What is femtech? | PitchBook

Lena Weib

The femtech space has had a banner several years and a breakout 2021, with global venture capital investment surpassing $1 billion for the first time. With a need for more and better health technologies targeting biological and medical issues specific to women, the industry is primed for continued growth. In this article, we take a closer look at femtech—what it means, its history, growth drivers and critiques.

What is femtech?

The femtech industry refers to a range of health software and tech-enabled products that cater to female biological needs. As a subcategory of health technology, this industry vertical attempts to highlight the historical and systemic exclusion of women’s health needs in the healthcare industry while creating targeted solutions for a range of those needs, including:
 

  • Menstrual cycle tracking
  • Fertility
  • Pregnancy

PitchBook analysts say that defining the term femtech is an elusive task. While some view beauty and skincare products as part of the industry, our analysts categorize femtech startups as only those whose products and services address a medical need. PitchBook groups the femtech landscape across four subsegments:
 

  • General health and wellness
  • Healthcare and diagnostics
  • Reproductive health
  • Pregnancy and family care

 

Femtech quick stats from PitchBook

$13.06M

Median post-valuation

$15.2B 

Capital invested

*According to PitchBook as of November 11, 2021; data is subject to change frequently
 

Why femtech companies have traditionally lacked VC support

The reticence male VCs have shown by under-investing in femtech startups is likely related to and reinforced by cultural taboos around women’s bodies. Menstrual products weren’t allowed to be advertised on American television until 1972, and the US—and other countries—have a long history of not embracing menstruation as a reality of life. 

Though cultural standards around gender have evolved, some men may still prefer not to discuss topics related to menstruation, UTIs, pregnancy, childbirth or menopause. And because many key decision-makers across organizations and industries are male—including 84.6% of all US GPs according to PitchBook’s 2021 All In report—avoiding these topics has been the norm in boardrooms, as well. Thus, a huge market opportunity has been under-funded for years, and the needs of those who could have benefited from these products and services have largely gone unmet. 

Who is Ida Tin?

Ida Tin, founder of a mobile fertility tracking app called Clue, coined the term “femtech” in 2016. She saw male investors struggle to discuss female-focused products, and she sought to create space for those conversations with the introduction of the term. She also hoped to bring more attention to an industry that had lacked funding opportunities from the jump.

Tin said this about the need to improve discussions regarding women’s health in an interview with Junto Health in 2017:

“Despite significant advancements, menstrual health is still somewhat considered a ‘niche’ topic. We believe that we need to move away from this notion entirely, and open up the conversation around this significant part of people’s lives. There is much to be gained from increased knowledge of a person’s menstrual cycle, not just for men but for women also. The menstrual cycle is much more than just a monthly bleed, it is an indicator of overall health, and so becoming better educated not only about menstruation in general, but an individual’s unique cycle, can enable a person to become more in tune with their body and how their cycle affects them.”

More about Ida Tin

In addition to co-founding Clue, Tin also serves as its chairwoman. Prior to that, she co-founded, co-owned and served as the director of Moto Mundo, where she led motorcycle tours around the world. She published a book about that experience in 2009, and “Direktøs” went on to become a best-seller in Denmark. In 2004, She graduated from Aarhaus’ prestigious and creative business school, Kaospilot.

A closer look at Clue

  • Latest deal: $15.01M, late-stage VC, Series C
  • Latest deal date: January 2020
  • Total raised to date: $44.78M

Founded by Tin in 2013, Clue is a mobile app designed to track the fertility cycle. Based in Berlin, the startup’s platform analyzes information about the period, PMS and fertile window, gives predictions and sets calendar reminders with the goal of helping users find patterns in symptoms and better manage their menstrual health. 

Clue’s $15.01 million Series C venture funding round in January 2020 was led by Union Square Ventures. NGP Capital, Lisa Enckell, Alexander Ljung, and The Case for Her and others also participated. 

What’s driving femtech’s growth now?

Whereas femtech startups have traditionally gone un-funded or under-funded, there are some promising shifts afoot.
 

  • Secular drivers have recently propelled new growth opportunities in femtech, including increased representation of women in the venture capital industry and rising awareness and acceptance of women’s health issues.
  • These advances have contributed to a steady increase in funding for femtech over the last decade. In 2019, the global femtech market generated over $820 million. According to PitchBook, that number will reach $3 billion by the end of 2030.
  • In 2021, several sizable femtech deals occurred in the space—further elevating the visibility of these kinds of startups. Flo raised a $50 million Series B round, while Maven Clinic became the first femtech unicorn following a $110 million Series D round.
  • Although the majority of femtech products have traditionally focused on reproductive health, PitchBook analysts believe new approaches to women’s health research will open the door to new products and services—and new investment opportunities. 
     

Still, the research and funding for discovering and marketing new treatments for women remains relatively low. Even though women make up half the global population and despite the estimated $500 billion in annual medical expenses attributed to women, only 4% of all healthcare research and development is targeted at women’s health issues specifically per PitchBook. So even with a relatively solid growth outlook, our experts believe that femtech remains a significantly underdeveloped area of healthtech.

Critiques on the intersectionality of and need for the term 

The term femtech itself has proven to be a bit controversial, according to PitchBook analysts. Many people propose using a different term to avoid alienating nonbinary, trans and other gender-nonconforming people who experience many of these related health concerns. Others suggest that creating a separate category for women’s health within healthtech vertical alienates women and positions them as the “other” and men as “the norm.” For example, no synonymous term—e.g., “mentech”—exists to designate male-specific health products and services. How these conversations will shift the way we describe and refer to “femtech” startups in the future remains to be seen.

More on femtech 

Our analysts expect the femtech industry to break new grounds
Download our Q3 2020 PitchBook Analyst Note about the rapidly growing femtech space

We recently spotlighted several female founders of femtech companies—from Caia’s Cortina McCurry to Aavia’s Aagya Mathur
Read our 64 female founders and investors to know blog post

See how femtech company Kindbody leverages PitchBook
Read our customer story about how Kindbody uses the platform to raise capital and map the competitive landscape

Get to know more players in the femtech startup space
Read our blog post about female-focused health startups founded by women

More on female founders

Check out trends in VC funding for female-founded companies in the US
Explore: PitchBook’s US VC Female Founders Dashboard

COVID-19 had a disproportionate impact on female founders
Download our All In report to see how female founders are trying to regain their footing amid the pandemic recovery

See trends in VC funding for European female-founded startups
Explore: PitchBook’s European VC Female Founders Dashboard

Female founders are setting records in 2021, but the stats don’t paint a full picture 
Read our news article: Female founders are having a standout year—that’s not the whole story

Female founders and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
Download this in-depth report: All In: Female Founders and CEOs in the US VC Ecosystem

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