femtech featured

The importance of 'femtech': Why we need to start breaking old taboos

FemtechTo explain how I created the term ‘femtech’, I need to start with why I started the female health app Clue in the first place.

When I was 30, I realised that my method of birth control wasn’t working for me, and I didn’t feel there were any solutions out there that really suited me. I thought it was insane that we were able to put a man on the moon, but we didn’t have a tool that would help us understand our body’s unique patterns in real time.

I have always been curious about women's health and was interested in incorporating technology and data analysis into my daily life. Now we call that a “quantified self” person, but this was long before I knew the term. These were the drivers to launch Clue - an app that could clue people in with personalised health data and that would give them awareness of the unique patterns in their bodies and their cycles.

We launched Clue in 2013, but it was at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco in the autumn of 2016 that I coined the term ‘femtech’. It occurred to me that while all other available technologies were grouped together in a logical way, the products aimed at women were scattered all over the exhibition hall, looking lost and out of place. I knew that it would be helpful to have a unifying term for all the products I saw emerging in the tech industry addressing needs around women’s biology, so I suggested that we introduce a term for the category we felt part of. We called it femtech. By defining the group of products that are associated with female health, we are creating an entirely new category of technology and, by grouping these technologies, it paves the way for femtech conferences and for VC’s to invest in femtech, building out a femtech portfolio. This legitimises the market.

Legitimising and naming our space in the market goes far beyond seeking investment. Historically, female health - from the first menstruation through to pregnancy and menopause - has been considered a ‘niche’ subject, something that is only relevant to women and which is burdened by a lot of stigma. As such, this has left us in a place where gender inequality still exists, and where research into female health is limited and unrepresentative of the wider population. It still takes women an average of seven years to receive an endometriosis diagnosis, while conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome are frequently misdiagnosed, with women being made to feel that they exaggerate their symptoms.

At Clue, we’re excited to be using anonymised user data to further scientific research. When women track their period through Clue, they contribute an unprecedented data set that is essential for continuing our understanding of female health. Clue is known for working with top research institutions and clinicians, including Columbia University, Stanford University, University of Oxford and Kinsey Institute, to name a few. Our scientific collaborations are exploring questions like: what pain patterns are considered ‘normal’ in which populations? What mood patterns do we see around ovulation? How might our menstrual and symptoms patterns help us spot disease and illness earlier? It is also worth noting that the data we share with these institutions is always stripped of identifying factors, and only aims to answer research questions of a non-commercial nature.

My hope is that femtech will keep being a driver for improving wellness, health and women’s lives in general, and that we will see big commercial successes in the category too, fulfilling the huge economic potential that exists in femtech. From femtech companies, through to scientists, VCs and users, I see that we are finally moving away from the idea that reproductive health is ‘niche’ and something to only be spoken about in whispers. This is a fantastic driver for a more equal and healthy society, not only for women, but for all.

Ida Tin, Co-Founder of ClueAbout the author

Ida Tin is a Danish entrepreneur and author, who is the co-founder and CEO of female health app Clue (www.helloclue.com).

She is also the woman responsible for coining the term ‘femtech’.