Business Health, Wellness & Biotech Startups Venture

How Femtech Moves From Niche To Essential

Illustration of 50+ woman on smartphone. [Dom Guzman]

By Andrew Gershfeld 

Women hold up half the sky. Yet the technology supporting women’s health is still not where it should be in terms of being perceived as an essential or gaining equal investors’ attention.

According to Crunchbase data, 2021 was a special year for femtech as global venture funding in the segment crossed the $1.2 billion mark for the first time.

Maven Clinic raised $110 million and reached unicorn status, Elvie raised $87 million, and Flo Health raised $50 million—all in just the last few months, demonstrating the success stories the industry is craving.

However, when looking at a bigger picture, the booming segment represents a tiny fraction of the digital health industry.

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In the first eight months of 2021, U.S. femtech startups raised $750 million, according to Crunchbase data.

In my opinion, the segment is still significantly undervalued and, more importantly, the services it offers are under-utilized. What can be done to move the needle?

Change the perception

First, let’s define what is actually coined as femtech. Often perceived as a bunch of pregnancy planning apps, the industry in fact comprises a wide range of technology products addressing the biological needs of women. Those include general health and wellness, diagnostics, reproductive health, pregnancy, childcare, family health, etc.

Andrew Gershfeld of Flint Capital

Up to 45 percent of women suffer from specific chronic conditions, such as polycystosis, endometriosis, autoimmune diseases and hormonal disorders, and every year they spend $1,000-$3,000 to address the symptoms. Yet, only 4 percent of global medical research spend goes toward women’s health.

In fact, while pregnancy and parenthood accounted for the largest share of VC funding in the past 5 years, 2021 shows a different trend. The leading segments this year in U.S. are:

  • Primary and preventive care ($668 million)
  • Pregnancy, postpartum and parenthood ($316 million)
  • Fertility support ($220 million)

Another segement getting traction is the menopause sector with the funding doubled from 2019 to 2021.

This is an important shift for changing the perception of femtech from niche to essential. Not every woman needs access to pregnancy or fertility services; those who do, use them only a few times in life. On the contrary, primary care is something everyone might need, while menopause support can improve the  quality of life for every woman reaching this stage in her life.

Flo is a great example of an integrated approach to women’s health support: First launched as a period tracker, it evolved into an $800 million platform for planning a pregnancy, monitoring health conditions and getting generic health advice.

Drive the adoption

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women make 80 percent of health care decisions. and are often the ones who discuss preventive health topics with their primary care doctors to improve their whole family’s health.

At the same time, women are adopting digital health services less, including video telemedicine, wearables and digital health tracking, when compared to men. Perhaps, one reason is that the majority of those tools are not designed for the needs, behaviours and health priorities of women.

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The crucial step for the overall digital health industry and the venture investors supporting it is to promote a female-first or at least female-equal approach to designing the services. A great case representing this approach is the Ro telemedicine platform, which created a dedicated women’s health platform called Rory.

Support and collaborate

Currently the global femtech market is fragmented, however, it is clearly stepping on the road to maturity. The investment rounds are getting larger and the first M&As are emerging, so we can expect further consolidation and the first companies going public. By 2027, the femtech market is forecasted to grow to $60 billion.

As venture investors, we have a role to play in accelerating this growth by:

  • Providing PR support and raising awareness for the industry;
  • Fighting unconscious bias and potentially increasing a number of female investment decision-makers in the room; and
  • Championing the shift in perception of femtech solutions as essential health care services.

Femtech is not the market where the winner takes it all. Multiple solutions and products designed to address various aspects of women’s health can not only exist, but collaborate to evolve into a powerful multifaceted industry.

Andrew Gershfeld, is a partner at Boston-based Flint Capital, an investment company supporting entrepreneurs from Israel, Europe, and the U.S. at an early stage of their business.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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