Whether it’s tampons, contraceptives, fertility tracking or mental health, the new wave of FemTech startups is finally bringing women’s health and lifestyle offerings up to standard. The startup ecosystem has been a vital enabler for women, allowing us to steer these industries, as opposed to being told what we want and need by the big boys.
Fem-Tech startups are upgrading many aspects of women’s lives, exposing just how much corporates and the medical industry have been missing when it comes to female-focused products and services. What’s more, they’re doing it with a social conscience…
The (seemingly) controversial issue of periods is a good place to start. Not only have corporates pretended that women bleed blue (how was that ever a thing?!), they also use unsustainable materials in their products. Furthermore, the tampon tax has been widely criticised in recent years, making the issue of ‘period poverty’ a hot topic. The tax essentially works in that feminine hygiene products are still defined as luxury products and therefore are subject to Value Added Tax. Men’s razors, on the other hand, are considered essentials and are not subject to VAT.
Whilst feminine hygiene startups are not able to evade such taxation, they work with initiatives that alleviate the cost for women who are unable to afford feminine hygiene products. By being more candid about menstruation, startups are able to change the narrative around femcare being a luxe product, as opposed to something required by those who menstruate.
A good example of this is Flo. Not only are their organic tampons 100% biodegradable, but they also donate 5% of their profits to organisations working to end FGM. Flo also provides free menstrual products to UK asylum centres and food banks, working in conjunction with charities that are attempting to make femcare available for all. Top tip: you can get your hands on Flo tampons for free in every single Huckletree location’s bathroom!
NYC based startup Thinx is myth-busting the classic advertising trope of overly cheerful women in tiny white shorts on their periods. Founded in 2011, Thinx has raised over $1.45 million since launch and reported a 50% increase in sales last year alone. Using new fabric technology, they’ve created period-proof underwear that can be used either as a substitute or supplement to traditional feminine hygiene products, offering a new way to manage menstruation.
Like Flo, they’re committed to empowering young people by teaching reproductive health and human rights in safe spaces. Mindful of period poverty, they also donate products to grassroots organisations and have contributed over £251,425 to nonprofit partners.
Tracking apps are also revolutionising women’s access to knowledge about their fertility, their hormones, and their cycles. Clue educates users on their sexual and gynecological health, answering FAQs on everything from STI symptoms to the effects of stress, diet and other external factors on your monthly cycle. It also allows women to track their fertility and get closer to pinpointing the days in their cycle they might be likely to conceive, saving time on trips to the doctor and invasive blood and urine testing.
Here in London, Moody Month, founded by former Evening Standard Editor Laura Weir, combines mental health and cycle tracking to allow users to manage their mood more effectively. Post raising a £800k seed round in September this year, the digital ecosystem now offers users a curated selection of vitamins to improve ‘down days’.
Our alumni members HANX are also conscious of what women are putting in their bodies. Creators of luxury organic, fair trade condoms, they’re leaving all the bravado of traditional condom packaging and marketing behind. HANX embodies the societal and cultural shift regarding attitudes towards sex, arguing that women should feel empowered by carrying condoms (challenging 1/5 of women who don’t think it’s socially acceptable for them to do so).
With their customer bases’ wellbeing in mind, they’ve also expanded their offering to include candid workshops on everything from sex education to IRL dating in the digital age. Look out for upcoming sessions at Huckletree!
THE FUTURE IS FEMALE
It’s clear: women are setting up and bossing businesses that challenge the traditional corporate cookie cutter template. What’s more, they’re creating new services which weren’t previously available to women. We now have tailored information about our periods and gynecological health at the tip of our fingers, saving time and stress.
FemTech startups are building products that aren’t only good for women but good for the environment and the wider community. All that – and they’re changing cultures and attitudes towards women’s issues and ethical business practice, too.
FemTech: it’s not only exposing gaps in traditional markets but filling them pretty well, too.