The femtech space has had a banner several years and a breakout 2021, with global venture capital surpassing $2 billion for the first time. A variety of market factors contributed to a dip in deal count and value in 2022, but the first few weeks of 2023 have already seen two femtech M&A deals completed—She Beverage Company for $54 million and Expectful for an undisclosed amount.
With the need for more and better health technologies targeting biological and medical issues specific to women, the industry is primed for growth. In this article, we take a closer look at femtech—what it means, its history, growth drivers, trending new companies in the space, and critiques of it.
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 (healthtech), this industry vertical attempts to highlight and 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
PitchBook analysts say that defining 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 the PitchBook Platform
2022 median post-valuation
*According to PitchBook as of January 27, 2023; data is subject to change frequently
Why have femtech companies 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 failing to embrace 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 95.5% of US VC firms have a majority male population of decision-makers—including 83.9% of all US GPs, according to PitchBook’s 2022 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.
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When was the term femtech coined?
Ida Tin, co-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 a 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.
More about entrepreneur Ida Tin
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.”
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: $19.9M, later-stage VC, Series C3
- Latest deal date: August 2021
- Total raised to date: $64.6M
- Post-valuation: $80.4M
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.
in August 2021, Clue’s $19.9 million Series C3 venture funding round was led by Balderton Capital, a VC firm in London that invests in early- and growth-stage startups across Europe. Paris-based Future Positive Capital and Palo Alto, California’s NGP Capital also participated in the round.
New femtech companies to watch
- HQ: Raleigh, North Carolina
- Leadership: Brittany Barreto, Ph.D., founder, CEO, president
- Founded: 2022
FemHealth Insights is a market research company that provides accurate, up-to-date data and market reports to help predict trends, identify gaps, and create strategic business development plans for companies’ women’s health initiatives. The actionable insights the startup provides include femtech market size, distribution of current solutions, areas in need of innovation, history and insights on past femtech exits, and more.
- HQ: Wommelgem, Belgium
- Leadership: Michel Cauwenbergh, co-founder and CEO
- Founded: 2022
Mammoptix develops and manufactures medtech wearables to help breast surgery patients with their early- and later-stage post-operative healing processes. The startup’s device and Internet of Things (IoT) application give surgeons the ability to predict and prevent complications during the healing process through round-the-clock monitoring.
- HQ: London, England
- Leadership: Sarita Stefani, co-founder, CEO and board member
- Founded: 2022
Amilis is the developer of a fertility treatment discovery platform that raises awareness among women on how egg freezing can be an insurance for their future family planning. The startup matches women to the doctor/clinic they feel most comfortable with by coordinating free consultations with its partner clinics.
Who is investing in femtech?
As of January 17, 2023, the most active investors in femtech startups are:
- Y Combinator: 46 deals, including BillionToOne, Almond, and Kindly
- SOSV: 29 deals, including Bloomlife, Free to Feed, and Aima
- Techstars: 27 deals, including Canopie, Hormonius Flo, and ohne
- 500 Global: 22 deals, including BillionToOne, Kiira, and Plenna
- National Science Foundation: 21 deals, including Elidah, Bloomlife, and Nanopath
- Alumni Ventures: 20 deals, including Oula, Willow, and Busy Beauty
What’s driving femtech’s growth now?
Whereas femtech startups have traditionally gone unfunded or underfunded, 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 past 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 (Maven then went on to raise another $90 million during its Series E round in November 2022).
- 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 remain relatively low. Women make up half the global population but despite the estimated $500 billion in annual medical expenses attributed to them, only 4% of all healthcare research and development is targeted at women’s health issues specifically, according to PitchBook data. 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 the 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 and female foundersDo we really need 'femtech'?
Femtech continues to be plagued by misconceptions—get the full scoop from PitchBook News & Analysis
Who's investing in femtech?
Read this PitchBook news article about the most active VC investors in femtech blog post
Get to know several female founders of femtech companies
Read our 81 female founders and investors to know blog post
Get to know more players in the femtech startup space
Read our blog post about Female-focused health startups founded by women
Check out trends in VC funding for female-founded companies in the US
Explore PitchBook's US VC Female Founders Dashboard
See trends in VC funding for European female-founded startups
Explore PitchBook's European VC Female Founders Dashboard