Entrepreneurship by women, for women: the Femtech startup boom

Monitoring menstrual cycles, offering resources to improve breastfeeding for mothers, or giving support during menopause. These are some of the goals set by Femtech startups: companies that use technology to improve women’s health. For International Women’s Day, we get to know the leaders of four Femtech startups that put an end to taboos to help women throughout the different stages of their lives: Plenna, WOOM, LactApp and SinReglas.

The film industry is currently full of examples of femininities, such as ‘Lullaby’ or ‘La Maternal’ (2022), which explore maternities from the perspective of intergenerational communication between women. ‘Saint Omer ‘(2023) seeks reasons in a femininity that seems distant, destructive and mythological. Film features many women that do not conform to the norm, as well as sharing different perspectives on both the female body and women’s health.

In recent years, this new vision of women’s health has also made its way into the technological and entrepreneurial worlds. In 2016, entrepreneur Ida Tin created a startup to help monitor ovulation: Clue. This app now has almost 8 million users in 150 countries and is considered the pioneer in the Femtech sector. In other words, technology designed to help women.

In addition to Clue, there is also an increasing number of startups led by women who aim to close the gender gap in healthcare and training in women’s health, with the help of personalised medical solutions. In 2017, less than 900 million dollars were invested in the sector, compared to a funding boom in 2021 that saw an investment of 2.7 billion dollars, according to CBInsights. Additionally, it is estimated that the global Femtech market will be worth 50 billion dollars by 2025.

Femtech startups support women at different stages in their life: they offer professional accompaniment for fertility, breastfeeding or menopause, all of which women experience and that have sometimes been idealised and on occasion, hidden behind social taboos. For International Women’s Day on 8th March, four female Femtech entrepreneurs or project leaders in Spain and Latin America share the reasons why they created their solutions, and how they promote women’s health throughout their life.

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Photo: Giovanna Abramo (left) and Lorena Ostos (right), co-founders of Plenna

Giovanna Abramo, Plenna: “Health was designed by men, for men”

The Mexican startup Plenna offers hybrid, in-person and digital integral health services for women. “In a health system like Mexico’s, there are a lack of specialists and as women, we were receiving different diagnoses and opinions”, explains Giovanna Abramo, co-founder of Plenna. Her company solves these issues by generating a centralised record, which helps to facilitate fluid, natural communication between gynaecologists, psychologists, nutritionists and general physicians in order to improve diagnoses. To date, they have assisted more than 6,000 women and aim to support 24,000 in 2023.

“Women feel guilty for thinking about sexual health”

“The Latin American market is similar in terms of its needs, as women feel guilty for thinking about sexual health”, says Abramo. This is why Plenna aims to expand to other capitals in the region soon, as well as centralising midwifery services. This entrepreneur also calls for a greater investment to help reinforce the Femtech ecosystem. “We used to say: no news is good news, but we want to change that and offer women comprehensive information about their health”.

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Photo: Daisy Rosas, ‘product manager’ of WOOM

Daisy Rosas, WOOM: “As women, we know very little about our bodies”

The Spanish company WOOM, founded by Laurence Fontinoy and Clelia Morales, employs the use of machine learning to monitor menstrual cycle symptoms in users of a fertile age, to enable them to have access to more information and make decisions according to their goals, whether that be to become pregnant, postpone motherhood according to their fertility, or explore the assisted reproduction pathway. “This allows women to make better decisions and reach their goal faster”, states Daisy Rosas, product manager at WOOM. “Having better control and knowledge [of your own body] helps to free up primary healthcare centres”.

“We want to empower users by way of transparency and information about their cycle, their body and their health”

The app now has 1.8 million users, who have registered more than 170,000 pregnancies. Last year, it was integrated into Apricity fertility clinics in order to offer a more comprehensive service throughout the pregnancy journey, from beginning to end. As Rosas summarises, the end goal is “to empower users by way of transparency and information about their cycle, their body and their health”.

maria berruezo

Photo: María Berruezo, co-founder of LactApp

María Berruezo, LactApp: “We have more female role models than ever, but a sector overrun with unmet needs”

The Spanish app LactApp solves another issue faced by women: the lack of information about breastfeeding. “There is a lack of education regarding female physiological processes and breastfeeding: not all mothers have access to the same quality of care for the same needs”, affirms María Berruezo, co-founder of this company.

“Everything we do is based on knowledge, and technology is a personalised and safe ally”

This is why the app combines the experience of international breastfeeding consultants with technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). This allows mothers to search for their queries, and the platform offers 76,000 possible routes to provide answers with help from the experts. Additionally, health professionals also undertake consultations in order to improve their clinical practice. “Everything we do is based on knowledge, and technology is a personalised and safe ally”, affirms Berruezo. The success of this solution goes to show just that: it is available in 180 countries and has dealt with more than 21 million queries since 2019.

gabriela rojas

Photo: Gabriela Rojas, CEO of SinReglas

Gabriela Rojas, SinReglas: “We need to change narratives on menopause”

Beyond fertility and maternity, women have other concerns in later stages of their life. During menopause, they can experience symptoms such as trouble sleeping, fatigue, hot flushes, changes in mood, anxiety and depression, which are not generally treated. Gabriela Rojas is founder and CEO of SinReglas, a company for integral support during menopause that uses digital tools to offer diagnosis, workshops, coaching and integral medical assistance to help women who start to experience this stage of life. “As they are no longer able to reproduce, women going through menopause become invisible for both social and cultural reasons”, says Rojas. “If the menopause begins at 47 years of age and the life expectancy is 78 [in Mexico], as women we have more than a third of our life to age actively and healthily”.

SinReglas is in the early stages of development, but it already has 2,600 community members, 600 women who attend its workshops or classes, and more than 400 tests taken to find out which stage of the menopause the user is experiencing. This Femtech startup therefore puts an end to taboos, kick starts conversations and creates an integrated assistance model.

 

The leaders of Plenna, WOOM, LactApp and SinReglas coincide in that the union between the innovative ecosystem and the interconnection of entrepreneurs and investors is key to boosting new support services and encouraging other innovators to dare to put an end to taboos and help improve the wellbeing of other women. As summarised by Gabriela Rojas, CEO of Sin Reglas: “Femtech startups make health accessible, improve wellbeing for women and help move towards a more inclusive society”.

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