By Estrella Jaramillo – Women’s Health Advocate and Entrepreneur.
There is an ongoing debate about what is included in the definition of Femtech, and the need to think beyond reproductive health and make the field more inclusive. However, there is power in using terminology that creates visibility for concepts or issues that have long been widely overlooked. “Femtech” has and continues to serve the purpose of creating a catchy reference to a business sector that primarily addresses the health and wellness needs of women -and people who experience similar health issues- through software, diagnostics, products and tech-enabled health services.
As this category continues to grow and be fueled by unwavering founders, investors and leaders, its impact is expanding beyond healthcare and into other domains, from workplace regulations, to advocacy against gender biases in advertising, from financial equity to state legislation.
2019 was an inflection point for this space which is on the path to becoming a consolidated $50 billion dollar industry (estimated for 2025 by F&S), while improving the lives of millions of women and their communities. To celebrate the accomplishments of leaders and visionaries who persisted, even after hearing for the hundredth time that the problems they were solving were “too niche”, here’s a selection of the trends and highlights in Femtech in 2019.
The Fertility Space Is Ready To Harvest What It Sow
Data Bridge, a research firm, predicts that by 2026 the booming global fertility industry could reach $41bn in sales, from approximately $25bn this year. No wonder investors are writing checks.
Manhattan based Extend Fertility brought in new talent into their leadership team, announced a $15 million Series A and total rebrand. Competitor egg-freezing and fertility clinic Kindbody also raised $15 million earlier this year, plus another $10 million from GV last week, totalling $31.3 million in capital raised. The company plans to support employers in offering better fertility benefits to their employees.
Nextgen Jane, a data-driven health company for women and people who menstruate, raised $9 million Series A. Its smart tampon platform allows users to collect menstrual and cervicovaginal samples and ship them off to a lab for in-depth analysis and disease detection.
At-home Testing Grows As Modern Consumers Demand Convenience And Affordability
Modern Fertility announced a $15 million funding round led by Forerunner Ventures to expand its affordable at-home hormone testing service and continue to collect anonymous data to contribute to women’s health research and product development
Consumer lab testing platform Everlywell, which also provides women’s health testing, raised $50 million this spring. The Texas-based company serves hundreds of thousands of customers, simplifying the often cumbersome and confusing diagnostic lab testing process.
Female Founders Took A Stance Against Reproductive Health Bans, Unlocking Support From 200 CEOs
The initial 7 signing CEOs included Cora, Dame, Thinx, Sustain, Clary Collection, Fur and Loom. In their NYT’s open letter they demanded that the CEOs of companies that use feminism and women’s empowerment as marketing arsenal take a stance for women’s rights, following the passing of bills restricting access to reproductive health services in several states. Weeks later, almost 200 CEOs and executives supported the movement under: Don’t Ban Equality. The participating organizations and executives included big household names like H&M, tech entrepreneurs including MakeLoveNotPorn’s Cindy Gallop and Unbound’s Polly Rodriguez, wellness founders Emily Weiss from Glossier and OUAI’s Jen Atkins, and prominent investors such as Anu Duggal from Female Founders Fund and West’s Joanna Rees.
The Power of Community Support And Science In The Preconception Period
When it comes to maternal health, the conversation mostly revolves around (successful) pregnancy and motherhood. However, the ups and downs of the preconception journey are often left out of the conversation, causing many to feel lost and isolated.
Peanut, the social network for mothers, announced a $5 million funding round and the launch of TTC, a new site within Peanut specifically designed for the needs of women who are trying to conceive. Additionally, former CEO of RockHealth Halle Tecco launched Natalist and raised $5 million to address the gap in the market for better designed products and a more intelligent platform that supports the preconception journey.
Finance Meets Femtech To Increase Access To Family Planning
Cost is still the main barrier to access to fertility treatment, as explained in this white paper of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. 80% of people who undergo fertility treatment have little to no coverage and accrue an average of $30k in debt.
Fertility benefits company Carrot Fertility launched its Visa Carrot Card early this fall, the first fertility debit card for employees who have access to Carrot at work that makes it easy for employees to pay for treatment like egg freezing, IVF, and adoption, among other services.
Future Family aims to tackle the problem offering personalized financing plans for IVF and egg freezing, under a subscription payment model. Future Family recently announced that it will be offering free fertility testing for all members.
Menstrual Wellness Management Keeps Growing And Celebrates Two Exits
This is L. and competitor Sustain were both acquired this year by P&G and Grove Collaborative, respectively. This is L.’s deal is said to be around the $100 million.
San Francisco-based Cora, which sells organic personal care items closed a $7.5 million Series A led by Harbinger Ventures. Additionally, femcare meets CBD, the darling wellness category of the year, in Daye, a startup that has developed a new type of tampon to help tackle dysmenorrhea. It raised $5.5 million this year, led by Khosla Ventures.
There is in fact a growing interest in the intersection of menstrual health and pain management that startups like FLO Vitamins and Elix are also tackling.
Digital Health Attracting Consumers Who Want A Better Experience
Navigating healthcare is a burdensome process that Millennials and Gen Z mostly dread and that can put people at risk due to health concerns that aren’t properly addressed.
Tia Clinic started as a digital women’s health solution and has now gone brick and mortar. The startup opened its first location in NYC this year and memberships sold out in the first few weeks. Allbodies launched with the mission of covering the reproductive and sexual health questions and needs of all people, particularly addressing those areas that are still highly stigmatized.
Going back to the subject of inclusivity, Queerly Health, a digital health startup democratizing access to LGBTQ+ health and wellness, has had its first launch in NYC. Queerly Health will be linking LGBTQ+ inclusive providers with gay women, queer women, trans women, and gender variant folks (who may be assigned female at birth), among others. As explained by CEO Derrick Reyes, Queerly Health recently started enrolling providers in NYC and will be available to the public in 2020.
Progyny became the first fertility benefits company to ever IPO
Family benefits company Progyny (PGNY) went public on October 25. At the offering price, Progyny raised $130 million, and reached a fully diluted market value of $1.3 billion.
Fertility benefits coverage is consolidating as a must-have as more studies reflect that this is a key element in talent retention and employee satisfaction -62% of employees who had their IVF sponsored by their employer expressed that they were more likely to stay longer with the company.
One Billion in Funding: Investors Are Watching
Frost & Sullivan’s report stating that Femtech would reach $50 billion value in the next 5 years, paired up with the recent wins by leading companies and the awareness generated by the female entrepreneur community, has helped the space get on the radar of prominent investors. Just to name another example, Mahmee, a startup tackling the maternal health crisis, announced a $3 million round that included Serena Williams, Arlan Hamilton and Mark Cuban as investors.
This year the space surpassed $1 Billion in total funding since 2014. According to data provided by venture capitalist Vanessa Larco, Partner at NEA, this years’ total funding in the Femtech category falls just short of $750 million. Larco, who sits on the board of Cleo, a fertility to parenting employee support system, is a firm supporter of the space and hopes to see more exits in the near future: “We need the investment community to see that you can make money while making a positive impact on women’s health. The bigger the exits, the more money gets invested in the space, and the more companies we will see— that should drive better outcomes. It’s really the boost we need to get the flywheel going. That’s how you get a venture-funded industry going. And I’m eager to see this happen as a woman and investor.”
A celebrated funding round this year Elvie’s $42 million Series B led by IPGL, which was labeled as the largest in Femtech. In all fairness, this is strictly the largest funding round by a female founded Femtech company. However, if we look at the total market, we see that out of the 4 biggest funding rounds in Femtech, 3 were raised by companies founded and built by men (Nurx, Hims/Hers, Ro/Rory). In fact, two of these four were initially men’s health companies, primarily selling on-demand pharma products, that then launched women-centered verticals (Hims/Hers, Ro/Rory).
Audioerotica Is Bringing Sexy Back
Think inclusive erotica and porn meet sexual wellness. Four companies aim to revolutionize the way people, and specially women, perceive and consume erotic content: Quinn, Dipsea ($ 5.5 million raised), Ferly, and Emjoy all have created digital platforms where audio is the main format, and science and a deep understanding of women’s psychology are key elements.
This is part of a larger trend led by rising intimate and sexual wellness startups made by women for women that are creating safe spaces for sexual health education and conversation, while also transforming the way society views women’s sexuality at every different stage in life.
Another female-founded startup addressing women’s sexual health is Rosy, a digital health solution that supports women experiencing low libido.
Maternity And The Workplace: Transforming Culture Through Innovation
The struggle of juggling being a parent and thriving in the workforce is real, especially for women. The work/house role division is no longer set in stone, and employers need to think about supporting women’s return after pregnancy and offering fathers the right to extended parental leave.
This creates an opportunity for technology to help reduce existing frictions. Companies innovating in the working mother space include wearable, silent breast pump makers like Elvie or Willow, lactation digital health solutions and communities like Pumpspotting, postpartum telemedicine and parenting benefits like Maven and Cleo, and milk shipping services like Milk Stork for lactating employees that need to travel for work.
Out of all of the life stages a woman goes through, menopause is probably the most overlooked by society. “Ageism” has made women practically invisible in the media after 45, and it transpires into the way we think about healthcare in perimenopause and menopause.
Gennev is an online clinic dedicated exclusively to this stage of life. Founder and CEO Jill Angelo raised $4 million this year and is excited to be launching an annual Zeitgeist study on menopause based on a survey of 6,000, the largest of its kind. Angelo adds that as women live longer and have more wealth than ever, they demand more information about their bodies and they want more care options – whether that be traditional hormone therapy or lifestyle-based options for relief.
Elektra Health is another platform for women navigating perimenopause & menopause. Over 80% of women suffer debilitating symptoms (anxiety/depression, brain fog, hot flashes…) as a result of hormonal menopausal shifts, yet 75% of those who seek care don’t receive it. Elektra is organizing monthly salon events with leading experts and, starting in 2020, will provide a virtual clinic for New York-based patients.
CPG Giants, Pharma, Insurers and Accelerators Make Moves Into The Space
P&G Ventures partnered with Vinetta project earlier this year to source its next billion dollar brand from the community of entrepreneurs, and has expressed a strong interest in the menopause space as well as aging.
Johnson and Johnson has been co-sponsoring innovation summits with a focus on women’s health. Additionally, J&J has partnered with accelerator Founders Factory, which is launching a health hub in NYC. The project will be headed by former Techstars Managing Director Maya Baratz Jordan, and is said to focus initially on women’s health.
Finally, Pharma companies are paying attention as DTC birth control startups like PillClub, Nurx and Simple Health gain traction among consumers. Insurer Axa, on the other hand, recently announced it will be selecting a group of women entrepreneurs for its first Femtech acceleration program.
Growing amounts of funding, acquisitions, Series A and B, growing consumer demand, and the attention of the biggest healthcare players… It all points out to an exciting 2020. Any bets? I’ll be sharing some investor takes on what’s to come in the next article.