From pregnancy apps to breast cancer detection, to period trackers, here are 10 innovative FemTech startups opening up opportunities for women to love their bodies.
The term FemTech was coined in 2012 by Ida Tin, the founder of leading period tracking app Clue. It refers to the development of technology using software or tools to promote women’s health. Currently, the global market is expected to grow over US$60 billion by 2027, targeted to a growing number of 3.73 billion prospective customers. The FemTech market reached US$18.75 billion in 2019, with Singapore currently known for having the most companies across Asia. In other nations like China, India, and Japan, it has accounted for 22% of shares since 2018, mainly gaining support from governments to raise awareness of women’s health. FemTech aims to disrupt taboos surrounding female health, focusing on raising awareness to educate women to love, protect, and care for their own bodies.
However, while the industry proposes a seemingly positive outlook, it is still facing huge odds. Even with 90% of FemTech startups being owned by female entrepreneurs, the venture capital industry is still primarily dominated by men. Many FemTech startups are only able to raise less than half the venture funding male-run startups are able to, due to a lack of understanding and attention male investors have paid to products addressing women’s health. On top of lacking in funding, the FemTech industry is also no stranger to criticism and controversies as many accuse the industry of being sexist and also promoting a “pink tax”.
Against all these odds, the FemTech industry is still heading towards a positive trajectory. Here are 10 FemTech startups closing the gaps of shame and opening up opportunities needed for women to love their bodies.
Menopause is the time at which a woman’s period stops, which usually occurs between the ages of 40 and 58. Even though it is a natural process, around 85% of women have experienced menopause-related symptoms in their lifetime, such as hot flashes, sleep disturbance, mood changes, and even severe complications like death. Wanting to make menopause care and education more accessible to all parts of Australia, Dr. Kelly Teagle founded WellFemme as a platform which delivers online menopause and perimenopause treatment, telehealth consultations, and lifestyle recommendations.
Modibodi is a Sydney-based startup working to fight body shaming by creating comfortable leak-proof apparel, underwear, and swimwear. Through spreading the positivity, boosting confidence, and providing comfort to women during menstruation, Modibodi is transforming the idea that periods, sweat, and incontinence are shameful by promoting them as just something we go through as humans. Besides empowering women, Modibodi also donates a small percentage of every purchase towards causes including the prevention of Australian Bushfires, and support for healthcare professionals working during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Around 1 in 5 people will contract at least one form of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in their lifetime, while some will present symptoms, most will not. If an STD goes undetected for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to severe consequences like male and female infertility, and even blindness. Helping women take charge of their own bodies, Ferne is a Singapore startup founded by Xi Liu in 2020, after she recognised stigma towards sexual health in Asia. Ferne is the first online sexual platform in Singapore that offers at-home health screening kits for STDs, other reproductive health services, and online consultations. They also partner with other clinics around Singapore, for those who prefer to get their screenings done at a clinic. Individuals are also able to post a question anonymously on their platform regarding anything sexual health related, and will be answered by one of the company’s doctors.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a genetic hormonal disorder in which a woman may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods due to an excess of androgen (male hormone) levels, usually women who suffer from PCOS will experience symptoms like excessive facial hair growth, acne, and obesity. It is estimated that around 5-10% of women are affected by PCOS, and it is often undiagnosed and can be an underlying cause to many diseases. This is why Singapore-based startup, Fig provides accessible and affordable PCOS test kits for women to build a healthier lifestyle. Although PCOS cannot be cured, Fig provides lifestyle advice, diet plans, and other treatment plans for those who are affected by PCOS.
A mother’s breast milk contains antibodies to help their baby fight off viruses and bacteria, lowering an infant’s risk of developing allergies or asthma. However, not all mothers’ milk contains equal nutrients- poor diet, sleep patterns, and unhealthy lifestyles may affect the baby’s growth and development. Japanese startup Bonyu, is a nutrition platform for mothers to improve their breast milk quality. Mothers can send a small sample of their breast milk to Bonyu, who will conduct a scientific analysis to provide feedback on what can be improved. Bonyu also provides nutrition advice and supplements to ensure babies will receive the appropriate amount of nutrients and become healthier.
Basal body temperature (BBT) is the body’s lowest resting temperature, usually used to track and measure a woman’s ovulation period during her menstrual cycle. Herbio is a Japanese startup founded by Sayuri Tanaka which has developed a wearable device called Picot for monitoring and measuring BBT. The Picot device will take your temperature every 10 minutes while you sleep, to track an individual’s menstrual cycle and fertility. This device can help predict and prepare for when the body goes into pregnancy or experiences premenstrual syndromes (PMS)
7. Youha Wearable Breastpump
On average, a newborn needs to drink 14-22 oz of milk per day, which means a mother needs to pump milk every 3-4 hours, and each pump takes 15 to 30 minutes. Almost 61% of people believe it is unacceptable for a woman to breastfeed in public areas, this causes a lot of mothers to feel like they do not have enough time in their day. With the inability to breastfeed in public and the burden of holding down a job and looking after their families, Youha’s wearable breast pump allows mothers more mobility to be able to freely walk around in public and complete their tasks while they pump their milk. Youha’s breast pump also won the Bronze Award during the 2021 Hong Kong Smart Design Awards’ Baby and Mother Care Design Category.
Around 1 in 8 women will suffer from breast cancer, 1 in 39 will die from it, and 50% of breast cancer symptoms are often missed by mammographies. These statistics may seem daunting, but with early detection, a person’s survival rate will increase to 80-90%. Cyrcadia is a Hong Kong-based startup which focuses on early detection of breast cancer. Their invention, itBra, is a noninvasive wearable breast monitor that measures thermo-circadian rhythm alternation in skin surface temperature.
Yesmom is a Thailand fertility tech startup, providing at-Home Blood Testing Kits for females to understand their body more. Examining 6 hormone levels- the AMH, FSH, Thyroid stimulating hormone, FT4, prolactin, and testosterone, this test kit will test the amount of eggs present, the age you will hit menopause, and fertility outcomes. Simply order a test kit, collect your sample, and have your report delivered to you through an app.
The growing fertility tech industry is estimated to reach US$41 billion by the end of 2026, Taiwanese startup iPreg is designed with hydro-mechanical technology, and is most applicable for those who are trying to conceive using in vitro fertilization (IVF), a sperm’s mobility will allow it to reach a chip, resulting in an increase in a healthy sperm’s purity to 90%, minimising the risk of DNA damage.