The dawn of the FemTech revolution

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Women’s healthcare enables better outcomes for women patients and consumers,1 investors and other stakeholders across the value chain, and society at large. We explore many of these opportunities, and the broader context in which they have developed, in a related article, “Unlocking opportunities in women’s healthcare.” In this article, we focus specifically on FemTech: defining what it means, taking the measure of its already impressive growth, and exploring its potential to help better match resources, talent, and capital to women’s unmet health needs.

Understanding FemTech

The term “FemTech” was first coined in 2016 by entrepreneur Ida Tin. In the course of just a few years, it has grown to encompass a range of technology-enabled, consumer-centric products and solutions.

For purposes of this research, we analyzed 763 FemTech companies, designated as largely tech-enabled, consumer-centric solutions addressing women’s health, excluding biopharma and incumbent medical devices. We included select nondigital consumer products (with materials science innovations), devices (that are patient friendly), and health clinics (that are consumer-centric). We excluded companies that are more than 20 years old or are not focused exclusively on women’s health (diagnostics, supplements, telemedicine). Companies with both men’s and women’s health solutions were included in the data set but were excluded from funding calculations.

In the course of just a few years, FemTech has grown to encompass a range of technology-enabled, consumer-centric products and solutions.

FemTech provides a wide range of solutions to improve healthcare for women across a number of female-specific conditions, including maternal health, menstrual health, pelvic and sexual health, fertility, menopause, and contraception, as well as a number of general health conditions that affect women disproportionately or differently (such as osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease). While it’s still early days, our research indicates that the dynamics underlying FemTech are accelerating: public awareness, company formation, and funding are surging (Exhibit 1).

Interest in FemTech is rising.

FemTech companies are already validating their investment hypotheses. Among others, Progyny, which manages fertility benefits for employers, went public in 2019 at a valuation in excess of $1 billion; its current market capitalization is about $4 billion. And Maven Clinic, a virtual clinic for women’s and family health, was valued at more than $1 billion in a recent Series D investment. In fact, the opportunities for multiple players, including investors, researchers, providers, payers, and legacy pharmaceutical and medical-device companies, are becoming increasingly evident.

A market of opportunity

Depending on scope, estimates for FemTech’s current market size range from $500 million to $1 billion. Forecasts suggest opportunities for double-digit revenue growth. On the digital health front, FemTech companies currently receive 3 percent of all digital health funding. In our scan of hundreds of FemTech companies, we found concentration in maternal health patient support, consumer menstrual products, gynecological devices, and solutions in fertility. Funding reached $2.5 billion by early December 2021. In some cases, FemTech companies are filling gaps not yet addressed by biopharma and device incumbents, such as in the area of maternal health. Yet this is clearly, and promisingly, only the beginning of what FemTech can address. There are still significant white spaces (Exhibit 2).

FemTech start-ups are proliferating, but meaningful white space remains.

On the cusp of disruption

FemTech companies could disrupt healthcare in a number of ways. Initial breakthroughs are already being achieved across a range of areas, including the following:

  • Improving care delivery: Virtual clinics such as Tia, innovative brick-and-mortar clinics such as Kindbody, and direct-to-consumer prescription delivery services like those of The Pill Club, all enable women to access care in a more convenient, consumer-centric manner.
  • Enabling self-care: Trackers and wearables offered by companies such as Bloomlife, and at-home diagnostics like those provided by Modern Fertility, are among the FemTech solutions that are helping women take greater charge of their health and health-related data.
  • Improving diagnoses: Clinical diagnostics companies are pushing the scientific frontier to address unmet medical needs in areas such as endometriosis (DotLab) and preterm birth (Sera Prognostics).
  • Addressing stigmatized areas: Companies are addressing what had been considered to be stigmatized topics head on, such as menstrual health (Thinx), sexual health (Rosy Wellness), pelvic care (Elvie), and menopause (Elektra Health).
  • Delivering culturally sensitive and tailored care: Solutions tailored for subpopulations are emerging for Black women (such as Health in Her HUE), LGBTQ+ populations (FOLX Health), and women in low- and middle-income countries (Kasha).

The categories in which FemTech is having an impact are increasing—and also, in some cases, starting to evolve, overlap, and redefine themselves as FemTech companies begin to scale up and seek new ways to expand. For instance, Maven started in maternity care and then expanded across the reproductive life cycle. Peppy, which was founded to offer a solution for organizations to better support their people once they had brought their new babies home, now also addresses challenges around menopause. Other businesses, among them models that were launched on a direct-to-consumer model, are now seeking to obtain regulatory approval and reimbursement, as they build upon their experiences and real-world data to provide improved solutions for a broader set of stakeholders who benefit from better women’s healthcare.

Looking forward, early movers can stake out opportunities in prominent white spaces, including by leveraging technology to address women’s health issues beyond reproduction, and by helping to meet the needs of underserved populations such as low-income or minority communities. FemTech also presents significant partnership opportunities for legacy players in traditional sectors. Cosmetics leader L’Oréal, for example, recently unveiled a partnership with the period-tracking app Clue to deepen knowledge on the relationship between skin health and the menstrual cycle. As FemTech companies increasingly gain traction and change the competitive landscape, stakeholders within and beyond the healthcare ecosystem could well provide additional momentum.

Moreover, FemTech—and indeed, improved women’s healthcare overall—could help catalyze positive social changes across the healthcare ecosystem and beyond. Consider menopause, which frequently occurs when women are most likely to step into senior roles. Its effects can have an impact on the number of women in top positions and the quality of women’s experiences throughout organizations.2 Deploying technological and consumer-centric solutions to address menopause can serve as a model and an enabler for future female leaders.

Along those lines, FemTech is powered to a significant extent by female entrepreneurs—more than 70 percent of FemTech companies we analyzed had at least one female founder, compared with a 20 percent norm for new companies. Indeed, across the value chain, a more inclusive, gender-aware healthcare system could help support more women to become inventors, investors, physicians, founders—and healthier human beings, solving for the health conditions of other human beings. Research has shown that when inventors set out to solve a health problem, male inventors are more likely to solve for a male-oriented condition; women-led teams solve for both.3

Increasing female representation among researchers, inventors, investors, and founders can create more consumer-centric products and solutions that recognize and target women’s specific healthcare needs. Indeed, the market is not just women consumers but also payers and providers that seek better products and tools to engage more effectively with women end consumers. FemTech solutions are not only achieving commercial success; they are contributing to the conditions for continued innovation. Because women are not just consumers but the primary healthcare decision-makers for themselves and often for their families, better health outcomes for women can lead to better outcomes for society.

As women’s healthcare becomes an increasing priority, FemTech is rising to meet the challenge as it matches capital and talent with unmet needs. In a short period of time, FemTech has already demonstrated impressive early wins. An even greater disruption could be ahead.

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