Issue No. 217: Closing the Gap

Illustration: Courtney Powell

As digital health investment slows, women’s health funding is plateauing, threatening to worsen the gender care gap.

Beyond Femtech

In recent years, startups tackling overlooked issues, from fertility to menstrual health to menopause, have shined a spotlight on women’s health.

Most prominently, the femtech sector has attracted investors, helping turn companies like Maven, Kindbody, and Hers into billion-dollar brands.

But, despite growing interest, most of the innovation to date has been narrowly focused on sex-specific conditions in overtly feminine verticals. Complicating matters, as investors pull back amid economic uncertainty, the category’s momentum could suffer.

  • The femtech industry is expected to reach $1.2T by 2027.
  • Women’s health investments accounted for 3% of total healthcare deals in 2022, per Pitchbook.
  • Over the past three years, deal count and capital raised by femtech startups have remained flat.

Mirroring a troubling trend across the US healthcare system, femtech spending to date hasn’t translated to better patient experiences or improved health outcomes for the majority of women.

Care crisis. Largely to blame, women often receive unequal or lower quality care compared to men.

  • Women are diagnosed on average four years later than men across 770+ diseases.
  • 66% of women feel misunderstood and 84% feel their concerns are dismissed by clinicians.
  • Women are less likely to be admitted to a hospital for chest pain and are 20% more likely to die from a heart attack.

Faced with a widening gender care gap, women encounter numerous barriers to healthcare, from diagnosis to treatment options to patient experience.

As a result, many women are forced to advocate for themselves, seeking out additional information and alternative care on their own.

The New Guard

Breaking with traditional medicine, a new generation of founders is working to eliminate the gender care gap by:

  • Expanding beyond women’s-only conditions (like fertility) to those that disproportionately affect them (like pain and fatigue)
  • Aligning treatment with women’s biological life phases, including puberty, maternity, and menopause
  • Taking a holistic approach to women’s health across preventative care, reproductive health, chronic conditions, and athletic performance

Whole care. Creating more comprehensive holistic and value-based primary care models, Tia, Visana Health, Kiira, and Caraway Health are championing women-focused whole-person care through physical, mental, and reproductive telehealth services.

In the employer-sponsored space, Peppy and Maven are making conditions like menopause, PCOS, endometriosis, and family planning essential healthcare benefits.

Ending inequality. While companies like Twentyeight Health, Mae, and Cayaba Care are democratizing care for underserved populations, more can be done to improve access for BIPOC women and the Medicaid population.

Elsewhere, gender-sensitive care is gaining traction, as providers like Folx Health and Plume scale up.

Erasing stigmas. Addressing taboo topics like puberty, period care, and menopause, startups including LOLA, Midday, Elektra Health, and Mina Health are stepping up to fill information gaps.

A particularly neglected issue, a third of women suffer from one or more pelvic floor disorders (PFD) in their lifetime, many of whom don’t seek treatment. Fortunately, Hyivy, Elvie, Joylux, and Origin are making waves in this category.

Continue reading: Although tremendous progress has been made, more can be done to close the gender care gap.

For a deeper dive into women’s health, including the issues at hand and a playbook for addressing them, check out our latest report, co-authored by Jess Schram, investor at Swiftarc Ventures.

🎙 On the Podcast

Anne Mahlum shares insights gained from starting nonprofit Back on My Feet, scaling boutique studio [solidcore] to 95+ locations, and creating Ambition, a new fitness concept set to debut in NYC this spring.

We also cover: meeting the holistic wellness needs of today’s exerciser.

Listen to today’s episode here

🧐 Following layoffs, Strava’s messy price hike draws criticism

The athlete social network is raising prices, but it’s complicated.

Variable rates. Subscriptions are increasing 15–50%+ based on where members live and whether they pay monthly or annually.

But, the new price isn’t publically available, and the company was slow to announce the shift.

Poor communication. Some users were notified of the increase via email and others discovered the change in their Apple ID settings, while another group reported no update at all.

An uneven rollout, Strava isn’t notifying subscribers of a price hike until 30 days prior to renewal. And, anyone that signed up after November 23 last year isn’t affected.

Missteps. The go-to activity tracking platform for runners and cyclists, Strava rode pandemic tailwinds to new heights, surpassing 100M+ global users and notching a $1B+ valuation.

But, the company has endured its share of missteps:

  • In 2017, the platform attempted to build an influencer ecosystem through “Posts,” later testing poorly received ad-like integrations.
  • In 2018, the app’s heatmaps potentially revealed military base locations in war zones, igniting a PR nightmare over privacy risks.
  • More recently, in December, Strava laid off ~15% of its staff, according to Bicycle Retailer.

Looking ahead: With a loyal following and freemium model, Strava’s biggest challenge is still convincing more users to purchase a premium subscription. As purse strings tighten amid recession fears, the pricing debacle could make would-be members reconsider.

👔 WHOOP is cutting staff and rolling back its B2B effort

Last week, the wearable maker announced a 4% workforce reduction, adding to a 15% cut in July 2022.

The affected employees were from WHOOP Unite, the brand’s B2B unit launched last June.

False start. WHOOP helped pioneer heart rate variability and recovery data, but now, those metrics have become common across next-gen wearables.

Seeking growth channels beyond pro athletes and high performers, WHOOP turned to workplace wellness. But, as the company eliminates jobs to “sharpen its focus,” its employer offering appears to be short-lived.

Pivot to enterprise. While WHOOP reevaluates its B2B effort, other consumer brands are still pursuing employee well-being. Whether or not the pivot pays dividends remains to be seen.

  • May: Recovery tech brand Hyperice kicked off an employee mental health program spotlighting its Core service.
  • October: Performance brand Exos, already a fixture in corporate training, debuted a program for burnout coaching.
  • November: Headspace Health launched a unified employee wellness app connecting employees to both therapists and meditation.
  • December: Smart ring maker Oura announced its sleep-focused B2B program, including a partnership with soccer club Real Madrid.

Looking ahead: Once valued at $3.6B, WHOOP is facing the same headwinds as the broader tech industry — which means new, unprofitable initiatives are off the table for now.

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💼 Peloton, Therabody, lululemon hire top execs

Personnel files. Filling key roles in the C-suite, three health and fitness companies are strengthening their teams.

  • Connected fitness company Peloton hired former Twitter CMO and Head of People Leslie Berland as chief marketing officer.
  • Recovery brand Therabody appointed wellness industry vet Monty Sharma to CEO, replacing co-founder Benjamin Nazarian.
  • Apparel maker lululemon named Elizabeth Binder as chief merchandising officer.

Job hunt. If you’re looking for a new role in health and fitness, look no further. Fitt Jobs has hundreds of openings from industry-leading companies, curated and waiting for you.
Here are a few newly added roles:

Btw… We’re also hiring a writer to join the Fitt Insider team!

📰 News & Notes

  • Hinge Health goes hybrid with PT house calls.
  • Nestlé ends DTC delivery for meal service Freshly.
  • TB12 opens club-in-club at Jay Glazer’s Unbreakable.
  • Startup Q&A: PlayPulse’s Erling Magnus Solheim on gamified fitness.
  • Glucose monitoring startup Veri launches “metabolic healthspan” feature.
  • Sportstech SPAC from Tiger Woods and Caroline Wozniacki withdraws IPO.
  • Volumental tests 3D shoe-fitting tech with Under Armour ahead of expansion.

💰 Money Moves

  • Food-as-medicine service ModifyHealth secured $10M in a Series B round led by RC Capital.
    More from Fitt Insider: Killer Food
  • Sika Health, a company helping consumers spend their HSA and FSA accounts on health, raised $6.2M in a round led by Forerunner Ventures.
    More from Fitt Insider: Healthcare-funded Fitness
  • Hybrid midwife service platform Oula added $19M in a Series A round led by 8VC.
  • BIOHM Health, maker of gut health supplements, raised $7.5M in a funding round.
    More from Fitt Insider: Gut Check
  • Inflow, an ADHD management platform, raised $11M in a Series A round led by Octopus Ventures.
  • Move-to-earn startup FightOut raised ~$3M in a presale.
  • Slate Milk, makers of high-protein, lactose-free dairy products, closed $10.5M in a Series A round.
  • Awakened Foods, maker of better-for-you snacks, landed $1.6M in a Series A round led by Consumer Ventures.
  • Canadian alt-protein producer No Meat Factory closed a $42M Series B round led by Tengelmann Growth Partners.
  • Budget gym Retro Fitness acquired all Texas locations of YouFit Gyms for an undisclosed sum.
    More from Fitt Insider: Our conversation with YouFit CEO Brian Vahaly

Today’s newsletter was brought to you by Anthony Vennare, Joe Vennare, and Ryan Deer. 

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