Women's health has been a crucial aspect of medical science dating back to ancient civilizations. However, the term "femtech" is relatively new, coined in 2016 by Ida Tin, co-founder of Clue, a menstrual health app. This innovative sector has faced challenges in gaining recognition, primarily due to the male-dominated nature of investment firms.
The #MeToo movement and the push for gender equity in technology and venture capital played a pivotal role in bringing femtech into mainstream conversations. According to tracxn, presently there are 323 FemTech startups in India which include Sirona, Niramai, Sanfe, Cradlewise, Avaz etc.
What is FemTech?
FemTech, short for female technology, refers to a category of technology that addresses women's health and well-being. It encompasses a range of products, services, and software that use technology to target women's health issues and improve their overall quality of life. FemTech solutions can cover various aspects of women's health, including reproductive health, fertility, pregnancy, menstrual health, menopause, and general well-being.
Some examples of FemTech products and services include:
Period-tracking apps: These apps help women monitor their menstrual cycles, predict ovulation, and manage their overall reproductive health.
Fertility tracking devices: Devices that assist women in tracking their fertility signs to optimize the chances of conception or to avoid pregnancy.
Pregnancy and postpartum care apps: Apps and devices that provide information and support for expectant mothers during pregnancy and after childbirth.
Pelvic health devices: Devices designed to help women strengthen and maintain pelvic floor muscles, addressing issues such as incontinence.
Telehealth services: Online platforms that offer virtual consultations with healthcare professionals for women's health concerns, providing convenient access to medical advice.
Wearable health trackers: Wearable devices that monitor various health metrics, including activity levels, sleep patterns, and stress, contributing to overall well-being.
The Rise of Women in STEM
A notable shift is observed as more women enter STEM fields, providing a pool of talent capable of crafting solutions that cat
er to women's unique health needs. Co-founders of a nonprofit dedicated to femtech emphasize the direct correlation between the rise of women in STEM and the development of groundbreaking women's health solutions. This surge in female representation is breaking down barriers and fostering innovation in an area historically overlooked by the tech industry.
Highlighting government's support to Femtech industry, Kush Katra said, "The government is supporting this sector with regulatory support and public awareness, encouraging new business models to open up with tie-ups from schools, corporates, and colleges being more open and approachable about it."
"The margins of profit are good in this not-so-competitive market (Compared to Similar category)."
Femtech Landscape: Beyond Reproductive Health
In the "Femtech Landscape 2021" report, it is highlighted that femtech now encompasses a wide array of health categories. Initially focused on reproductive health, femtech has expanded to include menstrual, sexual, pelvic floor, vaginal, oncological, bone, brain, autoimmune, and heart health. The products offered by femtech companies fall under categories such as medical devices, software, therapeutic drugs, consumer products, consumer services, and consumer apps, revolutionizing healthcare delivery methods.
Femtech has evolved beyond reproductive health to address health conditions that impact women differently. Diseases affecting a significant percentage of women qualify as women's health issues. The significance of gender-specific diagnostic tools is highlighted, recognizing that diseases can manifest differently in men and women. Gender bias in care delivery, particularly in pain management and mental health, is acknowledged, emphasizing the need for tailored interventions.
Several femtech companies are at the forefront of addressing mental health issues specific to women. One provides holistic mental health counseling, while another assists women in managing their menstrual cycles and tracking moods. Suggestions are made for designing interventions for issues such as antepartum and postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, menopause complexities, and intimate partner violence.
Talking about Femtech startups, Katra recalled, "One of our startups, which we have incubated and invested in (with grants and personal funds as angel investment) is Lexie, a company specializing in women's hygiene products like disposable sanitary pads and other items. Lexie has grown from a monthly revenue of 100,000 to 500,000 in six months."
"The retention rate in this industry is quite high, which eventually saves on expenses even if the product is not the best but above average," he highlighted.
VCs Interst in Femtech
Presently, female technology (femtech) has emerged as a lucrative industry. Experts believe that there are many success stories in this sector. Katra feels many success stories are also creating a fear of missing out (FOMO) in VCs.
"It was one of the most underserved areas for a long time, representing an untapped opportunity, making it lucrative for any venture capitalist to pursue," he asserted.
Femtech Implementation in Healthcare Organizations
Femtech adoption extends beyond individual patients, with healthcare organizations integrating these technologies. An at-home test collaborates with a hospital to provide personalized fertility plans. Another offers remote monitoring for maternal health, presenting itself as a white-label product for healthcare organizations. However, the need for more funding to ensure the success of these innovative solutions is emphasized.
Healthcare organizations incorporating femtech must prioritize quality data with accurate gender representation, a common challenge in clinical trials. As femtech gains traction, ensuring inclusivity in research and development becomes imperative for its widespread acceptance.
The Future of Femtech in Healthcare
The femtech landscape is dynamic, continually evolving with advancements in research and innovation. The significant gap between the potential of femtech and the current funding landscape is noted. Despite women constituting half of the population and influencing healthcare purchasing decisions, femtech companies have received only a small percentage of digital health funding.
The need to examine the femtech ecosystem holistically is stressed, identifying areas of underrepresentation and saturation. While numerous femtech solutions focus on menstruation, issues like heart disease and "period poverty" still lack adequate attention. The future of femtech lies in addressing these gaps and ensuring health equity for all.
Femtech's transformative role in healthcare is undeniable. As technology continues to reshape the industry, femtech stands as a beacon of innovation, addressing the specific health needs of women and championing a more inclusive and equitable healthcare future.