Femtech is important

3 years ago…

I was sat in a room on a panel with 3 white men who were also judges for a university startup competition. We listened to many pitches that day, and one young lady caught my attention. She was pitching for her organic cotton tampon idea, she explained the market needs and her production plan very well. Although her execution plan wasn’t amazing, I thought she still deserved a high score. However, I was surprised the men in the room did not even seem to have given any considerations to the her. One even said, “I don’t see the importance of this idea, are non-organic cotton tampons really such a big problem as she mentioned?” The young lady came last in the competition.

I won’t say that the idea should win, but I could have done something differently. At least, I could have voiced out and educated the men about the importance of female sanitary products…

This brought me to the topic of this blogpost- Femtech. Historically a lot healthtech products are made by male entrepreneurs for the general population, and no one really looked into the differences between men and women’s health properly.

Femtech is a term applied to a category of software, diagnostics, products, and services that use technology often to focus on women’s health. (Source: wikipedia). And it is important because:

  1. It’s a very good business opportunity– more than half of the world’s population (51%) is women, do I need to say more?
  2. More women should learn about their bodies, and not be ashamed of that– yes, femtech includes sex toys too, and no, it’s not embarrassing. Furthermore, I think we can overcome a lot of taboos and discuss issues that concern women openly in this day of age
  3. Women and men can both benefit from it and become healthier because of it- by breaking the taboos of women’s health / female biology and letting more men learn about us, it leads to healthier relationships too 🙂

With this, I have listed out a few femtech areas which I thought has made some great developments in 2017:

  1. Contraception
    Swedish company Natural Cycles became the first app certified as a contraception method in Europe in 2017. Despite the recent regulatory investigation regarding the app leading to 37 unintended pregnancies, there are 600,000 users worldwide using this platform. With this being the first mover in the market, it makes a very good case study as to what contributes to a robust digital health regulation and guidelines for femtech.
  2. Sexual Wellbeing
    Sex toys have attracted so much attention in 2017 because it becomes more and more common that they are beautifully designed, digitally enabled and personalised. Toys made and designed for women understand how to be relatable, and how it can contribute to their health and wellbeing. Women sex toy brands are now being able to position themselves rightfully in the empowerment space, without sounding dirty and wrong. For toys such as Crescendo, apart from enhancing overall sexual fulfilment, they have a strong focus on how couples can share the pleasure in the bedroom.
  3. Health and Wellness
    Women who are expecting and new moms, or women who are ageing, usually encounter problems with their pelvic floor. Elvie, which raised USD6m in 2017 and already selling in 59 countries, helps solve this problem. This digital Kegel trainer which connects with smart phones help train women to do pelvic floor exercises effectively and regularly, it clams that improvements and results could be seen in as little as 4 weeks.
    Sad but true, women biologically will face a different set of health challenges than men as we age, hence it is refreshing to see that the health and wellness space is picking up finally.

Finally, what would the trends be for Femtech in 2018?

  1. Critical illnesses
    More tech in 2018 will be targeting critical illnesses for women- one of them being breast cancer. Emerging tech in this area helps the screening of breast cancer become more accurate and less invasive, as currently mammography only works for 40% of women. Niramai uses a high-resolution thermal sensing device that scans the chest area like a camera, the solution is low cost, accurate, automated, real-time and portable for any simple clinician. They claim that their technology could detect tumors five times smaller than what clinical examination can detect. Their solution has been peer-reviewed in international scientific conferences and has led to multiple US patents. This is certainly something I’d like to see being more widely available across the world in 2018!Another healthtech company for breast cancer is Cyrcadia– which is a wearable bra which could identify and categorise abnormal circadian patterns in otherwise healthy breast tissue. This self-examination only requires the user to wear the bra for 2-12 hours each time for four times a year. Tested on real patients and acquired numerous patents, this technology will certainly lead to earlier detection and lower overall healthcare costs for breast cancer. Although right now, the bra has just started to be commercialised and is selling for a price of at least USD200 each.
  2. Machine learning and AI
    2018 will be the year when Machine Learning and AI will make a real impact in the femtech space, helping more women to prevent unnecessary medical interventions.Postnatal/Antenatal depression is also a very common illness amongst new mothers, it affects roughly 20% of women. Research shows that early intervention could help 80-90% of sufferers recover from it. This is why companies such as Moment Health could make a difference. Using AI, the technology provides clinically-based mood checker and tracker, recommendation engines for intervention and a community of support. The tech startup recently secured a partnership with Ulster University to kickstart a clinical trial. It will be interesting to see more applications similar like this starting to be applied to real life scenarios for sure.Another area that will gain increasing attention in 2018 is IVF and how machine learning and AI could play a role in it. About 10 percent of women in the US have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant, and although IVF is a popular treatment for infertility nowadays, the process is not that easy to go through. Univfy has developed a algorithm that could help clinics to predict the success rate of IVF treatment for each patient, this enables fertility clinics to provide a personalised IVF prognostic report, which in turn allows them to customise financing and refund warranty programs. Univfy raised USD6m in Feb 2018 to grow its network in the US and its team.

Do you agree with me? Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think 🙂

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