New innovations are taking female health by storm. With Flex’s menstrual cups, Daye’s CBD-laced tampons and Aavia’s smart pillpack, creative solutions to age-old problems are cropping up everywhere, and it’s time investors took more notice. The femtech industry is predicted to be worth $50 billion by 2025 (1), and things are just getting started 🚀.
What is Femtech?
Femtech, or “female technology”, are innovations that improve women’s health (2). More inclusively*, femtech solves problems that are caused by having female reproductive organs (🥭🥭 & 🍑). The female body can get pregnant and give birth, and this ability comes with many inconveniences that can interfere with living a normal life, like period cramps or going through menopause 😩.
Ida Tin coined the term “femtech” in 2016, after she created Clue, one of the first and most widely-used period tracking apps (3). Now there are more than 300 femtech startups around the world (4). Their solutions span across birth control, period care products, fertility, menopause, pregnancy, post-pregnancy, hormonal disorders, breastfeeding and sexual wellness (5). But femtech goes far beyond your typical health and wellness bullsh*t. It’s about creating medically legit innovations that enhance our experience of our body, minimizing our stress, pain and suffering, and maximizing our freedom and control 💪🏽.
Why is Femtech a big deal?
Phrases like “the world's biggest problems are the world's biggest business opportunities” get thrown around a lot in Silicon Valley (6). Femtech startups are a great opportunity because they address some of the most understudied and persistent problems faced by half of all humans on Earth. Also, 91% of the top VC investors have not experienced these issues personally (7). If you have a 🍑, then you have an edge as an investor in this space. But at the end of the day, money is money. What about social change?
Femtech challenges the status quo
Across cultures and racial backgrounds, as females we’re often taught to put up with sh*t. If we’re having a painful experience, such as recovering from a C-section, we’re taught to keep our pain to ourselves and suck it up. Femtech says: enough is enough. We don’t deserve to be in pain, and we can take action to address it.
Femtech gives us new freedoms
For example, while not everyone will have a positive experience with the Mirena Hormonal IUD, it is highly effective for preventing pregnancy for 5 years (8). This helps users avoid experiencing an abortion or miscarriage. With the Mirena, many users’ periods are shorter and lighter, and can even stop altogether (9), making buying tampons and regularly staining our underwear a thing of the past. These new freedoms are transformative and life-changing and were unfathomable only a couple of decades ago.
Femtech changes the course of history
Cheesy, but true. Every time I meet a femtech founder, I think, “Wow, I wish you had invented this 100 years ago.” Take Yona, a new speculum created by Fran Wang, Rachel Hobart and team. The speculum is used in medical procedures that millions of us go through every year, like pelvic exams, but it hasn’t seen a significant design improvement since Thomas Graves’ model, which was created in the 1870s (10). Yona will give this device the upgrade it deserves.
Femtech shows us that we have the power to solve our own problems
Founders often get started in femtech because they had a terrible personal experience and decide to do something about it. This time, we’re not just waiting for some Boring Old White Dude (11) to solve these problems for us. Research done by LinkedIn shows that women are now pursuing careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) more than other fields (12). We’re gaining the scientific knowledge and skillsets we need so that we can design better health solutions for ourselves.
Femtech helps us envision new futures
For example, we could create birth control that is 100% effective with no side effects (that is not abstinence 😆), or a watch that gives you perfect information on when you will ovulate. These are some of my ideas. What ideas do you have?
HOW CAN YOU HELP BUILD THE FUTURE OF FEMTECH?
Support femtech startups by testing out their products
Femtech solutions can only improve if we spend the money. If you see a new period cup that looks cool, buy one. If you’re breastfeeding, buy multiple pumps and see which one you like best. By giving femtech startups critical feedback, you can help them make their products better. And tell your friends about it too 😜.
Bring your personal experiences and puruse your interests in STEM
Females face different social stigmas and health issues across the world. You are uniquely placed to best understand the local challenges and needs of your community. No one will design what we need quite like you will. Pursue any interest you have in STEM, so you can be part of creating new solutions. Sign up for that statistics class. Get the extra lab training. Apply for that master’s degree. Femtech needs a diversity of experiences and all the brainpower we can get, and you bring that 😜 🧠.
Look at the data, then make your own choices
Anecdotal stories from friends that aren’t based on science can be misleading. Instead, embrace findings from research 🧬🥼. Read reputable sources like PussyPedia to understand the truth about your body. Read systematic reviews and meta-studies, rather than individual studies that might be biased. Informed = Confident about making your own decisions 👍.
Become the researcher
If you can’t find the research, it doesn’t exist yet. For example, we don’t know why people experience such different side effects from hormonal birth control. We need this research to get done, and no one is coming to save us. Could you run the experiment and publish the study? Why not? 🤓
The future is in your hands 👐🏻👐🏼👐🏽👐🏾👐🏿.
*Not everyone who has female reproductive organs identifies as a woman.
(1) Tiffany, Kaitlyn. “Period-tracking apps are not for women.” Vox, The Goods. (2018). <https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/11/13/18079458/menstrual-tracking-surveillance-glow-clue-apple-health>.
(2) Anon. “Femtech.” Wikipedia. (2020). <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Femtech>.
(3) Anon. “Clue (mobile app).” Wikipedia. (2020). <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clue_(mobile_app)>
(4) Folkendt, Kathrin. “Companies.” FemtechInsider. (2019). <https://femtechinsider.com/companies/ >.
(5) Folkendt, Kathrin. “So What is Femtech, Anyways?” Femtech Insider. (2019). <http://femtechinsider.com/what-is-femtech/>.
(6) Diamandis, Peter. “Turning Big Problems into Big Business Opportunities.” Forbes, Tech. (2014). <https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterdiamandis/2014/08/25/how-to-become-a-billionaire/>.
(7) Booth, Callum, “Here’s how male (and white) VC firms are.” TNW, Tech. (2019). <https://thenextweb.com/tech/2019/01/25/male-white-venture-capitalist-gender-diversity/>.
(8) Anon., “Mirena.” Bayer. (2020). <https://www.mirena-us.com/about-mirena/>.
(9) Anon., “Mirena.” Bayer. (2020). <https://www.mirena-us.com/about-mirena/>.
(10) Eveleth, Rose. “Why No One Can Design a Better Speculum.” The Atlantic, Health. (2014). <https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/why-no-one-can-design-a-better-speculum/382534/>.
(11) Poswolsky, Smiley. “The Breakthrough Speaker.” (2020). <https://smileyposwolsky.com/thebreakthroughspeaker>.
(12) Bowley, Rachel. “A Snapshot of Progress Among Women in the Workforce.” LinkedIn Official Blog. (2018).<https://blog.linkedin.com/2018/march/6/a-snapshot-of-progress-among-women-in-the-workforce>.