In November 2022, we staged ‘Exploring Women’s Healthtech – considerations for long term growth and success’ – the first in a series of discussion-focused events with our clients and networks that explore the challenges this sub-genre faces.

In this article, we touch on the key takeaways from the event, with women who have founded and established their own tech-driven health companies and lawyers from Taylor Vinters who support tech businesses in the tech and life sciences sectors.

Filling the gap

Unsurprisingly, most of our contributors were driven by the desire to create solutions for women that are informed and developed around their personal healthcare experiences – a need they felt was not being adequately met.

One participant was appalled when she discovered the contraceptive pill her doctor prescribed to treat her acne at 16, was banned in other countries due to a high risk of death from blood clots. When she spoke to the women she lived with at university, she found they’d all struggled with unsatisfactory information on contraceptives. “I thought, if no one’s going do it, I will – I’ll sort it out for myself, then see if I can help the millions of other women that experience this.” This feedback from women is not unusual in the current market, presenting an array of opportunities to innovate in this space.

The Femtech label – help or hindrance?

It was only a few years ago that Femtech was coined as a catch-all description of the technology designed to improve women’s health. Since then, its widespread use has divided many in this sector. So, what did our participants think?

Although not everyone was concerned about the Femtech label and recognised that it has helped to draw more attention to the issues relating to women within the Healthtech space, its overuse had started to become othering, which goes against its very creation.

Breaking through the investment glass ceiling

Women’s Healthtech has been touted as a billion-dollar industry, however, our participants thought that many investors continue to be overly cautious to invest in innovative women’s healthtech, with investor diffidence potentially stemming from a lack of diversity at decision making level and limited understanding of women’s health issues in general.

This thought was echoed by one of the participants who cited her experience of seeking funds for her cervical screening product from a UK funding body where the advisors were split 80% men, 20% women. Another participant said she always checked to see who was on an investor’s team before approaching them; if they were all men, she wouldn’t take it further. However, another contributor whose company focuses on female contraception found her progress was easier as it’s an area men are more familiar with, highlighting the importance of increased educational awareness of the issues affecting almost half of the global population and the need for investors to look inwards in order to help effect change.

Data privacy concerns

Gathering data is key to developing a product, but how that data is used and who might have access to it is understandably a great concern for consumers and is a key consideration for companies, especially those looking to expand into wider markets.

Data collection from period tracking apps was a particularly contentious topic in 2022 following the Roe vs Wade ruling where women were worried how certain US states would handle their sensitive data at a federal level.

Our participants felt that transparency from companies was vital in allaying these fears. It must be explained that data is gathered to better understand needs and improve solutions accordingly, whilst making it clear there is always the choice to opt out.

Talent, mentoring and growth

The session concluded with discussions about talent, mentoring and growth. Many of those at the start-up stage emphasised the strength they found by working with colleagues who shared their vision of improving women’s health products and services but with growth comes the challenge of keeping new employees on message whilst focussing on the day-to-day operational needs of the business, such as tech development, marketing and sales.

In these instances, mentoring from founders in the ecosystem who’d already navigated this growth phase, was especially valued.