14 Apr 2016
Interval Lab
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Interval Lab enables the workforce of the future, starting with parental leave management for companies and employees. Team members: Angela Winkle (MBA 2016), Monica Varman (MBA 2016)

How did the idea for your company come about?

This idea emerged from a few things: Angela's passion for increasing women’s representation in leadership, Monica's curiosity about the future of work, and our project for an EC class on Product Management (PM101). We were originally working on a career platform for young people, but pivoted to focus on working mothers after Monica saw how many of the freelancers on the HourlyNerd platform are amazing mothers for whom the workplace as it is structured today just doesn’t work. As we did customer discovery work for PM101 project we saw how big of a problem this is: 88% of women in the U.S. don’t have access to any paid maternity leave, and only 12% of Fortune 500 companies offer any paternity leave. This, despite the fact that new mothers with paid leave are more productive in the year after they return to work if they have leave. The way we work today deprioritizes families and caregiving, and women are disproportionately punished for needing flexibility in the way they work. We want to fix that.

What does your company do? How is it distinct in its product/service category?

We are creating the Parental Leave Finance market. We offer 401k-style savings accounts for proactive planners and loans that fund the gap between employer paid leave (on average 3-5 weeks) to the 12 weeks job-protection new parents are entitled to under the federal Family Medical Leave Act. The savings accounts receive co-contributions from employers and move with the individual through their career. The loans are either co-repaid by the employee & employer or entirely repaid by the employer once the employee has returned to work and hit certain milestones.

Our financing products are supported by a parental leave planning & guidance platform, to ensure employees, managers and HR teams have the information they need through the journey to ensure motivated returns for employees. We de-risk parental leave for companies, increasing retention, productivity and employee satisfaction. We see a big opportunity here to address all types of leave from sabbaticals to elder care.

No other products exist to serve this product, and the closest analogs do not address the employer relationship. We believe our offering is distinctive in both its targeting and its focus on the parent as the end user.

Where do you hope to take it in the future?

We hope our product becomes an industry standard benefit in the future. There is tremendous opportunity: 1.9M women go on maternity leave annually, and there is the equivalent of $14.7B in unpaid parental leave salaries annually in the US. We want to take the stress out of becoming a new parent, and make it a frictionless and happy event.

How has your time at HBS influenced your efforts on your company?

HBS has been a core part of our company’s evolution. We have had great coaching and advising from Professors Tom Eisenmann, Julia Austin, Jeff Bussgang, and Frances Frei. The alumni network has been invaluable for helping us develop our beta pipeline, and we are piloting our product with Birchbox. The I-lab has been a great source of workspace and free snacks. Most importantly, we wouldn’t have met if it hadn’t been for HBS!

Any advice you’d offer to other young entrepreneurs?

It’s a myth that you have to wait for the perfect idea before starting something; often your idea evolves drastically from what you started with. Find someone you enjoy working with and a problem you both believe must be solved, and with enough time, conversations, and work you will land on something.

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