The rise and rise of femtech

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It’s no secret that healthtech and digital healthcare have thrived in recent years. Femtech is no exception.

Femtech is the breakout industry vertical of 2021. As a subset of healthtech, it went from being virtually unheard of a mere five years ago to raising almost US$600 million annually in VC funding, according to PitchBook’s latest report.

The term ‘femtech’ was coined in 2016 by Ida Tin, founder of period tracking app Clue. She said that male investors she encountered seemed uncomfortable discussing aspects of women’s health, but femtech seemed like an ideal catch-all term that neatly summed up this burgeoning space.

In fact, PitchBook’s research shows that this space has a projected 2027 market value of US$65 billion, with an estimated worth of US$41 billion for fertility solutions alone.

What is femtech?

For those who have heard about femtech but are unsure what it really means, there are four distinct categories in this vertical: reproductive health, healthcare and diagnostics, general health and wellness, and pregnancy and family care.

The aforementioned Clue, founded in 2012, is not only a period tracking app, but also received FDA clearance in 2021 for its birth control feature. To date, this is the first and only FDA approved all-digital birth control app and, as such, is classified as having medical device grade features.

There are many other femtech startups looking at reproductive health, pregnancy and family, but they’re not just smartphone apps. London-based Elvie, which closed a Series C round to the tune of US$80 million in 2021, has developed a smart breast pump. This breast pump is wireless, wearable, hands-free, and controlled by a smartphone app.

Femtech certainly has its own unicorns. In 2021, digital health platform Maven Health reached unicorn status, as did Elvie, which hit a whopping US$4 billion valuation.

Market segmentation: From eco-friendly products to menopause care

Then there’s Riley, an Irish subscription service for people with cycles, which is tapping into a growing appetite for eco-friendly products. Riley’s period products are compostable, toxin-free and chemical-free, and the startup already has some high-profile clients, including Flutter and Vodafone.

Femtech products and services extend to all stages of menstrual health, including menopause and perimenopause. The menopause market – tech and non-tech products and services – was valued at US$15 billion in 2020, according to Femtech Insider, and has a projected market value of US$23 billion by 2028.

An indication of growing interest in this space is the January 2022 acquisition of MenoLabs by biotech company Amyris. The MenoLabs app helps people track and manage the symptoms of their menopause and perimenopause.

Femtech unicorns

With femtech’s rapid growth, you may be wondering where its unicorns are. There are numerous billion dollar valuations in the overall health and wellness space, but the dominant business model is healthcare booking platforms, such as DocPlanner or Truepill.

Health self-management apps, however, appear to be experiencing rapid growth. Meditation app Calm, for example, reached unicorn status in 2019, and now has a valuation above US$2 billion. Smart wearables company Whoop – based out of Boston, Massachusetts – was valued at US$3.6 billion in 2021.

Yet femtech certainly has its own unicorns: digital health platform Maven Health has raised a total of US$202.1 million in funding over seven rounds, with funders including Oprah Winfrey. It reached unicorn status in July 2021.

According to Tracxn, Elvie has raised US$151.9 million to date and the London-based startup hit a whopping US$4 billion valuation in 2021. Hot on its heels is fellow period tracking app Flo Health, which has raised US$75.5 million in total over five rounds.

WIT_at_WS21
Image: Sam Barnes/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

Ones to watch

So, while femtech is a relatively new vertical in the healthtech space, it’s catching up quickly – and there’s plenty of room for growth.

Here are some of the exciting new femtech startups we saw at Web Summit 2021:

  • iYoni (Poland): Medical professionals’ expertise, cutting-edge functions, and AI solutions packed into a mobile app that supports reproductive health.
  • Kami (United Kingdom): Kami is a parental wellbeing data company building a first-to-market emotion detection and digital support system for parents.
  • omgyno (Greece): omgyno is a female-led sexual health platform offering education, telehealth and home testing to promote self-care, privacy and control.
  • Hormona (United Kingdom): Hormona is the world’s first data-driven solution tackling hormonal health.
  • Girly Things (Pakistan): Delivering menstrual products and information to people with (and without) disabilities.

And we can expect to see more femtech startups exhibiting at Web Summit 2022 and our North American event Collision 2022 including:

  • Protagonist Health (Canada): Aimed at women who are at risk of developing chronic conditions, Protagonist Health has an app that provides personalised behaviour insights to help users create healthy lifestyle habits. It also focuses on community building and personal empowerment for its userbase.

To keep up to date on femtech news, and on the latest innovations in tech, join our women in tech network.

Main image: Harry Murphy/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

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