The New Year of Optimism for Femtech

Jill Richmond

February 21, 2017

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The New Year Of Optimisim For Femtech

Jill Richmond

Baby New Year is an icon of optimism as the clock ticks down to midnight on December 31st, just after the holiday honoring an immaculate conception. While this black-capped toddler has been a holiday staple since the dawn of the 20th century the reality is the result of that baby is a long and sometimes fraught journey. And along with that fraught journey has been the fraught journey of some of the most recent companies in the category coined femtech. Tides are turning and 2017 is beginning to show some signs of optimism.

Thankfully investors are starting to catch on to the importance-and market potential-of technology which cater to the nearly completely ignored health requirements of almost half of the population. This entire category includes everything from period trackers like Clue, apps to prescribe birth control, internet-connected breast pumps, sex toys, apps and wearables for fertility tracking as well as elegantly designed products for pelvic floor strengthening as well as tampon alternatives to start. Several of these companies are women-led, women-designed and run by women with deep domain expertise and are taking some delicate topics and turning them into disarming conversations.

The companies gaining ground in this sector - both in traditional healthcare and on the consumer side - are backed by some of the most high-profile investors out there. Digital health startups as a whole raised $5.8 billion from investors in 2015 and $3.5 billion in the first two quarters of 2016, according to CB Insights. Full 2016 data isn't yet available. A recent Bloomberg report also highlighted the rise of women-led startups focusing on women's health, noting more venture capital is going toward the niche; nine female-focused digital-health companies raised $82 million through the third quarter of 2015, up from $29 million in 2014, it quoted Rock Health.

Fertility Game Changers

Prelude Fertility and Extend Fertility both have bold plans to turn the infertility industry on its head by taking the experience of fertility and repackaging it for women earlier.

Extend Fertility is led by cofounder and Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Josh Klein, MD FACOG, previously of Reproductive Medicine Associates New York (RMANY). Prelude is led by seven-time founder and serial entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky, who has built companies in everything from real estate to biotech to wind energy to networks of Wi-Fi hotspots. Prelude is armed with $200 million in private equity from Lee Equity Partners and plans to take the technology of infertility�"in vitro fertilization and egg freezing. Extend Fertility is solely focused on egg freezing�"and aggressively expanding it into fertility, hoping to be part of a new paradigm where women's decisions about family and career aren't directed by their biological clocks.

In the US, women are waiting longer than ever to have a baby. In 2014, the average age of first birth in the US was 26.3, up from 24.9 in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That trend is what both companies hope to capitalize on, by providing egg-freezing services when they're not ready to have kids. Rather than cater primarily to women close to the end of their childbearing years, who often find it harder to conceive, both Prelude and Extend Fertility target women in their late 20s to mid-30s, when it's easier to harvest eggs and when those eggs are more likely to lead to healthy babies. Both see themselves as insurance policies that provide women control over childbearing decisions. Nevertheless, the most obvious part of addressing that younger audience is addressing the question of affordability.

To that end, both Extend Fertility and Prelude are offering financing plans to make it easier to cover the procedure, which can cost around $50,000, Extend Fertility charges close to $5,000 just for the retrieval, excluding medication. Prelude charges roughly $199 a month. Assuming one freezes for 10 years (starting, say at 31 and choosing to have kids at 41) total payment would be less than half the steep $50,000 price tag, at roughly $23,880. The thorn for both in truly reducing pricing is the hormone medication. That said, Extend Fertility takes an active role in the education which are areas where most IVF centers simply do not address They enable women to front-load all of their fertility assessments and consultations for free before they make the decision to commence their process and will work with women to be goal oriented around retrieving a minimum of 12 eggs - a year's worth of fertility

The Dollar Shave Club For Women

Removing pill anxiety is Sophia Yen's, MD MPH primary objective. As the cofounder and CEO of Pandia Health, she has built a high volume, subscription model for birth control telemedicine plus delivery of medications to women's mailboxes. In addition to the right pill prescriptions Pandia can also provide emergency contraceptives like Plan B and non-oral contraception like the NuvaRing. Pandia Health is the only women-founded/led, practicing reproductive health MD founded/led, pharmacist-founded company in the birth control telemedicine/delivery space ensuring nobody runs out of birth control on their watch by adding asynchronous communication to Pandia so that women can generally avoid having to go to a pharmacy and speak with a pharmacist. Also in this area is NuRX who raised $5.3 million this year.

Jennifer Eden cofounder of recently launched Tampon Tribe, the first entirely organic and plastic free tampon and pad subscription service joining companies like L (funded by Draper Ventures) and several others that are removing the anxiety of both toxicity of the products and simply running out.

The Elegantly Designed

Chiaro, the company that produces the Elvie, was founded by Alexander Asseily, a head Dyson engineer and cofounder of Jawbone and
Let Baby New Year continue to show the signs of optimism for femtech.

Jill Richmond is a two-time founder, Marketing and Innovation Strategist. Follow her on Twitter.

Article originally posted at

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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