For the purpose of this article, Femtech includes all health technologies aimed at women; both hardware and software addressing areas like fertility solutions, sexual wellness, menstruation etc.
This will be the first article in a series of articles exploring the topics of Femtech. We are undertaking a big project here internally within Zinc to develop a women´s health platform and with this article we will launch into thinking, reporting on and exploring the Femtech world, so stay tuned over the next couple of months and get in touch if you´re a like-minded Femtech fan or a female health centred start-up.
Technology has evolved our relationships and the way we connect to each other. And now it is redefining how we look at ourselves when it comes to our health and wellness.
Through our insights work and the conversations we are having with women we see there exists an openness to using technology that wasn’t there in the past. Women are keen for these technologies to monitor and help them make decisions around their health. There is a real desire to eliminate stressful guesswork that comes along with knowing your health.
The Femtech world is carving out a space for women to be empowered and to feel confident. Topics that had in the past been taboo are now gaining a lot of attention in the startup world, and increasingly beyond that. Menopause, menstruation and fertility are on the way to no longer being hidden subjects.
In September 2016, Ida Tin posted in her blog that:
¨There´s an exciting new thing happening…a whole new business category on the rise…¨ She officially coined it Femtech, ¨…new products and services that are based on technology addressing needs within female health.¨
Ida Tin is the founder of Clue (images of Clue App above). Her period ovulation tracker raised $20 million late November last year. Clue aims to ¨use science and data to provide insights into female health¨.
Female health is a big topic concerning half the world´s population and it’s one that the women here at Zinc are very passionate about.
One product that has our attention, and the attention of investors is Elvie (image above). The wearable product is made of silicone and pairs with a smartphone app for Keggels exercises to improve the pelvic floor, specifically helping women after pregnancy.
Tania Boler, co-founder and CEO at Chiaro, the company behind Elvie is a passionate advocate for women’s issues and has published extensive research and several books. She started Chiaro and Elvie out of a belief that advances in sensor technology and connected devices can help make women’s lives better.
One of the reasons Elvie has been getting so much traction is because they were so user focused, speaking to over 40 physiotherapists and 150 women throughout the design process of their product.
Here at Zinc we see insights work as a core component of designing the right experience that lives across our physical and digital worlds. Zinc has a human centered approach to all our work but Femtech projects especially require an iterative process including user research, prototyping and testing with the user – all in order to become a seamless part of a woman’s day. As these subjects have been so ignored in the past, there is a greater emphasis on really digging deep to understand and empathise with women the complexities around their health, which are clearly very different from those of men.
In our work with Bloomlife we began our research with a series of assumptions. We knew that there was a lot of potential data during pregnancy that could be extracted using Bloomlife’s sensors & algorithms but we didn´t yet know how to shape that into a compelling wearable system that mothers would use. There was also a stormy cloud hovering – an overarching thought that perhaps pregnancy and tech did not mix.
For some mothers this was true, but through our research we found that the concept for a wearable system focused on pregnancy actually had a lot of traction. By exploring with expecting mothers their concerns and anxieties during pregnancy, we could help define what the product / service should really be.
Not only did we have to solve the ergonomics of how the sensor would be worn, but we also had to answer crucial questions around how much of the potential data would be beneficial to them via the App.
For example, it was very clear that guidance on when they are having contractions would be very useful, whereas the raw data of the baby´s heartbeat could worry a parent rather than reassure them as it can be naturally erratic or fast at times.
Bloomlife will be the first to admit that this process with Zinc was crucial to their success now. (They won the most high profile startup competition in the world, getting crowned winners by Richard Branson, they have raised many $ millions, and they have fast growing revenue). We helped them understand their market and define the experience, which we executed through the design of both the sensor device and the mobile App (they have not produced our design yet, as they continue to perfect their data & algorithms using a rental business model with existing ‘off the shelf’ hardware).
Fundamentally they realised the importance of ongoing user research and have since brought on a person to run research internally at their headquarters in San Francisco. All-in-all, an outcome we´re really proud of.
As Femtech products evolve and become richer experiences, they’ll move away from being task focused products. The challenge will then be how to give women the appropriate information at the right time, and how to develop a lasting relationship and be a meaningful part of their lives.
So where do we fit into all of this? Well, our women´s health platform has a brave mission to help make women wiser and more informed when it comes to their health. We are in the midst of exploring experience journeys with our target market so if you would like to participate in our research get in touch!
Zinc will also be speaking at a Femtech event at the end of October in London, being put on by ‘Women of Wearables’ – watch this space for final details.
Otherwise stay tuned for our next article on Femtech, we will be interviewing some leaders in this space to share their insights and give us all some inspiration.