Your Only Chance to Buy This Possibly Perfect Breast Pump

Photograph by Twenty20

There's a new—and possibly perfect—breast pump on the market. But no matter how much you might want one, you might never get one, even if you can pony up the nearly $700 to get it.

The problem? Venture capitalists. They're the ones with the money to help developer and Naya Health Inc. founder Janica Alvarez expand the mom-friendly product line, market the machines and get the Naya pump to a more competitive price point. But VCs are apparently scared of breast pumps. Or boobs. Or women-run businesses.

In an article from reporters Emily Chang and Ellen Huet of Bloomberg Technology, Alvarez explained that she'd run into many gender-based roadblocks as she pitched different investors.

Some of the men she has pitched her products to have even been a little doubtful that Alvarez, a mother of three, is up to the task of getting them a return on their investment. Isn't she too busy, you know, being a mom?

The response from investors has been especially frustrating for Alvarez, whose product could be a nursing game-changer.

The Naya, like another breast pump on the market, has pumping cups that mimic how babies suckle. It's also lightweight, has a sleek design and rechargeable battery, and comes with accessories and apps that keep track of everything from freezer supply to a baby's daily caloric (and fat) intake. It also has Food and Drug Administration approval, something that happened comparatively early in its development, Alvarez and her husband, Jeffrey Alvarez, explained.

Most important, moms who use it love it. If only men looking for business investments understood why.

Alvarez's experience apparently is a common one for women in tech, Chang and Huet report. They have a great idea designed specifically for women, but the VC world is so overwhelmingly male that the brilliance of the idea, the ability to even understand the product, is lost on the guys.

Alvarez told reporters that at pitch meetings, some investors had commented on her body rather than the breast pump; others were grossed out by the whole idea. Then some said they'd first have to go talk to their wives or sisters about it.

One VC, confused by the purpose of the product—capturing and storing food for an infant—apparently said, “I’m not touching that; that’s disgusting.” Another group, confused by the what and why of the Naya, landed on a porn site when they googled the product. Instead of clicking out, they allowed themselves the distraction. "They lingered on the page and started cracking jokes," Alvarez told the Bloomberg reporters. “I felt like I was in the middle of a fraternity. I expect more from grown men.”

Meanwhile, future lactating moms are at risk for missing out on this kind of innovation, even though they'd be willing to shell out hundreds more than the standard brand and model.

The Naya typically sells for $999, though the price was recently (and temporarily) lowered to $649. The company also offers a lower-end model with fewer extras that retails for $399 (but that price will eventually increase by $100). As Bloomberg reports, you can get a standard Medela pump for around $250. (It's worth noting that paying more than $300 for a stroller used to be unheard of. Now parks, malls and car trunks are filled with strollers costing more than three times that much.)

Though Alvarez and her husband have raised more than $6 million to bring the pump to market since the company launched in 2013, the lack of interest from the folks with the big money has forced them to go with a Kickstarter as they attempt to expand their product line to include a "smart" bottle.

Meanwhile, breastfeeding moms who try out the Naya pump are like, "Take my money!" Emilee Stucky, a Kansas mom to 7-month-old twins, told reporters that the comfort and efficiency is worth the high price. “In a world where pumping is already so inconvenient for women, the Naya breast pump makes it so convenient and so comfortable,” she said.

A win-win! Isn't that Silicon Valley-speak for "There's an idea that will make some money"?

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