There’s a longstanding childcare crisis in the U.S. and the COVID-19 pandemic has only eroded the situation for many families. This has disproportionately impacted women, who have left the workforce in worrying numbers as it became harder to balance career and family.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We see an opportunity to create solutions for working parents that help them pursue careers while raising children. Enter Mirza, which works with employers to provide financial products and personalized planning tools that help with everything from navigating maternity leave policies to predicting future childcare costs.
The Nuts & Bolts
Problem: COVID-19 has reshaped the labor market and forced a readjustment around work-life integration. Childcare—which was already broken in the U.S., suddenly became an even more significant issue, with families sequestered at home and tackling work, school and care at once. The brunt of that burden has fallen on mothers. Women’s jobs have been almost twice as vulnerable to the pandemic as men’s, with one in four women considering leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers, versus one in five men. Overall, women’s labor force participation has dropped to 57% during the pandemic.
These trends have potential economic ramifications. Reversing course requires investments in education, family planning, maternal health, financial inclusion and more. Policies and tools that provide flexibility and support for mothers may prove key to attracting and retaining talent. Against that backdrop, we believe there’s potential to create new products and services designed for working parents.
Solution: Mirza’s mission is to end the “motherhood penalty” by building family financial health and helping to make it a choice for moms to pursue their careers. It offers employers a suite of products that allow families to predict and prepare for future costs, while giving employers an opportunity to retain talent and enhance workplace equity.
Underpinned by a dataset, Mirza’s platform encompasses a range of financial solutions, FSA/HSA, insurance, and Mirza’s own products: securitized childcare “care now, pay later” financing ISAs, pension gap-free 401Ks. Once employees set up their financial plan through Mirza, the company’s algorithm optimizes contributions towards these accounts and maximizes employer benefits.
Crucially, Mirza’s platform is built to grow with users: once a child is born, parents become eligible for financial products, such as 529s or ESAs. As childcare costs become education costs, Mirza provides ongoing options.
Getting to know Mirza
Mirza was co-founded by CEO Siran Cao and COO Mel Faxon. Siran graduated from Harvard with a degree in gender studies and later worked for Uber building its driver support organization in New York, before attending the London School of Economics to study social business and entrepreneurship. Mel attended London Business School and has a range of experiences, from managing a luxury real estate portfolio to co-founding a wellness company. The pair met during their graduate degrees and stayed in touch. Mirza was born when they caught up over coffee, the conversation moved to picking apart the gender wage gap, and their napkin sketches revealed the beginnings of a solution.
The pandemic could be spurring a generational change in the workplace and making it unavoidable to ignore the childcare crisis any longer. As this megatrend unfolds, we believe Mirza is well-positioned to tackle systemic issues faced by working parents.
There are 83.1 million families in the U.S., 78.2% of which had at least one employed member in 2020. But the time to act is now: a recent study found nearly a quarter of women surveyed are planning on leaving their jobs sooner due to their company’s pandemic response. But by taking action now to achieve gender-parity improvements by 2030, we could add $13 trillion to the global GDP and potentially create hundreds of millions of new jobs for women globally.
The future of Mirza
Mirza is currently expanding its parent community and driving engagement within organizations as it develops and tests different financial products with employers. Going forward, Mirza has an opportunity to expand to become a full-fledged neo-bank focused on families. Think of it as a more family oriented version of SoFi, a neo bank that initially focused on recent professional school graduates. We look forward to supporting Mirza as it creates solutions that help working parents feel confident in their future financial health.
You can learn more about Mirza at: https://www.heymirza.com/
Legal Disclaimers: 500 Startups programs (including accelerator programs), investor education services, strategic partnership consulting services and events are operated by 500 Startups Incubator, L.L.C. (together with its affiliates, “500 Startups”) and the funds advised by 500 Startups Management Company, L.L.C. do not participate in any revenue generated by these activities. Such programs and services are provided for educational and informational purposes only and under no circumstances should any content provided as part of any such programs, services or events be construed as investment, legal, tax or accounting advice by 500 startups or any of its affiliates.
The views expressed here are those of the individual 500 Startups personnel, or other individuals quoted and are not the views of 500 Startups or its affiliates. Certain information contained herein may have been obtained from third-party sources, including from portfolio companies of funds managed by 500 Startups. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, 500 Startups has not independently verified such information and makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy of the information in this post or its appropriateness for a given situation. In addition, this content may include third-party advertisements or links; 500 Startups has not reviewed such advertisements and does not endorse any advertising content contained therein.
This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only, and do not constitute an investment recommendation, offer to sell or solicitation to purchase any investment securities, or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investors or prospective investors, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by 500 Startups. (An offering to invest in an 500 Startups fund will be made only by the private placement memorandum, subscription agreement, and other relevant documentation of any such fund and should be read in their entirety.) Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by 500 Startups, and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results.
Charts and graphs provided herein are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The content speaks only as of the date indicated. Unless otherwise expressly stated, figures are based on internal estimates and have not been independently verified. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. All logos and trademarks of third parties referenced herein are the logos and trademarks of their respective owners and any inclusion of such trademarks or logos does not imply or constitute any approval, endorsement or sponsorship of 500 Startups by such owners.