With spring energy on the rise, we want to start this sunny season with empowering content. In celebration of International Women's Day, we are dedicating March to female entrepreneurs. Ambitious women that saw a problem girls and women are confronted with, and came up with a solution.
For some years now, a new phenomenon has been around, one that is focused on women's health and aims to make their lives more comfortable and easier. In case you do not know what we are talking about, wonder no more.
“Femtech”, a term that has become popular over time and is predicted to have a large impact on women’s lives. In the previous weeks, we talked about what Femtech is, femtech startups that are focused on pregnancy and maternal care and on sexual wellness and menopause care.
Today, we are sharing an interview with the founder of the platform 'Femtech Insider'.
From sexual wellness to menopausal care, the Femtech industry is booming and is expected to reach a market value of nearly 50 billion dollars by 2025. Enjoy the interview with Kathrin who has impacted the femtech space by bringing many initiatives together!
Lovely Kathrin, thank you for being with us for this interview! First, tell us a bit more about yourself 💜 and your motivation to start ‘Femtech Insider’?
My name is Kathrin and am originally from Austria. I'm the founder and CEO of ‘Femtech Insider’ and the co-founder at 'Perla Health'. My background is tech-related. I've spent pretty much my entire career working for tech companies of all different shapes and sizes: From very big corporate organizations to very small startups in Europe and in the Silicon Valley.
In my last role, at a fintech company, I was diagnosed with PCOS, (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), which is a condition that is actually surprisingly common (1 in 10 women is affected). PCOS is a hormonal condition that can lead to all kinds of symptoms, like infertility, obesity, bad skin, growing hair in places where you don't necessarily want them, etc. This has made me much more aware of different female health issues where there is only little awareness about it (yet).
Being diagnosed with PCOS and my experience in the fintech sector, made me understand the opportunity of technology and its potential to improve female’s health. Therefore, I started to look into the different femtech startups quite early on. Back then, I only found a couple of startups that created a menstrual tracker. Anyhow, in order to keep track of the companies, I started a personal spreadsheet to collect and follow them, initially for my own interest.
Later on, when the famous 2019 report was published which forecasted the femtech industry with a market value of $50 billion (which I would argue is actually far too low), I saw an opportunity to bring all these innovations together. Especially, since I wanted to learn more about it but could not find a place where all these companies were gathered. I mean, it was quite shocking to me since we have an opportunity for something that can move the needle for around 50% of the world's population. How come there isn't a platform or anything similar that specifically speaks to this?
This is how ‘Femtech Insider’ kicked off in 2019. Starting with a spreadsheet and side project that took over my life.
Femtech Insider - What do you offer on your platform? We collect different femtech related initiatives worldwide and showcase them on our platform. About a month ago, we introduced a membership model which is kind of the ‘inner circle’. The inner-circle is a combination of more emails than the newsletter, analyzing what happened throughout the month, reporting, which startups, innovation, or stakeholders are relevant in any given space. Additionally, we also host events and opportunities to chat with people that you don't see at every femtech event.
Femtech Insider has grown quite rapidly and all through word of mouth, which I'm very proud of. Also, I am in love with serving the community, it's such meaningful work. The beauty is that every single person on this mailing list really wants to be there. This we especially see in our organically growing engagement numbers. Also, I feel that we're really making a difference by bundling all the voices out there. With Femtech Insider, we took all these different companies/initiatives and put them in one place. And it was one of the first projects that aimed to give that segment a voice. Also, to me it's such a nascent industry and I think we're only at the beginning. I am super excited about the next couple of years.
What does Femtech mean to you? Are sex educators, for example, also included in the Femtech industry?
Personally, it does include sex educators. But nevertheless, it needs to have some element of innovation. I like to look at it broadly and believe that researchers are super important too. Especially in this female-related industry. In the end, a femtech company is a company that is applying some sort of innovative approach to solving a challenge in women's health. Also, for me, it's not only necessarily tech. It could also involve biotech, life science, or medical devices. All of them are part of a bigger picture. Anybody that has interesting thoughts can contribute to this as we need all hands on deck.
You mentioned that you were diagnosed with PCOS. How did you find out that you have this condition?
The story was strange and quite a coincidence. I was diagnosed with PCOS quite late in my life - in my early 30s. I was going to get laser hair removal done. While sitting in my beautician’s office I was picking up a flyer that was lying around. There I read about PCOS and its symptoms for the first time. After googling more, I realized that I have been struggling with the symptoms for a long time. For example, I never understood why I had so many skin issues or had problems with maintaining my weight. I can say that I ate healthier, worked out more but the people around me seemed to have fewer problems.
After reading about PCOS, I scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist and was immediately diagnosed. Nevertheless, I was sent home without more information. I literally went home and told my boyfriend at the time: “We will never be able to have kids” (This was not true, but that is what I believed in with the little information I got at that time). Anyhow, I started to discover more about female health and realized that there are so many more conditions that are just as unknown, under-funded, and under-researched. The list is really long, endometriosis as one example.
After having founded Femtech Insider, you founded Perla. How did it come to that?
Janine, my co-founder, and I got connected through people we both know. We started exchanging thoughts every once in a while and became friends. At some point, Janine asked me: “Kathrin, you see so much going through the inbox with Femtech Insider. If you were to start a company, what would you do?”. And since I have PCOS myself and saw so many people experiencing the same, I told her about this disease and my motivation to build a solution for that. Janine’s background is in digital health and virtual clinics. It suited perfectly and we decided to explore this industry.
First, we did a lot of research, talked to providers, patients and researchers. Until eventually, we got to the point where we felt that we could create something that could move the needle for women with PCOS. And last year, the Perla journey started. Now, we are at a very early stage, so I can't talk too much about the solution yet but we're looking at reinventing the entire PCOS journey.
What would you recommend to someone who just got diagnosed with PCOS? Without promoting our own platform too much, visit our startup Perla Health. I think we did a pretty good job in terms of providing evidence-based information. That was our first step in terms of making sure to put an end to all this non-evidence-based information that's out there.
We are also always happy to talk to women with PCOS. Onour website, you can book a 15min call to share experiences. We offer this service because we know that a quick chat can help a lot. I think it’s important, both for your physical and for your mental health, to know there is a happy life possible with PCOS. Even though you're sometimes in this dark place, you just don't see it anymore. Remember that you can feel better and you are more than this chronic disease. Personally, I can emphasize with this feeling as I was in this place where I thought nothing was going to work for me. But then I took the step to believe I can get better, I can live well, despite the chronic condition. And this mindset can change the whole journey.
What are your favorite 3 femtech startups?
That’s a hard question. I think Clue is definitely on this list with Ida Tin who has given this whole industry an identity. Also, I'm super impressed by the work that Maven Clinic is doing, in terms of establishing a virtual clinic model globally. I'm also a huge fan of anybody who's working on innovating the contraceptive space. There are so many startups that are working on birth control for men and that’s what I think is truly groundbreaking. Or companies that help women getting off hormonal birth control. I think it’s needed and personally, I am definitely celebrating it.
What is your recommendation to start a career in femtech?
Check out our platform ‘Femtech Insider’ since we do a good job of bringing happenings in the industry together and help to give a complete picture. We are also thinking about making some panel discussion for people who want to work in femtech and have the chance to speak to recruiters/hiring managers. Also, start attending some femtech events, get to know people, ask them about their experiences working in this space. Most importantly, try different things. See if Femtech suits you or maybe another industry fits better.
I congratulate everybody who has the guts to start a startup in the femtech space. There are so many women that are founding startups to solve their own problems. And it's not easy, especially if you don’t have a tech background, network, or graduated from one of these big and well-known schools. Anyhow, once you start to open up, you actually start causing a domino effect and more women feel empowered to address these topics. That’s the responsibility of us working in Femtech: to push the field forward and speak openly about these things. One good example was Michelle Obama who spoke openly about menopause. This caused more women to actively seek solutions for problems that come along with perimenopause, etc.
In that sense, we are also seeing more public discourse. Society is changing and women are increasingly becoming more comfortable to speak about their health. I mean, when we founded Perla, my first thoughts were: “What are people going to say if I tell them I am diagnosed with PCOS?”.
Thank you Kathrin for all your insights, time, and for sharing your experiences! We applaud you for your courage and female-health-changing movement.
Be smart. Be (c)LIT. Fly with us!🌺🐝