Since “femtech” was coined in 2016 the industry has been steadily expanding and is expected to be a $50bn market by 2025. While many startups have built products and services around fertility or periods, one neglected category is the menopause.
According to data from Pitchbook, menopause startups worldwide have raised $254m since early 2009; femtech startups raised $498m in 2019 alone.
But times are changing. According to the founders Sifted spoke to, general awareness of the menopause and its health implications for women is slowly increasing. In Europe, Britain in particular is leading the way — all but one of the nine startups below are UK-based.
Investors are beginning to recognise the $600bn market opportunity that lies in menopause tech. And companies themselves are recognising the role they should be playing in creating access to menopause treatments, in order to keep women in the workforce.
MPowder offers supplements for women at each stage of the menopause — from perimenopause, through to menopause and postmenopause. Menopause symptoms can begin as early as a woman’s mid-30s and continue into her 60s.
The idea for the company was hatched when founder Rebekah Brown was approaching menopause aged 47. Her doctor recommended trying out some supplements to manage her symptoms, but when she entered her local health food shop she was shocked at what she saw.
“It felt like an ‘end of life shelf’,” she says. All of the supplements had branding featuring elderly women, with lots of pink and fluffy jumpers. And nearly all of the products on offer were generic multivitamins, with no real information on how the ingredients could help women, adds Brown.
MPowder, in contrast, offers supplements developed by nutritionists to target specific problems women face at different stages of menopause. For example, the perimenopause powder Perio Boost contains ingredients such as soya, flaxseed and cacao to boost energy, and magnesium to aid joint health.
MPowder now has an active community of women who offer feedback on products, and interact with each other to share information and tips on controlling symptoms.
“It feels like MPowder started by representing a silent group of women, who hadn’t spoken out a lot about what they were going through,” says Brown. “But in the last 12 months, that silence has been shattered.”
Alva offers online tailored treatment plans and information for women who are struggling with menopausal symptoms.
The treatment plans start with a free online consultation where users get information about their symptoms and treatment options such as systemic hormone replacement therapy (from £15 a month) and vaginal oestrogen (from £18 a month). The appropriate treatment is then delivered to the user’s door within three days. After three months, a doctor reviews the prescription to ensure the user is on the right dose and makes any necessary changes.
Annie Coleridge, Alva’s cofounder and CEO, says that awareness of menopause is increasing both among investors and employers, and Alva has already worked with multiple organisations to provide menopause support for their staff. However, the understanding of just how much women’s hormones affect their mental and physical health is still low.
“This means that employers struggle to provide the services [employees] need themselves. Fundamentally, there’s so little education about menopause it’s not surprising that employers need to engage the support of technology companies to help them deliver the support women need.”
Alva has raised £1m in funding from Heartcore Capital, JamJar, Ascension and a handful of angel investors and has a growing community of 10,000 women on its platform.
Peanut is an app connecting women throughout all stages of motherhood. By introducing users to women nearby who are at a similar life stage, Peanut provides access to a community of women who are there to listen, share information and offer each other advice.
Last month, Peanut launched a new community focused on women going through menopause in an effort to reduce stigma and encourage honest conversations.
“Earlier this year, we noticed menopause repeatedly coming up across our motherhood and fertility communities. Women were experiencing menopausal symptoms — memory loss, vaginal dryness, mood swings, hair loss, irregular periods — and they wanted to talk about it,” Michelle Kennedy, founder and CEO of Peanut, told Sifted.
Despite only launching in September this year, the amount of content across Peanut Menopause is increasing by 82% a month.
“This is a testament to exactly why Peanut Menopause is so needed. Women are ready to talk [about their issues], and they haven’t had a safe space to do so until now,” Kennedy adds.
Vira Health’s app, Stella, offers personalised, science-backed treatment plans based on a woman’s specific symptoms of menopause.
“For example, if she is dealing with sleep disturbances and urinary incontinence, her Stella plan would combine cognitive behavioural therapy, pelvic floor exercises and other guidance related to lifestyle and behaviour change,” says Dr Rebecca Love, who cofounded Vira Health with Andrea Berchowitz, a former consultant at McKinsey & Company.
The plans are 12 weeks long and are paid for on a subscription basis. The Stella platform also offers articles, recipes, mindfulness meditations, exercise suggestions and access to virtual events such as yoga classes or a Q&A with a gynaecologist.
“Our ultimate vision is to improve healthy life expectancy for women by reducing the prevalence of later-life conditions such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia early on,” adds Love.
The startup has so far raised £1.5m in seed funding from Local Globe, MMC Ventures and a handful of angel investors, such as former Spotify executive Sofia Bendz and Andrea Zitna, CRO of women’s healthtech company Elvie.
For some women, the symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes, migraines, weight gain and anxiety can start as early as their mid-30s. This period before starting the menopause, known as perimenopause, is what the founders of mySysters want to help women deal with the most.
Founded by Cheryl Behr and Cindy Moy Carr, who are both based in Minneapolis and commute often to Newcastle, mySysters is a symptom-tracking app that allows users to print a chart of what they’ve tracked in order to look for patterns or triggers.
Women can also create and join discussion boards to share and receive advice on how to deal with symptoms. The app delivers daily, personalised content to users about menopause treatments, symptoms and side effects.
Peppy is an employee healthcare benefits company that supports underserved areas of healthcare including fertility, pregnancy and menopause.
Peppy’s app gives anyone impacted by menopause symptoms access to support by connecting them with specialist practitioners, with an option for live consultations. Users can also chat with others via the app, access content, join live events and follow programmes to help them manage their symptoms
Dr Mridula Pore, cofounder and co-CEO at Peppy, says that there has been a significant rise in menopause awareness in the workplace lately: “This year, we are expecting to see the biggest level of activity ever for World Menopause Day, with more employers recognising the issue, talking publicly about the topic and providing actual support to their colleagues.”
Bia Care is a virtual menopause clinic that offers group consultation programmes to give women tailored clinical advice from registered healthcare professionals.
The programmes, which help women at each stage of menopause, are based on the principles of lifestyle medicine: “A holistic approach to health which focuses on treatment beyond doctor-led interventions like prescriptions,” says cofounder and CEO Fernanda Dobal. “It embraces the idea that positively changing behaviours and habits leads to health and happiness.”
Bia Care’s holistic solutions includes one-hour weekly consultations, which cover everything from supplements to sex, as well as personalised treatment plans for symptom relief.
Bia Care can also organise users to have treatment options such as hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) — which helps to replenish falling oestrogen levels in the body, which can cause menopausal symptoms — as well as nutrition advice and physiotherapy.
“Our goal is to be the most comprehensive menopause care provider on the market, and still remain accessible to as many people as possible,” says Dobal. “Seeing a menopause specialist for £300 one-on-one [in the UK] is simply out of reach for most women. This is why groups are so powerful; they enable more women to get the treatment they need at a lower cost.”
Bia Care is working with the UK’s National Health Service to “deliver a cost-effective solution for women on a national level”. It also raised an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding in February this year, led by Kamet Ventures.
Hot flushes — the sudden feeling of heat a woman with menopause can experience — affect about 1.5m women in the UK alone. They can lead to sleep deprivation, excessive sweating and can have detrimental effects on a woman’s personal and professional life.
To help alleviate hot flushes and the problems associated with them, femtech hardware startup Astinno is developing a cooling wristband designed to help menopausal women moderate their temperature at night.
The sensor-packed device, which is called Grace, helps identify the onset of a hot flush by applying cool to a woman’s wrist — just like running your wrist under a cold tap.
The company last year raised grant funding of £360k from Innovate UK and is still in the process of advanced testing.
Moona offers cooling pillows that regulate a sleeper’s temperature throughout the night via an app.
The product was built for everyone to have better sleep, but founder and CEO Coline Juin says that a large proportion of Moona’s customer base are women going through menopause and suffering with hot flashes.
“Midlife women really like the product: it cools them down, helping them fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night,” she told Sifted.
Moona’s pillows sell for $400, and have been described by many women as a lifesaver. One review on Moona’s website reads: “I was at the point of wanting to die because my head sweats were killing me… If Menopause is killing you, get yourself a moona.”
B-wom is a digital coach helping women manage their intimate health at all stages of their lives. It offers symptom tracking — such as sexual discomfort or urine leaks — personalised recommendations and health action plans, as well as tailored daily content to help users learn about their bodies and improve their wellbeing.
B-wom offers a consumer-first service, but it is mainly pursuing a B2B model where employers can offer the product to female employees, and insurance and pharmaceutical companies can offer it to their customers.
The founders of Fizimed originally set out to develop a connected prosthetic knee for athletes with torn ACLs, but after realising how under-addressed the women’s health market is worldwide, they decided to pivot.
Fizimed’s product on the market today is a Kegel trainer for strengthening women’s pelvic floor – which can become weakened with age, pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. The kegel trainer helps to tighten and tone the pelvic floor muscles to aid in issues such as incontinence (which 3m women suffer from in France alone) and lack of sensation during sex.
Fizimed has received €600k in seed funding, and is backed by Femme Business Angels, a female-owned angel business network in Paris.
Olivia is a digital therapeutics app providing curated knowledge, individual guidance, and concrete tools for how to thrive through menopause.
Its founders, Hannah Lindström and Amy Aanen both have experience in the health sector: Lindstrom comes “from the holistic side of health with a focus on biohacking,” while Aanen, prior to Olivia, was part of the team that brought Swedish medical app KRY to the UK
“There is a lot of well-deserved, focus on fertility, period tracking, and pregnancy apps. However, the space for women over 40 years old is yet highly underserved,” says Lindström.
“We saw a massive gap in the market where we don’t only need one player who takes it all, but different services and products catering to different needs. We were motivated by our hopes of seeing a more equal society as well as more money invested into female-founded companies. “
Olivia is part of the Stockholm based incubator program Sting, and is currently fundraising. The founders hope to close an angel round later this month. In the past, Olivia scored a pre-seed investment of 1MSEK from early-stage VC Antler as well as some Swedish grants.
Fertifa, which provides fertility benefits, treatment and support for employees across the UK, has recently expanded its offering to include menopause support in workplaces.
Fertifa’s service includes medical treatment for women going through menopause, such as hormone replacement therapy – as well as education for line managers and the wider workforce, so that “they can understand what their colleagues might be facing.” It also offers a dedicated telehealth team who provide 1-2-1 support whenever needed.
“We are medically-led and have a team of specialist in-house doctors and nurses who can provide direct care to employees. We’ve heard too many stories of women being refused HRT or unable to get an appointment due to long wait times and Covid-related delays,” says Katie Beck, CEO of Fertifa.
“For companies who use Fertifa’s services, their employees can be connected immediately with a doctor who can undertake a full assessment and provide the right course of treatment.”
Femilog is an AI menopause health tracker. It offers women personalised insight into their menopause and allows them to log symptoms including hot flashes, mood swings, sex, sleep, urge to urinate, and menstruation. Femilog users can also share their results with their doctor to make “better health decisions based on facts,” says its founder and CEO Samina Usman.
“Femilog aims to provide women with a broader and clearer menopause health picture, decrease the feeling of anxiety of stress and make them feel understood.”
The app, which is self-funded, was launched earlier this year on App Store and Google Play and is available in 27 languages.
Link to original story here.