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Q&A: How economic uncertainty could affect femtech

Femtech has grown over the last decade, but investments in female-focused companies pale in comparison to the larger digital health sector. 

Ida Tin, cofounder and chairwoman at Clue, a Berlin-based menstrual health app, coined the term femtech in 2016 and joined MobiHealthNews to discuss investment and advancement in the sector.

MobiHealthNews: How do you think the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank will affect femtech?

Ida Tin: I think there is something sort of general to be said about innovation, and especially companies that are maybe higher risk that have found investments, and probably really hard-earned investment money. And I would say I think it’s a little bit like in war zones and disaster areas, like women are always hit first and hardest. And I kind of fear that it could be similar here because it’s hard to raise money for femtech. I think it’s fair to say. And the kind of more specialized funds that have emerged over the last years, they are like peanuts-sized funds, unfortunately.

And I think, just generally, when everybody gets more nervous, we tend to do more of the known, and anything that is in the areas of something that could culturally be more challenging or feel more new or unknown, then things just get tighter. But I will say, there is also a strong kind of counter-current happening right now, where femtech and female health, and health generally, really does have a lot of interest and support. And I think that will be like the strongest current. There’s no way that women are going to stop wanting to build products that solve real problems for them and for each other. So I’m not afraid that femtech will sort of suffer a huge blow.

MHN: What’s going on with Clue, and how is it progressing?

Tin: We just actually rebuilt our whole codebase and relaunched the app. This was because we have a lot of legacy code, and we wanted to be able to build things much faster. And that was not something that I think users will notice all that much. The app looks a little bit different, but from sort of behind the scenes, that was a huge success.  

We have a pregnancy feature now, we have a help you get pregnant feature, and after you’ve given birth. So helping go through the life phases more seamlessly.  We have also been hit by the financial “meh.” We had a big sort of venture deal, venture debt financing that fell through because of macroeconomic things. So we had to let people go, which is so sad because we had built an amazing team the last year. So that was just bad luck. Clue is doing great, but external factors hit us like everybody else.

MHN: How do you see femtech progressing in the future to benefit women’s health?

Tin: There’s still a discovery challenge. I think, actually, there are many new products that most people will probably not have heard about. And I think that’s a sign of a very young category still. 

There’s also a lot of fragmentation on a data level. We don’t still have a place or a way to really leverage all the data that we are creating. And I think that’s something that I hope will come soon, so that it’s more convenient for users to really get more full pictures of their health and better navigate this culture. 

I think there’s still room for sort of deeper tech, more advanced algorithms or home diagnostics, […] better types of birth control, or things that kind of take more innovation, more money to get to market. They are on the way, but there is still some sort of a leap that we can do technologically, I think.

Emily Kwan will offer more detail at her HIMSS23 session “Implementing an AI NLP Tool to Address SDOH Needs.” It is scheduled for Tuesday, April 18, at 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. CT at the South Building, Level 1, S105 C.

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