Despite being almost precisely half of the global population, the concept of technology specifically for women is — shockingly — a relatively new field.
Tracking periods and fertility planning are the most common applications associated with femtech. But now, with the original femtech startups turning into profitable fast-growth businesses, we’re seeing even further investment into the sector. This has helped to speed up innovation and deliver products and services long overdue for half of all humanity.
What is femtech?
The term femtech was first coined in 2016 by Danish entrepreneur Ida Tin, in an effort to legitimise the female health technology market and fuel innovation and investment in the space.
Broadly, femtech means any use of technology — from diagnostics and specialist software to consumer services and products — that can be used to support, monitor, and improve women’s health. The rapid growth of the sector over the last few years can be correlated to a collective aspiration to end the taboo surrounding women’s health and close the gender health gap.
As a label, femtech has also helped to bring investment in for new products and services. Since the creation of the term in 2016, venture capital funding for femtech has tripled from $600 million to nearly $1.9 billion in 2021. Defining “femtech” has allowed for rapid growth and interest, as VCs look to capitalise on catering to half the world.
From a consumer perspective, the main products in the space have centered around period and fertility tracking apps. These have surged in popularity, and by and large have successfully worked to give women and people menstruating a better understanding of their hormonal and reproductive health and the ability to share this knowledge with their partners. These are still innovating, offering tailored insights, symptom prediction and actionable guidance.
The apps understand their audience, and what they both want and need. They also understand the need to go further than tracking.
More to be done
Despite the growing interest in femtech and the encouraging rise in femtech startups, only three percent of the overall Digital HealthTech funding went to femtech startups in 2020. Areas of women’s health such as mental health, disabilities, PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and endometriosis are still very much overlooked.
For instance, thousands of autistic women and girls are still undiagnosed due to gender bias, as a result of assumptions about autism mainly affecting boys and men, and most studies being conducted on male-only cohorts. As a consequence, many undiagnosed women have to mask their autistic traits. Here, femtech can help women and girls with autism through the collation of relevant data to help improve diagnosis and potentially produce other innovative ways to better manage the developmental disability.
The dominance of men in medical research has also led to a dearth of knowledge around female-specific conditions. Again, femtech is well placed to resolve these issues.
Endometriosis — a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes — has been under-researched.
According to Endometriosis UK, it is the second most common gynecological condition in the UK, but it can still take seven to eight years for women to get diagnosed, and even then treatment is focused on either pain relief or surgery as a final option. Femtechs can work here to increase understanding of the condition, and even provide advice and guidance for women with the condition, helping them to self-manage if health provision fails them. There is also potential for magnetic technology to treat endometriosis lesions, but more research and technology is required to help reduce the time it takes for women to get diagnosed with endometriosis.
While femtech is certainly — finally — getting the attention it deserves, there is more to be done. Listening to real-life experiences of women and conducting more research with female cohorts is key to ensure the continuing success and rise of femtech, and in developing products that really work.
It is certainly reassuring to know that technology is well placed to overcome many issues facing women today and into the future.
If you are a femtech startup working to improve women’s health in areas such as PCOS, endometriosis, mental health, disabilities or any others not mentioned here, get in touch as Gallium Ventures would love to support you and ensure your product or service gets the recognition and exposure it deserves