Motherhood overwhelmed María Berruezo. “I didn’t know how to manage it,” she recalls. She sighs as she recalls the fear of going to a breastfeeding support group. The person in charge of her was Alba Padró, who solved all her doubts and changed her life. To her and to a multitude of mothers to whom she also answered by phone at any time of the day. When Berruezo had her second baby, the problem was different: at five weeks, she and her daughter were run over. They ended up in the hospital. Padró came to her aid again, expressing milk for her little girl and accompanying her in the process. “When I left there I told him: you have to dump all the information you have in your head on a mobile.” This is how LactApp was born in 2016, an application today present in 177 countries and with more than 600,000 downloads. Answer 160,000 queries a week. With a workforce of 23 people, the company had a turnover of half a million euros in 2021, double that of 2020 and half of what they expect to achieve this year.
Berruezo and Padró began by transferring all their knowledge to a notebook. Then to an Excel document. And finally to the application. After a first failed version, a second one arrived that has not stopped growing since its launch in 2018. It is capable of generating some 3,000 unique answers through 76,000 different paths that it enters through a menu that unfolds neutral questions. “We give the mother the option so that she can do what she wants,” says Berruezo, whom the Government chose in November as one of the leading women in innovative entrepreneurship in Spain.
Breastfeeding is the transversal axis, but the themes of LactApp have been growing to fields such as sex, fertility, menstruation, menopause or covid. From pregnancy to weaning, users’ questions are addressed through a chat that works autonomously. There is also a team that manually answers between 5,000 and 7,000 questions per month. “We have the most in-depth collection of data on breastfeeding, but we still bring the human factor. It is the previous step to train artificial intelligence”, emphasizes Enric Pallarés, who joined the initial project as executive director of a company chosen in 2019 to participate in the first Apple Women Entrepreneurs Campus at its California headquarters. Last fall it was one of the 15 companies chosen in the Google for Startups Accelerator: Europe program, focused on entrepreneurs in the health sector. A few months earlier, Unicef Lab —accelerator of social impact projects— awarded them their first prize.
“The application is alive, it continues to grow with more information to provide personalized answers,” says Alba Padró with a smile. She highlights how LactApp accompanies women, who in most cases “feel very alone in motherhood because everything generates a lot of doubts and it seems that everyone knows more than you.” The improvements come from the technology team, made up of seven people. They always look for female talent. The application —available in Spanish, English and Portuguese— currently offers a free mode and a paid mode, with more content. They also have a second version aimed at health professionals, LactApp Medical, with more technical information. The temporary subscription to this modality and the generic one is one of the business models developed by the company, to which parallel projects also contribute. On one side, the opening of a women’s health clinic in Barcelona. To the other, the coordination of the postgraduate course in lactation expert in collaboration with the Ramon Llull University. There is also an in-app store.
Most of the business, however, is focused on direct relationships with other companies. There are three lines. The first, the insurance companies, who see LactApp as an opportunity to save costs, because their information manages to avoid unnecessary medical consultations and they offer it free to their associates. Then there are the companies in the maternity sector, which give away subscriptions to the application as an added value. The third line is in large companies that include them in their loyalty programs and benefits for their employees. LactApp has no benefits.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.