Issue No. 119: Femtech 2.0

Courtney Powell

From healthcare to venture capital, women’s health is often overlooked. Worse, in many cases, it has been stigmatized or ignored altogether.

Shining a spotlight on the subject, advances in femtech introduced innovation to the sector while helping the women’s health conversation go mainstream.

The next challenge? Broadening the scope of femtech to improve the healthcare experience for all women.

The Name Game

Femtech is a relatively new concept.

Coined in 2016 by Ida Tin, founder of the period tracking app Clue, femtech refers to technologies that support and advance women’s healthcare.

A point of contention, the word itself has been criticized.

On one hand, there’s value in using simple terminology to encapsulate the space. On the other hand, some see the phrase as diminishing the scope and significance of the category. Further, the term can be alienating to members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Complicating matters, femtech can be difficult to define.

From wellness to healthcare, and multiplied by conditions that disproportionately affect women, the sector is vast. While companies in this space tend to focus on reproductive health, calls to make the field more inclusive are growing louder.

Zooming out, the question remains: Where’s the line between femtech, women’s health, and regular old health? And should there even be a line?

The Rise of Femtech

A number of factors across healthcare, startups, and shifting cultural norms have contributed to the rise of femtech. Still, there are systemic issues standing in the way of progress.

Healthcare. Women are increasingly underserved by and underrepresented within a healthcare system that fails to meet their needs.

  • Just 13% of healthcare CEOs and 30% of C-suite teams are women.
  • Women account for $500B in annual medical expenses, but only 4% of all healthcare R&D addressed women’s health issues.

Startups. The number of female-founded companies is on the rise, however, women receive significantly less funding than their male counterparts. The fact that venture capitalists are overwhelmingly men doesn’t help.

  • More than 90% of “decision-makers” at US venture capital firms are men.
  • In 2020, 2.5% of capital raised by US startups went to female-founded companies.

Stigma. From sexual wellness to menopause, women’s health issues are treated like taboos. But, all too often, the focus rests solely on so-called “bikini medicine” like gynecology and breast cancer.

  • According to a survey by Tia, a membership-based women’s health clinic, a majority of women view “women’s health” as more than reproductive health.
  • Survey respondents desire solutions that encompass physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

COVID-19. A result of the pandemic, America’s mothers are in a crisis. Compounded by disruptions to work and home life, triggering financial and emotional disasters, society has turned its back on mothers.

  • Since February of last year, 2.3M women have left the workforce.
  • 69% of mothers say pandemic-related stress has damaged their health.

Lay of the Land

The opposite of a niche market, the opportunity in women’s health is expansive.

  • Women control 80% of healthcare decisions in the US.
  • The femtech market is expected to surpass $60B by 2025.
  • Last year, women’s health startups secured $1B+ in funding, up from $625M in 2019.

As the category evolves, operators, investors, and healthcare executives see an untapped opportunity in women’s health beyond the current definition of femtech.

Femtech 1.0. In 2013, period tracking apps like Clue and Glow got their start. Today, more than 100M women around the world use an app to track their cycle.

Not without controversy, these apps have been criticized for monetizing extremely sensitive data, including sharing personal information with social media platforms like Facebook.

Next up, direct-to-consumer period care brands LOLA, Cora, and Thinx, as well as telemedicine companies including Pill Club and Nurx, all found an engaged audience.

Around the same time, Tia and Kindbody introduced membership-based, tech-enabled clinics. Likewise, digital networks for women’s and family health, including Maven, gained traction.

But fertility upstarts were the main attraction of this era.

According to Piper Sandler, the US fertility market is projected to hit $15.4B by 2023, up from $7B in 2017. From Modern Fertility and Future Family to Progyny, companies in this space have attracted millions in venture capital. A bright spot, Progyny went public in 2019 and currently has a market cap of $4.4B.

Femtech 2.0. The next frontier of femtech? Going beyond fertility and reproductive health in general. Surveying the landscape, numerous categories are ripe for disruption.

Menopause. By 2025, more than 1B women are expected to be postmenopausal, representing $600B of spending. But, Female Founders Fund estimates that only 5% of femtech startups address menopause. Fortunately, upstarts like Gennev, Elektra Health, and Gen M are trying to change that.

Endometriosis. Affecting one in every 10 women, this painful condition can take an average of 8–11 years to be diagnosed. As the global market for endometriosis reaches $2.3B over the next five years, DotLab, NextGen Jane, and Phendo are working to find a treatment.

Mental health. Each year, 400K women in the US are affected with postpartum depression. Further, adult women are more likely than men to develop a mental illness and are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder. Here, Mahmee, Expectful, and Peanut aim to alleviate suffering.

So much more… In a category impacting roughly half the world’s population, the effort to increase access, affordability, and equity for all women is a formidable challenge. And the list of unmet needs is practically endless.

Ultimately, that’s the punchline.

🎙 On The Podcast

This week, on the Fitt Insider podcast, we’re joined by Brian Reilly, co-founder & managing partner at Will Ventures — an early-stage venture firm investing across health & wellness, media, and consumer products.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The firm’s $55M inaugural fund
  • The intersection of sports, fitness, and wellness
  • Their investments in Elo, Liteboxer, and Breathwrk
  • The ideas and untapped opportunities Brian’s interested in backing

Listen to the full episode here.

🔄 Roll-up & Rebrand

Founded in 2017, Pocket Outdoor Media has been busy rolling up sports media and tech companies.

The latest move, Pocket has acquired Outside Integrated Media, the producer of Outside magazine, Outside Studios, and Outside TV. As part of the deal, Pocket is rebranding, taking on the Outside name.

In all, Pocket now owns more than 20 active lifestyle publications, including Backpacker, Yoga Journal, SKI, and Peloton Magazine, as well as assets like athleteReg, Gaia GPS, and FinisherPix.

There’s more… The company formerly known as Pocket Outdoor Media also announced $150M in a Series B funding round led by Sequoia Heritage.

According to Pocket/Outside CEO Robin Thurston, these developments lay the groundwork for what’s next:

“With these moves, we can now deliver world-class content 24/7 to almost every home in America across every platform, screen, and device.”

Sequoia partner Michael Moritz, the latest addition to Outside’s board of directors, added:

“Just like Netflix and Amazon Prime — Outside will create and distribute distinctive content to a worldwide audience on any internet device.”

Zooming out: From healthy living to outdoor recreation, Pocket/Outdoor is well-positioned at the intersection of the $887B outdoor industry and the trillion-dollar world of wellness.

🚀 Beyond the Bike

After posting its first billion-dollar quarter, while still struggling to meet demand, Peloton CEO John Foley recently spoke about his company’s plans beyond its connected bike.

In an interview for the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, Foley hinted at developments in the strength category and an apparel business on the horizon.

Strength. Teasing the idea, Foley said: “We have crazy stuff in our R&D lab.” Being more direct, he continued: “We say we’re going to win strength. And we’re going to win strength.”

Not tipping his hand, Foley said Peloton is going to win the strength category, “whether hardware is required or not.”

From a pure content play to introducing new hardware, Foley said the company is going to make several bets in strength and see which ones resonate with its members.

Apparel. According to Foley, apparel sales are “growing faster than the rest of the business,” adding:

“I think we’re going to surprise people in apparel… we’re building the best quality apparel in the world.”

Looking ahead: As Peloton continues its pursuit of becoming a full-on lifestyle brand, apparel represents huge potential as a community-building and profit-driving initiative.

As fitness and retail businesses like Peloton, Nike, and lululemon converge, it will be interesting to see how things play out.

Will Nike enter the connected fitness space, moving beyond apps and into hardware? Or, as lululemon chases Nike in apparel and Peloton in connected fitness (via Mirror), does Peloton apply pressure to lululemon in the activewear space?

Related news: Peloton’s legal battles continue.

First up, the company is waging war over the words “spin” and “spinning.” Owned by Mad Dogg Athletics, Peloton is seeking to have the trademark canceled, arguing that the terms have become generic, like Band-Aid.

Elsewhere, Peloton secured a win in a federal court suit filed by ICON Health & Fitness, which sought to block US sales of Peloton’s Bike+ with Auto-Follow — a feature ICON says infringes on its patents.

📰 News & Notes

💰 Money Moves

  • Pocket Outdoor Media raised $150M in Series B funding led by Sequoia Heritage. Pocket also acquired Outside Integrated Media, the producer of Outside magazine, and is rebranding to  “Outside.”
  • Wellness tech company Therabody added strategic funding from a group of 100+ athletes, celebrities, and influencers, including Jay-Z, Aaron Rodgers, Kevin Hart, and Karlie Kloss.
    More from Fitt Insider: 
    The Big Business of Recovery and The Athlete VC
  • Coca-Cola is poised to acquire a controlling interest in sports drink maker BODYARMOR.
  • Pilates-based fitness brand [solidcore] secured a minority investment from VMG Partners. 
  • Glucose monitoring startup January AI added $8.8M in seed funding led by Felicis Ventures.
    More from Fitt Insider: Personalizing Nutrition
  • Eden Health, a national medical practice, raised $60M in Series C funding led by Insight Partners.
  • Psychedelic biotech company MindMed will acquire research-focused digital health company HealthMode for $32M.
    More from Fitt Insider: The Rise of Psychedelic Wellness
  • Chorus, a provider of online group meditation, raised $1M in pre-seed funding.
    More from Fitt Insider: Peak Burnout
  • Skincare startup Heyday raised $20M in Series B funding led by Level 5 Capital Partners.
  • Foxtrot Market, a modern-day convenience store, added a $42M Series B growth investment led by Almanac Insights and Monogram Capital Partners.
  • Nanit closed a $25M Series C round for its AI-powered baby monitor.
  • Slate Milk, makers of better-for-you chocolate milk, added $1.7M in funding led by RiverPark Ventures. 
  • Lucky Saint, makers of non-alcoholic beer, secured £3.5M ($4.9M) in funding.
    More from Fitt Insider: Sober is the New Cool
  • Omnia Fishing, makers of fishing tackle, secured $2.1M in funding led by Founder Collective and Dundee Venture Capital.
    More from Fitt Insider: Wellness in the Great Outdoors
  • Emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Youfit Health Clubs is under new ownership, led by majority shareholders Birch Grove Capital.
  • Berlin-based actio, an app for live fitness and wellness content, extended its total seed round funding to €10M ($12.1M).
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