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The rise of a new category: Femtech

In 2009, I sat with an old phone in my hand — the kind with a small screen and actual buttons. The iPhone had launched, but it was not in my life yet. In my other hand, I held a small device collecting my temperature every morning to help me figure out which days I was fertile. I urgently wanted to merge those two devices; to be able to look at my phone and know what was going on in my body, rather than enduring the tedious experience of manually transferring data from the temperature device into a spreadsheet, just so I could use it. That lead me to start Clue and with that I became part of what — 7 years later — I recognize as an entirely new category of business.

In 2016 the world now has an explosion of apps which help track menstrual cycles, resulting in an unprecedented amount of data for researchers. The menstrual cycle is going through a technological revolution, alongside a cultural revolution, allowing what was once taboo to emerge, liberated.

Add to that an enormous range of technology innovations such as temperature patches, insertable devices, wristbands, clip-ons, smart jewelry, DNA testing related to fertility and many other devices and data analytics helping people figure out their female health. What emerges is a new and huge category addressing female health needs through technology: femtech.

When looking at companies that deliver software, diagnostics, services and products targeting women’s health needs, I see a fluffiness and confusion of terms that struggles to describe the individual product — and even more so shows an obvious lack of a collective description of this emerging mega category.

We know the term Femcare, which covers menstrual products such as pads, tampons, etc. — alone that is a $30 billion market. But what about the new menstrual product delivery app and subscription service? Is Femcare the right category for that service? Or the $18 billion market for contraceptives, which is being partly re-invented and partly enhanced through apps that help women use natural family planning or remind them to take their hormonal birth control. There’s the $14 billion fertility market and a $4 billion menopause market; the first already changing and the second still hugely underserved. All of those markets will be altered and shaken by digital.They will be linked and integrated through data with new services delivered through APIs from Apple HealthKit, Google Fit, Clue and others. This is femtech and it includes all the many players that bring technology to female health in a myriad of ways.

This will be a massive category. It’s growing faster every day. I believe venture capitalists will list femtech as one of their areas of interest. There will be femtech conferences. Femtech will not be a term referring to “women in technology” but rather as an expanding category of technology that serves the vast opportunities that exist for female health.

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