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Asia: The hottest new femtech market

Countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are set to make the most of the femtech boom

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Lindsay Davis, co-founder of the FemTech Association of Asia

Femtech analytics predicts that the Asia-Pacific region will be seeing the world’s fastest growth in women’s health apps by 2026. We sat down with Lindsay Davis, co-founder of the FemTech Association of Asia, to find out how femtech is growing across Southeast Asia. 

 

Hi, Lindsay. Tell us a bit more about the FemTech Association of Asia.

FemTech Association of Asia is the region’s first network for femtech founders, professionals, investors and enthusiasts uniting with a core focus on improving women’s health through technology solutions. Currently, FemTech Association of Asia members come from over 30 femtech companies across Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea and members operate across over 10 categories – from menstrual care to menopause.

 

What is the role of the association?

The FemTech Association of Asia provides four key pillars for the femtech community in Southeast Asia: thought leadership, programming, amplification and community-building.

Women’s health has been under-researched, under-served and under-funded, so we work to address these challenges via our four pillars.

To narrow the research gap, we have our first consumer survey out in market, focusing on Singapore first to start. Our goal is to get critical mass of responses, so that we can provide a better understanding of the consumer landscape – how women manage their personal health, level of understanding of their healthcare needs, what they spend and what qualities are most important for consumers when selecting their treatment plans or providers.

Next, we have programming, which is an effective way of engaging the community and
focusing on what consumers need. We have everything from entrepreneur networking events – to get to know other people in the femtech space – to panels and guest speakers. These include topics like menopause and fertility, as well as founder training in strategic tech start-ups to help starting businesses with less experience.

Amplification is an important pillar, as it allows us to share our message and learnings with more people through media partnerships, thereby raising awareness of the industry and educating more consumers about what healthcare options can look like with the support of technology.

Finally, the critical pillar is community-building. If we don’t support our femtech community, then, of course, we would not have an association. Our goal is to have a growing and inclusive community for all to build networks and fulfil our mission to inspire collaboration.

 

What was the reason you established the association?

I heard about “femtech” through my network and wanted to learn more, but when I was researching how to get involved in the industry, I spotted the gap – there was not a professional association for femtech available.

With a strong sense of purpose fulfilled by supporting businesses that are creating women’s healthcare solutions through technology, building the FemTech Association of Asia felt like a perfect space to make immediate impact.

Upon further research and networking, I found high-growth potential companies, a dynamic founder community and untapped investment ecosystem. There has never been a better time to work in femtech and I believe Asia is the next significant industry growth opportunity – whether by investing in our regional start-ups, entrepreneurs launching new femtech businesses, local brands expanding into the region or overseas brands extending their reach and launching in Asia.

 

Where is the femtech sector more developed in Asia? 

We are a small market. We only represent about 14 per cent of global femtech businesses, but Singapore has the most femtech companies in the region, with Japan and South Korea also with advanced femtech ecosystems. However, it’s exciting to see the rapid pace by which Asia is growing.

We see evidence of great potential with more founders starting femtech businesses and also geographical expansion. Several femtech businesses in Singapore are starting to expand into markets around us, into countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines and that’s exactly what we like to see – femtech building ecosystems across countries with inclusive solutions.

It is also worth noting the increased outreach in recent months from brands in Western markets looking to explore opportunities in Japan and Singapore.

 

Do you think that having an association is a powerful move to expand femtech?

Yes, voices being raised together are stronger than one. We have been motivated by so much powerful data coming out of the USA and so many incredible companies based in the UK and Europe. Sharing Asia’s femtech voice and brands globally- as we haven’t had as much presence in the femtech landscape before – is extremely important. We are able to say ‘Here are Asia’s leading femtech companies, market opportunities, regional trends, localised cultural nuances and more that need to be considered’.

 

In hindsight, how would you say the femtech sector has changed since establishing the association?

The work that we have done with the FemTech Association of Asia has created an awareness that wasn’t there before. Worth highlighting is corporate engagement about of what the FemTech Association of Asia can offer originated by individuals who are taking our mission back to their companies and saying: ‘This is valuable and impactful work and I’d like to partner with them to raise awareness of women’s healthcare needs’.

Community awareness has a ripple effect that is making a huge difference. For Singapore in particular (where we are starting our research), 49.8 per cent of current responses to our ongoing 2022 Consumer Survey say that they treat their health and wellbeing as a priority.

Around 29 per cent of women in Singapore say they would like to take better care of themselves, but do not know how. This indicates that women are prioritising their health more than ever and are pursuing solutions to do so, but also require education on healthcare needs and solutions available.

Much awareness comes from our content, through social media and our programming events. They are certainly not restricted to just people in the femtech space. We have enthusiast members from pharmaceutical and health companies, VCs and angel investors and any other industry you can think of. People are now aware that we have businesses with a central network through the FemTech Association of Asia, and it’s easier for interested parties to reach out to and learn more about our members.

We’ve seen more amplification since the FemTeh Association of Asia has launched and more collaboration and partnerships. The industry in Singapore and globally has been incredibly inclusive, for example, inviting us to events, to partake in panels or contribute to media features and to meet with various investment networks.

 

What’s next for the FemTech Association of Asia?

We have a few key milestones in our roadmap for 2022. We want to continue to strengthen our four pillars to inspire more entrepreneurs to start businesses and more corporate partnerships, given the support of the FemTech Association of Asia community and we also want to explore launching the FemTech Association of Asia further, as well as encourage more investment in femtech by bringing more research-led thought leadership.

It will certainly be a busy rest of the year!

 

For more info, visit the FemTech Association of Asia.

Q&A

Femasys founder Kathy Lee-Sepsick on entrepreneurship and the need for innovation in women’s health

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Kathy Lee-Sepsick, founder and CEO Femasys

Kathy Lee-Sepsick, founder and CEO of the biomedical company Femasys, opens up about her entrepreneurial journey and what nearly three decades of experience as a top medtech executive have taught her.

Could you tell us about your background and how you got into women’s health?

I spent 10 years in various leadership roles at medtech companies focused in the cardiovascular and orthopaedics specialties. During this time, I realised how underserved the women’s health area was in comparison and the available solutions for reproductive health needs, specifically in permanent birth control were unsuitable.

With inventions that I felt were revolutionary to address the unmet needs in critical areas of reproductive health, I made the decision to start Femasys in 2004.

What inspired you to create Femasys? 

I was inspired by my daughters and desire to create solutions that would offer women suitable reproductive health options in areas that have seen little-to-no innovation.

In addition to realising a widespread global need, I personally faced the same challenges as others when I encountered inadequate options for my own reproductive care. I believe Femasys has the potential to create lasting change.

How would you describe Femasys in a few words?

Femasys is a female-founded and led biomedical company focused on empowering women worldwide as they seek solutions throughout their reproductive journeys by providing revolutionary products that are affordable and accessible.

How would you describe the impact and importance of your work?

Technological advancements in female reproductive health are long overdue, which has driven our focus to develop in-office, accessible, and innovative options. The work we are doing in infertility and permanent birth control are game-changers and have the potential to transform the landscape for women, couples, and their families.

Our work is so important because no one else is focused in advancing these much-needed technologies, which has the opportunity to impact women for generations to come.

People may be thinking ‘How is Femasys transforming women’s healthcare worldwide?’. What’s your response to that?

The product solutions we are advancing address issues women are facing worldwide. We are dedicated to not only helping women here in the US but around the globe as we work to amass country approvals for our product initiatives.

As a small emerging company, the allocation of resources and funds for this effort demonstrates our commitment.

What is the best part about being an entrepreneur in this space? 

It is hard pressed to find a space in healthcare that is this neglected, so the best part is knowing every day that the work we are doing has the potential to make such a significant impact worldwide. Executing on our mission is a constant responsibility that bears immeasurable satisfaction as we achieve our goals.

What is your greatest achievement since establishing Femasys?

My greatest achievement since establishing Femasys is making our products available to women in the US and other countries outside the US as we gain regulatory approvals of our important technologies.

This includes FemaSeed for the next generation of artificial insemination, FemVue for diagnosis a woman’s fallopian tubes with ultrasound, and FemCerv for obtaining a comprehensive tissue sample for diagnosis of cervical cancer.

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Q&A

‘Tamagotchi with a twist’- the device you didn’t know you needed

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Tired of apps? Enter IMMI, the period tracking device you didn’t know you needed. 

The IMMI tracker is a device that can learn to track and monitor your menstrual cycle without an app or smartphone.

The gadget, which doesn’t require internet connectivity, is suitable for any geographies, communities and ages and promises to positively impact women’s sense of agency, body literacy and overall self-esteem and mental health. Founder and CEO, Sarah Cottee, tells us all about it below.

How would you describe IMMI in a few words?

IMMI is building simple, private, fashionable menstrual tracking consumer products that don’t require internet connectivity to work; think tamagotchi that also warns you when your period is due!

What inspired you to create IMMI? 

I was working in private philanthropy, funding social enterprises throughout South East Asia and living in Manila, where I saw firsthand the lack of access to education that women and girls had.

Around the same time I had come off hormonal birth control and was on my own journey of getting to know my body and cycle.

I was very concerned with the privacy limitations of the period tracking apps, so I set out to create a solution that mitigated my worries, and was accessible to women and girls everywhere. 

Sarah Cottee, founder and CEO of IMMI

My passion for women’s health, however, runs in the family. My grandmother, an Irish midwife living in Liverpool, taught women in the local community about cycles and fertility, and worked closely with the University of Birmingham on early, pioneering research they were doing in this space. 

As you were building IMMI, what was the need you identified?

It was two fold; the average age that girls download period tracking apps is 21, and considering they start their periods around age 12, this is a huge gap where they’re not learning about their body, their emotions and their mental health in relation to their cycle.

Secondly, I kept hearing that people who were using apps were either fed up with how much data they were being asked to enter and experiencing “app fatigue”, or concerned with their data being stored on the cloud.

Consumers wanted something low-lift, smart, but that enabled them to keep their data private.

What makes IMMI different?

It doesn’t require an app and all the data is locally stored on the tracker itself, however it’s still “smart”.

We’ve increased the memory so it stores each cycle data, and our algorithm continuously calculates a rolling average. This means that your tracker learns your unique average cycle length making the period predictions more accurate over time.

You also have the ability to “reset” the tracker and clear its memory if needed. With our new design, you can attach it to your keys, purse or bag so that it’s always with you.

People may be thinking ‘How is IMMI helping women better understand their bodies’. What’s your response to that?  

IMMI is designed to empower women by simplifying how they track and understand their menstrual cycles. We started by asking, “Why is it easier to know the date on the calendar than the day of your menstrual cycle?”

Our goal is to make tracking your menstrual cycle as straightforward as checking the time and date. By providing a tool that integrates this aspect of health into daily life, IMMI empowers women to recognise their body’s own unique signals, and gain a deeper understanding of themselves throughout their reproductive years.  

How would you describe the impact and importance of your work?

In a time where women’s health data is being weaponised, providing an option that puts privacy first is vital. IMMI allows women to track and learn about their cycle without any concerns that their data might be shared with a third party. 

Furthermore, we worked with one of the UN Agencies to conduct a pilot and see the impact of IMMI on girls in emerging markets who don’t have access to accurate, trustworthy information, leaving them vulnerable to, social exclusion, dropping out of school or unplanned pregnancy.

Over the six months of the trial, the proportion of women and girls who said they knew the expected start date of their period leaped from 58 per cent to 81 per cent in the Republic of Moldova, and from 47 per cent to 82 per cent in Burkina Faso.

Girls reported a significant decrease in anxiety from having this information accessible, and others said they were finally able to talk to their mum about this topic. 

What is the best part about building IMMI and being an entrepreneur in this space? 

Meeting incredible innovators! I get to meet the most inspiring men and women all over the world who are pushing forward the female health agenda and providing solutions that are truly novel and useful, allowing women to lead a more integrated and empowered life.

To receive the Femtech World newsletter, sign up here.

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Q&A

#FromBerlinWithSolidarity: period tracking app Clue on reproductive rights and data privacy

Femtech World sat down with Clue chief product officer, Rhiannon White, to find out more about the company’s latest campaign

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To mark the one-year anniversary of the overturning of Roe v Wade, the German period tracking app Clue has launched a powerful campaign.

From Berlin With Solidarity, a passion project by American Clue users and advertising creatives Amy Char, Heather Patterson, and Ashley Milhollin, aimed to bring attention to the very real fear of reproductive surveillance faced by women in US states where the loss of reproductive rights means people are afraid their health data could be used to prosecute them for seeking abortion.

The campaign, which featured bold billboards in the US and humorous posters in Berlin, was, in co-CEO Audrey Tsang’s words, directed at sparking a conversation about the importance of privacy rights for equal healthcare.

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