What is Femtech?
The term "Femtech," or "female technology," was first used by Ida Tin in 2016, founder of the Clue app that tracks female periods and ovulation with software. Specifically, Femtech refers to developing technology, software, or digital solutions that address women's health and wellness issues. This can include reproductive, menstrual, sexual, menopause, and maternal health, among others.
Why is femtech important?
It's important to highlight that there is yet to be a significant lack of attention and funding for women's health. Even though women make up half of the world's population, they take a crucial role in our society and need tailored healthcare as much as possible any other; women's health has historically been underfunded and underrepresented in the medical field, and this lack of attention leads to a huge gap in resources, poor information, and low investment in the area.
Their strong demand for advances in Femtech but lack of offering gives companies lots of room for innovation, discovery, and advances in women's health. The Femtech industry has seen significant growth in recent years, focusing on providing women with tools and resources to take charge of their health and make informed decisions about their bodies. As a result of companies recognizing the opportunity this industry offers, awareness began to grow in the field. It is estimated that by 2025, the market's worth will grow to 7.5 billion.
Femtech key objectives:
- Improving care delivery: Femtech solutions such as virtual clinics, brick-and-mortar clinics, and direct-to-consumer prescription delivery services enable women to access care more conveniently and in a consumer-centric manner.
- Enabling self-care: Femtech solutions such as trackers, wearables, and at-home diagnostics allow women to take a greater role in managing their health and health data.
- Improving diagnosis: Clinical diagnostics companies use technology to treat unmet medical needs in areas such as endometriosis. Also the recent research and testings done have allowed a significant data collection that helps get more accurate results and effective courses of action.
- Addressing stigmatized areas: Femtech companies are addressing previously stigmatized topics such as menstrual health, sexual health, pelvic care, and menopause head-on.
- Delivering culturally sensitive and tailored care: Femtech solutions are being developed to meet the specific needs of subpopulations such as Black women, LGBTQ+ populations, and women in low- and middle-income countries.
The femtech industry needs clear regulation. With the rapid growth of Femtech, it is essential to establish guidelines and regulations to ensure the safety and effectiveness of these products, particularly given their personal and sensitive nature.
Also, we need to break the social barrier, inform and talk more about these common issues, as nowadays, it's hard to make the public support something they barely talk about. There is a huge need to get more education about women's health, with no myths or taboo concerns. Many women underestimate their symptoms due to a lack of knowledge or awareness of what actually might be going on, and also, those who do pay more attention to their health sometimes find themselves surrounded by a society that doesn't listen or prioritize it as it should.
Moreover, all of these challenges go hand in hand with the fact that more R&D needs to be done. There are few tech products for women, which are very costly and put up another huge barrier for many women who need more resources to access them, even more for those in rural areas.
In the same way, funding is a huge challenge for this area. Only about 3% of the digital health investments have focused on women's health since 2011, and "only 2.3% of global venture capital funding went to startups led by women in 2020". Many femtech startups and companies need more information, understanding, and support for women's health. Indeed, the lack of empathy for women's problems is one of the common cases in the funding deficit, a sector where most professional investors are men.
Still, Priyanka Jain, Co-Founder and CEO of Evvy affirmed in her speech at HLTH 2022 that "for the funding world, we are just at the very beginning of what will end up being a very massive Market."
For example, venture capital managers like Astarte Ventures (United States), Avestria Ventures Management (United States), Female Founders Fund (Iceland), Crowberry Capital (United States), Porfolia (United States), Rhia Ventures (United States), SteelSky Ventures (United States) and The Case for Her (Sweden) invest exclusively in Femtech.
Top 10 Fastest Growing Femtech startups:
- Clue: A free menstrual tracking app allows users to track their periods, ovulation, and symptoms.
- Natural Cycles: A fertility tracking app that uses a basal body temperature method to help users plan for pregnancy.
- Glow: A fertility and pregnancy tracking app that provides resources and support for expectant mothers.
- Womaness: Offering menopause products (feminine hygiene and sexual health products, among others).
- Kindbody: offers treatments and fertility services for women.
- Carrot Fertility: is a B2V fertility benefits company. They offer health plans and support (financial, medical, emotional) for employees in different companies through parenthood.
- Woom: offers two mobile apps. "Woom Cycle" for period tracking and "Woom Fertility" if they want to become a mother.
- Grace Health: digital healthcare clinic. Women can track their menstrual cycle and chat with physicians about their specific health needs.
- LactApp: an app that offers a virtual breastfeeding consultant for mothers to answer their questions about breastfeeding.
- Joylux: offers two wellness devices, vSculpt, and vFit Gold, which use red light to treat bladder function, sexual function, and vaginal dryness.
The femtech niche in the United States has many influential leaders. Some examples of them include:
- Jennifer Tye, co-founder, and CEO of Elvie develop devices and applications to improve women's reproductive and sexual health.
- Ida Tin, co-founder, and CEO of Clue.
- Carly Leahy, co-founder and CEO of Ovia Health, offers healthcare apps and services for women at all stages of life.
- Lynn Fraser, co-founder, and CEO of Frida, a company that develops devices and applications to improve reproductive and maternal health.
- Allyson Downey, co-founder, and CEO of WeeSpring, a company that provides recommendations and reviews of products for babies and expectant mothers.
- Sophia Ononye-onyia, founder and CEO of Sophia Consulting, a marketing and communications consultancy that seeks to leverage healthcare innovation.
- Marija Butkovic, co-founder and CEO of Women of Wearables.
- Holly Rockweiler, co-founder and CEO of Madorra, a medical device company for women after menopause.
These are just a few examples of the many influential individuals in the femtech niche in the United States. There are many more leaders and entrepreneurs in this rapidly growing field!
According to FTA 2021, there are different types of customers in the Femtech area: individuals, hospitals and research centers, diagnostic centers, and fertility centers. These customers can be in the pre-care (R&D and testing), during care, or post-care stage of the treatments, and their applications may focus on different healthcare areas:
- Reproductive health: menstrual tracking apps, fertility management tools, and pregnancy and childbirth resources. These tools allow women to track their periods, ovulation, and symptoms; plan for pregnancy; and access support and help during pregnancy and childbirth.
- Contraception: digital contraception tools such as apps that track fertility and ovulation to help users avoid pregnancy, as well as telemedicine services that allow users to connect with a healthcare provider for contraception consultations and prescriptions.
- Mental health: Femtech products in this category include apps and tools that provide support and resources for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress. These may include therapy apps, meditation and mindfulness tools, and telemedicine services for mental health consultations.
- Sexual health: apps and tools that provide information and resources related to sexual health, such as STI testing kits, telemedicine services for sexual health consultations, and resources for LGBTQ+ health.
- Women's wellness: apps and tools that provide resources and support for various aspects of women's wellness, such as nutrition, exercise, and self-care. These may include apps that track diet and exercise, meditation, beauty, personal care, mindfulness tools, and telemedicine services for wellness consultations.
- Longevity: Femtech solutions that address general health conditions that affect women disproportionately or differently, such as osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease. These may include tools for tracking and managing these conditions and telemedicine services for consultations with healthcare providers. But the leading cause among women all over the world is breast cancer.
For each area there are different products that might be offered, such as mobile apps, connected devices, pharma products, software, femcare products, and services.
Timeline of important Femtech advances:
There have been many more recent advances, and they are rapidly increasing year over year. Some of the key milestones are:
- In 2010 the FDA allowed drug trials for women. Before this, it was forbidden for all women of childbearing age.
- Also, in the same year, the first breast milk tracking devices and apps were launched to the market.
- Digital contraceptive options have been available for several years now, with the first app-based contraceptive option receiving FDA approval in the US in 2010.
- In addition, that same year, the first pregnancy and postpartum care app came onto the market.
- Menstrual health tracking and fertility apps released their first version in 2013, and over the years, new solutions for menopause and breastfeeding were developed.
- In 2019, medical startups started focusing on other severe conditions, such as cancer.
- Also, virtual healthcare has grown over the past decade, but with the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020, it took a huge step up and significantly increased these services for all women.
Femtech future trends:
The future of Femtech looks bright, with many exciting developments on the horizon. One trend to watch is the integration of Femtech with wearable technology. From smartwatches that track menstrual cycles to wearable fertility monitors, the combination of Femtech and wearables has the potential to revolutionize women's health.
Another trend is the increasing use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in Femtech. These technologies can be used to analyze data from menstrual and fertility tracking apps to provide users with more personalized and accurate information.
Also, personalization in Femtech is increasing significantly. It refers to the use of technology to tailor products or services specifically to the needs and preferences of individual women. This trend will likely continue to grow in the coming years as more companies develop products and services that consider a woman's unique characteristics and needs. For example, you may see more wearable devices that track menstrual cycles and provide personalized recommendations for managing PMS symptoms or more mobile apps that offer customized exercise and nutrition plans based on a woman's age, fitness level, and health goals.
Advances in treating endometriosis are also highlighted as an upcoming trend in Femtech. This medical condition can be challenging to diagnose and treat, but there are several femtech products and services specifically designed to help women manage it. You can expect to see more wearable devices that track symptoms and provide alerts to help women manage their pain and more telemedicine services that allow women to connect with specialists remotely. Also, more educational resources and support groups may be available online, which can help women learn more about endometriosis and connect with others dealing with the condition.
In-home testing would be another trend. Femtech companies are developing more products that allow women to conduct specific tests or screenings from the comfort of their own homes. These may include pregnancy tests, sexually transmitted infection tests, and other health-related tests. You can expect to see more of these products on the market in the coming years, which can be particularly convenient for women who live in rural areas or have limited access to healthcare facilities.
Finally, advances regarding menopause will increase significantly. As more women reach menopause, there will likely be a continued demand for femtech products and services that help women manage the physical and emotional symptoms of this natural process. You can expect to see more wearable devices that track hormone levels and other vital signs and more virtual support groups and telemedicine services that allow women to connect with specialists and get advice and support. In addition, there may be more educational resources available online that help women learn more about menopause and how to manage its symptoms.
The incredible growth of this industry and recent advancements in Femtech go hand in hand with the actual and growing female empowerment that is taking place in our society. Fortunately, women are increasingly sharing their thoughts, ideas, and problems with the world - social media being a great facilitator for it– but, here, when they speak up is when they realize there are still no tailor-made solutions for their needs yet. So, there are so many gaps and opportunities for companies to develop such solutions that this industry is expected to grow exponentially. Priyanka Jain, Co-Founder, and CEO of Evvy, said in HLTH 2022 that, given the amount of white space in our understanding of female health conditions, the critical step here is to create more information and data sets. When you bring light to the problem, you'll see it's much more complex than it seemed, and for example, "what we call bacterial vaginosis today is probably 40 different things (...), but we'll never get there if we don't build the data".
It is essential to recognize that femtech and women's health care are not separate from the broader healthcare industry but rather an integral part of it. By addressing the gap in resources and support for women's health, we can improve all individuals' overall health and well-being.