Industry Focus: FemTech
Imagine that your body can hold something the size of a watermelon, and squeeze it out. Imagine that your body has the capability to spring back to its original size, shed its own lining, and make its own milk. If you know how these things feel, then you’re one of approximately half of the human body: female. If you don’t, we encourage you to let your imagined sensations “digest” for just a bit longer.
It hurts, doesn’t it? But what’s difficult is that not everyone knows that pain.
That’s where feminine technology, known as FemTech, enters the scene. Comprised of startups, FemTech is Digital Health tailored especially for the changes, the symptoms, and the conditions that affect the ladies.
FemTech Market Segments
Digital Health opened the door to FemTech, which has branched into other, more specialized fields. CBInsights has broken these fields into eight categories:
- Fertility solutions — resources for egg freezing, fertility treatments, and egg donation.
- Period and fertility tracking — applications and wearables for tracking cycles and symptoms associated with female wellness.
- At-home fertility monitoring — wearables for monitoring fertility specifically and to better manage family planning.
- Pregnancy and nursing care — medical care, prenatal testing, and breastfeeding resources for pregnant women and new mothers.
- Pelvic healthcare — resources for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), menstrual issues, and pelvic floor strength.
- General healthcare — clinical health models aimed at improving the female healthcare experience.
- Period care goods — tampons, pads, and other items for managing periods.
- Women’s sexual wellness — resources for advice about sex, birth control, and STIs.
Clinical apps, wearables, and personal trackers take the spotlight within these categories. To help discuss them further here, we’ve divided them into the three P’s: the private, the portable, and the personal.
The Private — Clinical Apps
As society still considers many aspects of female health taboo, many women hesitate to leave the personal wellness “bubble” formed around healthcare professionals and themselves. With access as their goal, FemTech developers have brought the doctor’s office into the home while understanding that there is a personal, as well as legal, need for privacy.
These efforts are well underway in the United States. Maven Clinic allows women get consultations 24/7 for medical, mental, nutritional, and even parenting advice. Along with other, non-female-centric general health apps like HealthTap and FirstOpinion, it removes the necessity and expense of appointments and puts private care at the patient’s fingertips.
Celes Care, based in India, has the same prerogative. Using its chat feature, patients can initiate a conversation that, thanks to 265-bit encryption, remains exclusive to their doctors and themselves. Having expanded to regions like Mexico, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates, the app fills the gap where travel or money may make finding female healthcare impossible.
The Portable — Wearables
Accessible with just a push of the finger, FemTech apps are universally portable. When we say “portable,” here though, we mean everything that isn’t an app: the touchable, transportable, deliverable things essential to women’s wellness.
Several of these items are wearable, but we’ll begin with the most conventional. Lola, for example, began delivering organic pads and tampons to its customers in 2014. Following innovators like Graze and Netflix (remember the days before streaming?), the East-Coast startup brought FemTech into the subscription service circle. Now three years going strong, it also delivers free feminine hygiene products to women in need.
Pandia Health, dubbed the “Dollar Shave Club for women” by Forbes, is another FemTech startup that has capitalized on the subscription model. The only woman-founded telemedicine service, it delivers birth control to insured and uninsured women across the United States.
But, as we’ve said, FemTech developers like to think out of the box—Tania Boler is one of them. Her product, Elvie, is a wearable for tracking Kegel exercises, which involve squeezing the pelvic muscles to strengthen the pelvic floor. Once criticized for being “too niche,” the product closed at £4.8 million in 2016. Designed by a team of physicians and physiotherapists, Elvie has made strides in reducing stigma against more “intimate” FemTech wearables.
The Personal — Personal Trackers
One of the goals of FemTech is women taking charge of their health. Telemedicine and wearables take this independence to the material and clinical levels, but their foundation — the app — is what makes them unique. Even without a product or a team of medical professionals to back them up, FemTech apps let women track their symptoms and reach their wellness goals with the help of big data.
Using this algorithm, Berlin-based Clue has skyrocketed to the top of the market in period and fertility tracking. Customizable for even the most obscure indicators, the app creates a personalized calendar that allows patients to visualize cycles, fertile periods, and indicator patterns. As the app collects and saves daily entries, patients can more easily recognize abnormalities in their cycles and have evidence on-hand to show healthcare professionals.
Natural Cycles follows the same method for women seeking to get pregnant, or to prevent pregnancy. The first app to receive approval as a contraceptive, the Stockholm startup uses daily body temperature logs to determine a woman’s most and least fertile periods. Clocking 99.5% accuracy among 150,000 users in 161 countries, it is no wonder the app has raised $8 million to date.
FemTech by the Numbers
We live in a tech-savvy society. Over 70% of EU females use the internet, and over half of internet users shop online. Women are asking for more and, indeed, they’re getting more. Judging by current market patterns, FemTech can expect:
- More venture capitals.
- More investments.
- More new deals.
- More wearables.
- More female leaders.
Investing at Home and Across the Pond
As we’ve said before, FemTech has grown into its own, multi-segmented market. Sadly, reports on FemTech alone are few and far between. Until the industry has ripened, we must rely on general investment numbers and Digital Health statistics to fill in the gaps.
The future of Digital Health in the United States seems safely secured, seeing a record year of funding in 2016. CBInsights and Lexology predict that 2017 will break this record, already touting $3.5 billion invested and seven deals surpassing $100 million. According to these statistics, the year could close with over $9.4 billion in Digital Health investments.
Where the United States leads in investing, Europe follows. As early as 2010, the EU saw a total of $24 billion in exits, the majority coming from Germany and the UK. The two countries accounted for over 44% of all new deals in 2014, and undoubtedly took a substantial margin of the €4.3 billion invested in technology in 2015. It’s no surprise that both also hold a stake in FemTech, Germany launching the period-tracker Clue and the UK housing wearables like Elvie and Lady-Comp.
Although the United States leads in startup investment, reports indicate that the pattern could shift. As Europe latches onto Digital Health and accepts riskier investments, it could catch up to its US counterparts.
Wearables Gaining Traction
Elvie closed at £4.8 million in 2016. As a feminine wellness device and wearable, its success would have been unheard-of even five years ago. Following in its footsteps are the Naya smart breast pump and NextGen Jane’s smart tampon, both of which signal change on the horizon.
A report released by Ericsson and the EU itself confirm our suspicions. As of June 2016, a quarter of smartphone users had started using wearables in the previous three months. This number does not account for experienced wearable users, a third of whom fall between age 15 and 34—FemTech’s target audience. Furthermore, the EU predicts that the European wearable market will be valued at $40 billion by 2018.
Ericsson also suggests that Digital Health wearables will shift in functionality from physical fitness trackers to overall wellness monitors. Safety and security will become the sector’s next priority which, when paired with consumers’ increased willingness to share data with their healthcare providers, points directly to FemTech giants like Maven and Clue. Wearable users are being loud and clear about wanting information beyond steps and calories, and FemTech—with its tampons, Kegel trackers, and breast—is responding fast. In the Internet of Things (IoT), FemTech is paving the way.
In IT, Women Wanted
The rise of FemTech has opened doors for female developers and entrepreneurs, especially those with medical expertise. Despite their growing network, women remain grossly under-represented in the tech field.
According to a 2016 report by Deloitte (PDF), the gender gap in tech has been “recognised as an issue since at least 2005”. Women occupy less than a quarter of the total IT jobs, and an even smaller proportion of senior IT roles.
Efforts toward closing the gender gap appear to have ignored this sector, beginning as early as primary education. In the UK, only 17% of female Computer Science (CS) students reported having learned any computer coding during their compulsory years, compared to 33% of male CS students.
Obviously, this disparity has spilled into universities as well as the workforce. During the 2009/2010 school year, less than a quarter of Swedish CS students were female. The UK unveiled a similar trend, with females comprising just 17.1% of the CS student population. Regarding jobs, the UK reported that females made up a mere one in twenty applicants in the tech field. Overall, even with job prospects booming, the numbers do not look hopeful.
The same report suggests that the male-saturated tech market makes women less likely to enter the field, in the first place. In the United States, women cite sexist work environments, lack of childcare, and expectations around not having children as reasons for leaving IT positions. UK surveys included like-minded individuals who expressed that their gender had hindered their progress in the field.
In all, while the tech itself is accepting women with open arms, it has yet to create work environments with women in mind. FemTech, by giving a platform to female developers and CEOs, could revolutionize demographics in the field.
Career Outlooks in FemTech
As a part of Digital Health, FemTech requires that female health, general medicine, and technology intersect. FemTech, therefore, favours workers in the following fields:
- Web development
- Medicine, especially gynaecology
- Biology and chemistry
- Psychology and psychiatry
- Insurance and financial counselling
- Marketing and communications
Job Profile: Web Designer and Developer
Web developers bridge the gap between coding and design, striving to make a visually-appealing app or site that consumers can easily navigate. In short, they keep websites and apps user-, browser-, and OS-friendly.
Ideally, web developers have the following skills:
- Coding in Java, Python, and HTML
- Proficiency with iOS and Android
- Knowledge of web and browser functions
- Experience in e-commerce
Web developers for FemTech companies tend to understand the needs of female patients, from simple questions to emergency situations. They have an idea of what traffic their company will receive, and can adapt the site or app accordingly.
Job Profile: Marketing Specialist
FemTech is an emerging field, with startups aplenty. To make it in the big leagues, startups need someone who can make them stand out, both visually and verbally. This is where marketing specialists come in, ensuring that their company makes a good first impression for investors and consumers alike.
Marketing specialists are dynamic individuals who can follow trends while adding their own creative flair. More specifically, their skills include:
- Digital design (Adobe, Autodesk)
- Social networking
- Blogging and SEO
In FemTech, a good marketing specialist knows how their female clients tick. From fertility apps to wearables, they know what women are looking for in their product and can create advertisements that demonstrate, in a succinct manner, what their company can deliver.
Job Profile: Medical Professional
FemTech was founded with IT, but professional medicine is its backbone. Telemedicine startups seek practitioners who can work on a flexible schedule, who can communicate effectively from their home or private office, and who can treat patients even without person-to-person contact.
Medical professionals in telemedicine—and specifically FemTech—are typically strong in the following areas:
- Women’s health
If working for a FemTech company, a medical professional needs to be able to answer a patient’s questions in a timely manner and explain complicated concepts clearly and precisely. They also need to diagnose, write prescriptions, or make referrals according to symptoms described orally or through text, sometimes without a visual aid. They need to understand the psychological side of female issues and disorders and to provide emotional support if necessary.
As Digital Health in general, the FemTech landscape is ever-changing. This advancing market will see an increase in FemTech jobs and opportunities for digital health careers. Subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Facebook and Twitter, to stay up to date on the latest news, as the story unfolds.
Her responsibilities include growing and nurturing our digital health platforms and, occasionally, taking care of bus tickets for the team. In her free time, she can be found on horseback out in the woods.