Why femtech startups still face huge challenges

With scarce funding and lack of research femtech is still at a big disadvantage
Elvie Elvie
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I spent part of this week at Wired Health – which (again) was an excellent showcase of new digital health ideas, with wearables and consumer devices ever-present throughout the show.

One of the most interesting tracks was a panel featuring long-time connected health CEO Tania Boler of Elvie, Valentina Milanova of London-based gynae start-up Daye, and Eileen Burbidge of Fertifa.

The panel focused on the challenges of creating wearables and connected health services for women in the face of huge “data gaps,” and a dearth of clinical studies in the women’s health space – despite women making up 51% of the population.

WareableWhy femtech startups still faces huge challenges photo 1

While we have seen an uptick in wearables and femtech this year, Milanova (above) said that her biggest fear was still the scarcity of funding for female research projects:

“There’s a valley of innovation death in gynecological health, so even if you have good ideas and get funding for them, a lot of great ideas die along the way.

“That’s my biggest fear about the femtech space, because most of the female founders I know are working under extreme scarcity because the funding isn’t available, and that will have an impact on the quality of the products,” she said.

Women's health tracking is still 'taboo'

Tania Boler also pointed to the “taboo and lack of education” around femtech, which largely tackles women’s sexual and reproductive health.

She explained how the purse strings for grants and funding have historically been held by men at tech companies who “won’t be thinking about women’s health and don’t have that in the front of their mind.”

The panel also discussed how studies are biased towards men due to a lack of females in clinical trials because “females are ‘vessels of life'“, and even biases in using male mice for tests for fear that menstrual cycle changes will “pollute the quality of clinical data,'“ said Milanova.

Wareable says:

We've seen such a range of women-focused features and products in wearables this year, that it's easy to get swept up in what's certainly a long-awaited movement.

We've seen Oura launch a range of female-focused features, and our 24 wearable trends piece also highlighted a move toward menopause tracking.

But the themes of this panel also show the challenge faced by founders in the femtech space, in terms of getting funding, and even tackling the huge dearth of clinical trial data.

That means that femtech products will have to spend more on trials to plug the gap in data – than male-focused products.

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James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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