“The market potential is huge. There’s definitely an increasing appetite for anything in the world which is technology, and a realization that female consumer power has arrived — and that it’s arrived in health care.”Michelle Tempest, Partner, Candesic
Women’s healthcare enables better outcomes for women patients and consumers. Although women represent half of the planet’s population, tech companies catering to their specific health needs represent a minute share of the global technology market. This disparity is staggering, especially since women spend an estimated $500 billion a year on medical expenses, according to PitchBook. Tapping into that spending power, many apps and tech companies have sprung up in the last decade to address women’s needs, including tracking menstruation and fertility and offering solutions for pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause.
The term “femtech” was coined by Ida Tin, the Danish-born founder of Clue, a period and ovulation tracking app established in Germany in 2013. In the course of just a few years, it has grown to encompass a wide range of technology-enabled, consumer-centric products and solutions, including maternal health, menstrual health, pelvic and sexual health, fertility, menopause, and contraception, as well as several general health conditions that affect women disproportionately or differently (such as osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease).
In 2019, the “femtech” industry — software and technology companies addressing women’s biological needs — generated $820.6 million in global revenue and received $592 million in venture capital investment, according to PitchBook, a financial data and research company.
According to McKinsey, 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. In analyzing the current market, they found concentration in maternal health patient support, consumer menstrual products, gynecological devices, and solutions in fertility. Yet this is clearly, and promisingly, only the beginning of what FemTech can address. As they show in the graphic below, there’s still a lot of “white space” available for companies to develop more solutions to fill current gaps in the global market.
Another company, FemTech Analytics, estimates that the global FemTech Market Size accounted for $40.2 billion in 2020 and is projected to grow at an average CAGR of 13.3% from 2020 till 2025 to reach $75.1 billion. Despite increasing interest in recent years, the industry remains underestimated and has high growth potential. They show the market segmentation and distribution across the various segments in the graphic below:
And within those various segments, FemTech Analytics has identified the product types as seen in the graphic below:
What I love about FemTech Analytics’ market research reporting is that they’ve created a MindMap of all the companies that make up the FemTech market as of the end of 2021. You can access that MindMap here.
Some examples of companies developing products in the FemTech market include Clue, Elvie, MobileODT, Lattice Medical, and EndoDiag. Here’s a brief look at each company.
Clue – I mentioned Clue and its founder earlier. In an article on the company’s website, Ms. Tin recalled how she first had the idea for the app. In 2009, she found herself holding a cellphone in one hand and a small temperature-taking device in the other and wishing she could merge the two to track her fertility days, rather than manually having to note her temperature on a spreadsheet. Clue allows women to do exactly that with a few taps on their smartphones.
Elvie, a London-based company, has marketed a wearable breast pump and a pelvic exercise trainer and app, both using smart technology. Pelvic floor/kegel exercises have had known benefits for women for decades, especially post-childbirth, for strengthening bladder muscles, reducing the risk of pelvic prolapse, and improving sex. It’s the same core strength promise of popular activities such as pilates and yoga but without the easy availability of motivating group exercise classes. The wearable — for indeed, when in use, it’s ‘worn’ inside the body — has a companion iOS app that offers five-minute workouts to help the user learn how to exercise their pelvic floor muscle correctly and build up its strength, tracking progress within the app via a personal LV score.
MobileODT, a start-up based in Tel Aviv, uses smartphones and artificial intelligence to screen for cervical cancer. A smart colposcope — a portable imaging device that’s one and a half times the size of a smartphone — is used to take a photograph of a woman’s cervix from a distance of about a meter (3 feet). The image is then transmitted to the cloud via a smartphone, where artificial intelligence identifies normal or abnormal cervical findings. A diagnosis is delivered in about 60 seconds — compared to the weeks it takes to receive the results of a standard smear test (which, in developing countries, extends to months.)
Lattice Medical has developed a 3-D printed hollow breast implant that allows for tissue regeneration and is absorbed by the body over time. Post-mastectomy, the surgeon harvests a small flap of fat from the area immediately around the woman’s breast and places it inside the 3-D-printed bioprosthesis. That piece of tissue grows inside the implant and eventually fills it out. In the meantime, the 3-D-printed shell disappears altogether 18 months later. This product is in the very early stage of development, however. Clinical trials on women are expected to start in 2022, with the aim of getting the product into the market in 2025.
EndoDiag is a French medical technology company that allows early diagnosis of endometriosis and better management of the condition. Despite significant advances in non-invasive diagnostic methods, including imaging techniques such as ultrasound, MRI, or CT scans, currently only the removal of endometriotic lesions via laparoscopy under general anesthesia and their histological analysis enables the diagnosis of endometriosis with certainty. The average delay between disease onset and its effective diagnosis is estimated between 7 to 11 years. This significant delay due to the lack of a non-invasive diagnostic test leads to frequent misdiagnosis and associated unsuitable treatments, as well as to more severe cases as the disease may progress and damage other organs. They’ve developed a test called EndoDTect®, a blood test based on the analysis of a combination of biomarkers. Changes in their expression levels indicate if a subject has endometriosis or not. Combining high sensitivity and specificity, EndoDTect® has the potential to reduce diagnosis delays dramatically. Endodiag is currently conducting validation studies to confirm the predictive value of EndoDTect® for disease detection.
My take – Companies have a tremendous opportunity to develop products and services in this space and a willing audience ready to take advantage of them. Early movers can stake out opportunities in prominent white spaces identified in the McKinsey research, 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. I think there are multiple use cases where FemTech will play an increasingly important role in the future. These include:
- 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 and supporting 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 areas that are often stigmatized: 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 tailored care to underserved populations and culturally sensitive 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).
“Women Buy, Women Rule” – So says business guru Tom Peters. I couldn’t agree more. Because women are not just consumers but the primary healthcare decision-makers for themselves and 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. And the actual disruption in the market lies ahead.