The Femtech revolution
The majority of medicines that we use today, from ibuprofen for a headache to antihistamines for hay fever, have been deemed safe and effective based on data gathered exclusively from male patients. Granted, that is changing as more women are being included in clinical trials – but women’s physiology is still considered an ‘uncontrollable variable’ in research as it is less well understood. This means that even when studies include women as subjects, they don’t analyse results sex-specifically – meaning any differing side-effects or efficacy for 50% of the population are passing under the radar. Notably, most women in the US die of cardiovascular disease yet only a third of participants in clinical trials are these women. Fundamentally, women’s health is seriously under-researched, and this is significantly limiting their ability to access healthcare which is well-fitted, effective and holistic. An effort from entrepreneurs is trying to change this, giving rise to the revolution of Femtech. This term, first coined in 2016 by Clue founder Ida Tin describes technology built to address women’s biological and holistic needs – the market is expected to be worth $75 billion by 2025. Let’s take a look at what Femtech is, what is happening in the field and how the market is growing. We’ll have a special spotlight on Femtech for menopause, a biological change in women infamously understudied. If you are a student at KCL and can think of ways you could improve women’s healthcare, why not pitch the idea at our Entrepreneurial Institute-sponsored event!
A recent article from McKinsey&Co specifies Femtech as including consumer-centric products and solutions for women, powered by technology. They analysed 753 companies on growth, therapy areas and product type to give an overview of the industry. Results showed that the biggest therapy area is patient support for maternal health, second to menstrual health delivered as consumer products. But a long range of fields extends to gyn and sexual health, fertility and menopause. Evidently, Femtech is tackling a wide portfolio of healthcare issues faced by women – with 5% of companies analysed by McKinsey encompassing multiple areas of women’s health. As the market grows, more start-ups are being created, and, importantly, are able to evolve and redefine themselves. For example, the start-up Maven began focused on maternity care and was then able to expand across the whole reproductive cycle. The opportunity for collaboration with other traditional sectors also presents opportunities for disruption – Clue partnered with L’Oréal to research the relationship between dermal health and the menstrual cycle. Within start-up culture, femtech is also revolutionizing as over 70% of Femtech companies analysed by McKinsey&Co have female founders. Ultimately, the Femtech industry represents a niche, profitable market which is expanding rapidly and rising to meet the needs of women across the globe. Its power of disruption and revolution has just begun. Let’s see what this looks like in a specific therapy area, and what insights Femtech founders can give us.
Femtech for menopause
Menopause happens to almost all women once they reach the end of their reproductive lifespan, they can suffer up to 48 different symptoms which impact all aspects of their life, yet is one of the consistently under-researched areas of healthcare. There is a lack of basic research into how the most widely used intervention affects women. The Femtech revolution addressing stigmatized areas includes menopause. A wave of start-ups is now focused on alleviating hot flushes, a common symptom of menopause. This includes start-ups such as EmbrWave which can cool a user’s wrist and our very own Kings20 Venture Coolzen which uses similar technology to stop a hot flash by detecting an onset. Another key development for menopause healthcare is start-ups focusing on wearable symptom trackers – crucially these sensors represent objective data which removes biases associated with self-report. Importantly, training AI on this data will also strengthen objectivity. The growth of companies in menopause is inspiring, but only 6% of Femtech companies actually focus on it. It will be vital menopause is not left behind – especially as a recent report values the menopause care market at $600 billion!
Insight from Femtech founders
In 2021, Femtech start-ups raised a record-breaking 1.98$ billion – this space is showing massive growth and potential, but what insight can Femtech founders give us for the future? This blog interviews 4 female founders to get their opinion on future trends, challenges and what they are most excited about. Here are some key takeaways. When asked what they are most excited about in Femtech’s evolution, all founders are looking to the growing, overdue investment in the industry and, most importantly, tackling issues around women’s health long considered taboo and culturally stigmatized. Capital is a powerful instrument of change, harnessing it to modernize harmful traditions is what we are seeing, and what founders are most excited about. Another key point is one made by Maya Hardigan, founder of Mae – a digital health platform reducing maternal health disparities for minorities – to increase access. She mentions moving away from a direct-to-consumers business plans towards regulatory approval to reach a broader set of stakeholders.
Femtech market forecast and growth
In 2013, global investments in the industry barely totalled $134 million, the market has grown massively as analysis from McKinesy&Co estimates the current market size to range from $500 million to $1 billion. This report from FemTech Analytics gives an overview of the market and breakdown of companies. A compound annual growth rate of 13.3% is estimated for 2020 to 20205 – here are the key market drivers proposed:
Femtech is filling white spaces between biotech and pharma incumbents, by addressing stigmatised and under-studied health issues
Growing investment from VCs and angel investors as the niche yet wide market is becoming more popular
An increasing demand from women and others for better reproductive health
The regional distribution of Femtech start-ups is essentially all in northern America including the US and Canada – however, Europe stands second at 25%. This is testament to the strength of tech startups in Europe hailed by Skype founder and Atomico CEO Zennström. The market is diverse, from early-stage startups to publicly listed companies, however the majority of Femtech companies generate less than $10 million annual revenue – indicating there is still large areas for improvement and optimization.
What’s next for Femtech
As we have seen, Femtech is addressing key issues in women’s healthcare and tackling cultural taboos – in turn tapping into a high-growth market with massive, predicted values. The Femtech revolution will shape women’s healthcare as investors and stakeholders’ partner to explore all the ways technology can help create innovative, out of the box solutions to issues women have been ignored on. However, the industry faces some key challenges as described in this panel – a particular issue was disproving the idea that a Femtech company must be siloed to a specific health issue (i.e., pregnancy vs. fertility, etc..) Being able to collect and deliver on multi-dimensional data will power these startups to improve personalized medicine and holistic healthcare. As the field of Femtech grows, so does women’s demand for affordable, accessible and effective healthcare – entrepreneurs will lead the way filling white spaces left by incumbents and revolutionizing the field of women’s healthcare.