Not since the introduction of the contraceptive pill in 1961 has there been a more exciting and progressive time for women’s health. As the worlds of medicine and technology continue to collide, ‘femtech’ is growing at a rapid pace, with more than $1 billion being pumped into this niche sector in the last three years. These technological breakthroughs in female health now mean we can track our menstrual cycles with our iPhone, tackle postpartum symptoms with handy gadgets, and listen to our baby's heartbeat in the comfort of our own home. But who are the women at the heart of this health revolution?
Female Health Apps
Ida Tinn, the Berlin based Co-Founder of women’s health app Clue is often credited with coining the phrase ‘femtech’ and is certainly at the forefront of the movement. Originally the owner of a motorcycle travel company, Tinn may sound like an unlikely tech pioneer, but her period and ovulation tracking app ‘Clue’ has grown to 10 million users since its creation in 2013. The app, which helps users track and understand their cycle, is all about helping women regain control of their bodies - whether they are thinking about contraception, trying for a baby or navigating the menopause. The app’s popularity is down to a combination of its scientific, data driven approach and simple, straight talking interface - and its success has paved the way for similar apps in the field. The latest iteration of this trend comes from Amy Thomson, the 30 year old ex-marketing CEO, who launched Moody - the online hormone and period tracking platform - late last year. Moody may be less established than Clue, but with its witty relatable tone, mentions in Vogue and endorsements from wellness gurus such as the Hemsley sisters, it’s already proving a huge hit with its target millennial demographic.
Future Family co-founders Claire Tomkins and Eve Blossom met in a Women’s networking group in Silicon Valley and only two years later they launched one of the most exciting femtech start ups to come out of the Bay Area. Inspired by Claire’s struggles with infertility and driven by Eve’s passion for economic social change, the pair created Future Family, an online platform focused on holistic, modern healthcare that supports women and couples on their journey to becoming parents. With women waiting longer to have children, the rise of fertility issues is prevalent in the western world. Future Family brings together fertility financing, technology and bespoke consultation to help women across the U.S access previous unaffordable and unobtainable fertility services . Their comprehensive plans cover everything from egg freezing to genetic screening, IVF to acupuncture and the flexible and affordable payment plan now makes planning for a family as easy as organising your Netflix account. In the UK, new startup Adia Health, founded by Lina Chan and Rose Acton, is also using technology to help ease the pain of fertility struggles. The online platform focuses on a holistic approach and provides at home fertility test, creates bespoke fertility plans and connects its members with specialists from obstetricians to nutritionists.
Former journalist Katherine Ryder launched Maven 3 years ago after seeing the how difficult it could be for new mothers to access healthcare whilst juggling their own needs and the dozens of doctor visits that even the healthiest of small children can require. Maven connects patients and medical professionals through video chat and private messaging, giving women access to a one stop health shop from their phone or tablet. They can even provide prescriptions, meaning you no longer have to squeeze an Ob-gyn appointment in over your lunch break or take time off work to get your hands on birth control. The whole platform is female centric and takes in to consideration the unique nuances of women's health, giving access to breastfeeding experts and mental health practitioners, alongside it’s impressive list of doctors. Since launching in 2015, Maven has served over 100,000 patients and its membership continues to increase by the month. They are now creating specialist platforms including Maven Campus aimed at college students and Maven Maternity, which focuses on helping women returning to work after having children.
Here at Elvie, our founder Tania Boler, has always been a passionate advocate for women’s health, spending many years working for the UN and for charities across the world, focused on issues such as HIV. However, it wasn’t until having her own children that she became acutely aware of the health issues affecting new mothers and the limited range of clunky, outdated tools available to help them. Wanting to be part of a solution, Tania launched Elvie Trainer in 2015, a Kegel exercise device that specialises in assisting women with pelvic floor exercises through all stages of life. Tania and the team at Elvie were driven to breaking down the stigma surrounding postpartum health. Now, with clients including Gwyneth Paltrow and January Jones, Elvie has succeeded in not only making pelvic floor trainers socially acceptable, but positively Instagrammable. In the southern hemisphere, Kegel exercisers are also seeing a spike in popularity, thanks in no small part to Queensland based pelvic floor Physiotherapist Fiona Rogers. Fiona, together with her husband Craig, is the owner of Pelvic Floor Exercise, an online one stop shop for all your Kegel needs - including a wide range of wearables, expert advice and training courses. Earlier this year, Elvie revolutionised another archaic femtech design and expanded their range with a hands free breast pump. With most modern breast pumps still resembling the cumbersome cattle milking machines they were originally modelled on, Tania saw the need for a more versatile and empowering way for mothers to express. The pump, which launched in September 2018, is small enough to fit in a nursing bra and completely wireless, meaning moms can get on with daily life whilst still expressing for their baby.