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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

‘Sex is something that’s essential to life’

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FemTech World meets Georgia Di Mattos and Bianca Dunne, founders of iPlaySafe, to discuss sexual wellness and health.

Tell us about iPlaySafe in a nutshell

Georgia: iPlaySafe App is a new medical platform that allows users to get tested and importantly share their sexual health status with others in a simple and anonymous way. 

All users have to do is download the app on their phone, and purchase an iPlaySafe Box.  This is an at-home self testing kit to use and test for the six most common and infectious STIs (Clamydia, Gonorrhea, HIV, Syphilis, Hepatits B and C) via blood and urine samples, before sending in a pre-paid envelope and receiving the results within two to five working days. 

We wanted to create a safer physical and digital environment for individuals of all ages and wider communities to get tested discreetly and conveniently and to share their statuses in a fun and sexy way.

What have you achieved and what do you want to achieve with iPlaySafe?

Bianca: We’re working with a new and established lab, called PreventX, which will help us roll out our app to more consumers in the UK and also in Europe as it has presence in a couple of cities. We are also in discussion with other medical partners which could be a game changer in making sexual health testing more accessible, so watch this space!

Georgia: We also have a number of exciting conversations on the table with some well known dating apps and community based platforms which we hope to integrate with. We don’t want to be seen as a competitor to other dating apps out there, but more of a solution, to help those who are actively dating, meeting new people and practicing sex – to make sure they do it healthily. Normalising online testing and sexual health testing is a huge focus for us.

What benefits can iPlaysafe have for women’s health?

Bianca: An incredible amount. The number of men, women, all genders who may not know that they have an STI is incredibly high. The number of STIs contracted daily continues to rise and with sexual health/testing being a taboo, it’s very dangerous for people not getting tested. Some STIs such as chlamydia, if untreated, can lead to further health scares and infertility down the line so it’s of paramount importance that people are getting tested proactively – rather than reactively so as to detect any mishaps right away.

Why is important for Femtech to focus on sexual health?

Georgia: Sexual wellness has gone a long way in terms of tech and tech advancements. Vibrators of course are an obvious offering within this, but integrating technology into testing and sexual health testing itself is something that’s so important and we hope will really be a game changer.

Further down the line, it would be amazing if we could use FemTech to not only help with just sexual health testing but things like cervical smear testing – as again, these are things that are avoided by so many women and those who have vulvas. 

We are hoping that by integrating and incorporating tech into testing today, we can help a greater number of people focus on their sexual health and do more proactively and regularly.

What should change about sexual health education?

Bianca: Thankfully, there have been improvements in the world of sexual wellness. However, we are conscious that there is a still significant gap in the world today when it comes to our sexual health.

Without at-home testing services, it’s so difficult and inconvenient for people to get tested – it should become a normal, consistent thing that we all do regularly. That’s a huge goal of ours – by challenging the space and helping normalise testing, we want sexual health screening to be a fundamental and legal requirement for everyone to do.

Why do you think sexual health is still considered a taboo?

Bianca: Sadly, when most people today think of STIs and sexual health infections, they automatically think ‘that’s dirty, that’s disgusting’ – whereas, if you really think about it there’s not much difference in catching a cold from somewhere. Sex is something that’s essential to life. We all have it. We all want to maintain healthy lives – which is why we brush our teeth, we go to the doctors, we practice yoga – so why not consider sex and getting our sexual health tested the same proactive action to take to stay healthy?

What do you see in the future of iPlaySafe?

Georgia: We’re ambitious but we know we can make our dreams a reality. 

Firstly, when it comes to sexual health, we want to work with more reputable partners that will really help us normalise testing, making it easier and more cost effective for people of all demographics, ages, and lifestyle to get tested. 

The dating world is another huge element that we want to improve. By integrating with dating apps, we’re making the dating world safer for those practising sex. 

We know we’ve got a long way to go in ensuring our app meets the needs of all and the industry too, but it’s a hugely exciting place and it’s going to be a game changer!

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Yoppie CEO: “We can’t shy away from these conversations”

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Femtech World meets Daniella Peri, CEO of Yoppie, a rising force in digitised women’s health.

Tell us about Yoppie in a nutshell

Yoppie provides personalised products plans and expert digital resources. Yoppie’s products include premenstrual syndrome supplements, hormonal skincare and period care. We’ve recently just launched a range of supplements targeting the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis.

What are the values of Yoppie and what is its mission?

Yoppie aims to cater to women’s personal needs as menstruation is incredibly personal and differs from person to person. Catering to women’s personal needs shouldn’t be a luxury but a norm and a necessity.

What sets Yoppie out from the femtech crowd?

Yoppie focuses on personalised plans as everyone’s menstrual cycle is different. We offer digital advices that are hosted on our website and which consists of medically-backed articles, webinars and Instagram live videos with gynaecologist and nutritionists from our scientific advisory network.

Yoppie is on a mission to destigmatize the conversion around polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis. To do so we’re offering tailored-made supplements to treat symptoms.

What difference can Yoppie make for women?

Yoppie is all about empowering women to take control of their menstrual health journey, not just by providing high-quality period care products but by approaching it more holistically. For example, this includes facial sheet masks for skincare needs during different phases of their menstrual cycle and expert advice on the best types of exercise when on your period. 

We recognise that getting access to high-quality resources, diagnoses and products has long been overlooked, and we are here to change that.

Why is it important to connect women’s health and technology? What are the benefits of femtech?

A study of ours found that only 37 per cent of those who suffer from menstrual health issues such as endometriosis, premenstrual syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome sought additional help to manage their menstrual health better. 

The resources available on femtech platforms have the ability to help more people by becoming more accessible.

What are the challenges facing femtech and how does Yoppie try to address them?

Femtech still does not cover enough conversations in the wider sphere around common conditions such as endometriosis that I feel need to be addressed. 

For instance, one in 10 women have polycystic ovary syndrome, yet it’s only just being spoken about in the mainstream media and the resources out there are limited. 

We never want to shy away from those conversations; that’s what Yoppie was built from and what Yoppie will continue to do!

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Q&A

Roe v Wade: How telemedicine could transform reproductive and abortion care

Telemedicine clinics are expecting increased demand for reproductive care after right to abortion overturned

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Following the US Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion, millions of Americans in half of the states will no longer fully possess rights to health and bodily integrity. We sat down with Choix’s CEO, Cindy Adam, to find out how the telemedicine clinic aims to help patients access reproductive and abortion care safely and legally.

 

FemTech World: What is Choix?

Cindy Adam: Choix (pronounced “choice”) is a telemedicine clinic that provides abortion care and other reproductive and sexual healthcare services such as emergency contraception and birth control.

We believe everyone should be free to make their own decisions about their bodies, their families, and their futures and we empower patients to get safe and affordable abortion care. All that’s needed is a phone or computer.

FTW: How did you establish Choix?

CA: Before launching Choix in the autumn of 2020, our providers were delivering contraceptive care via telehealth at other organisations and noticed a lack of abortion care provision, despite a solid and growing evidence base showing the safety of efficacy of the telehealth model.

Our founders came together to create the first asynchronous telehealth clinic providing abortion care – which has an efficacy rate consistent with in-person care, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association The focus was and continues to be on both the patient and provider experience of a telehealth platform because telehealth must be compassionate, easy and private.

So, we founded Choix with a vision of using telemedicine to expand access for all people who seek safe and affordable abortion care from the privacy of their own homes.

FTW: Why is Choix different?

CA: Our patients can communicate with us on their schedule via regular or encrypted text, depending on their preference. No appointments necessary. Core to the Choix offering is the experience of our founding clinicians in both the reproductive healthcare and telemedicine spaces. These forces combined allowed us to create a platform that centres both the patients and the providers.

Further, our medical leadership team’s continued participation in direct patient care allows us to implement recommendations from our providers to improve the provider and patient experience in real-time – recommendations that might take much longer to improve in other organisations.

There is also peace of mind for patients when they know their providers are experienced, knowledgeable and trustworthy. This is especially true for the abortion space, which carries a lot of stigma and where few patients have access to readily available information before they begin seeking abortion care.

FTW: Why is it important for women to have access to emergency contraception?

CA: It is essential for women and people with periods to have access to full spectrum reproductive health care – including abortion and all forms of contraception. This critical care is key to their overall health and quality of life, and there are significant medical, economic, and social benefits that come with access to care including:

    • Greater financial stability and independence
    • Lower rates of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), teen pregnancies, HIV, gynaecological cancers, and complications caused by untreated STIs
    • The ability to treat painful periods, menstrual regulation and other non-contraceptive health benefits that come with access to hormonal contraception
    • Improved maternal health – fewer women dying in childbirth or experiencing severe complications
    • Safer abortions completed earlier in the pregnancy

FTW: How does Choix help women access abortion care at home?

CA: Choix currently serves women and people with periods in the states of California, Illinois, Colorado and New Mexico. Our patients begin care by completing an online medical questionnaire and creating a patient portal account after which they will be contacted by one of our clinicians.

Once the patient is approved for care, medications are shipped to them via Choix’s partner pharmacy, Honeybee Health. The patient is also sent educational materials and a video content to help them prepare for the process. We check in with patients through follow-ups and support patients throughout the process and we aim to help ease some of the financial, physical and emotional stresses that can come with in-person care by providing private, discrete and non-judgemental care at home. Through telemedicine, we aim to help expand access to care by saving patients both time and money.

FTW: As more than half of the US could ban abortion, what can clinics like Choix do to support women?

CA: It’s important for clinics to support all people seeking abortion care. We are prepared to meet the increased demand for medication abortion as a result of restrictions and bans on abortion care, and we are certainly seeing an increase in the number of people traveling from banned or restricted states.

Our platform allows us to scale quickly and efficiently and we are focused on growing our provider team to support the increased need for telehealth abortion care. Telemedicine clinics can also alleviate capacity issues in states that are seeing an influx of patients from states where abortion is banned or restricted, helping local clinics to reserve in-person visits for patients who require or prefer in-person care.

Choix can also help people coming to the states we are licensed to offer care – currently California, Illinois, Colorado and New Mexico. As with all healthcare, state residency is not a requirement for accessing care, but people do need to be in the states we serve for their telehealth visits and in order to receive medication.

FTW: How does Choix help opening up the conversation around women’s health and abortion care?

CA: Many people are still learning about the safety and efficacy of medication abortion in general, and the knowledge gap is even greater around medication abortion via telehealth. Ensuring that people are aware of the safety, reliability, and availability of abortion pills – both in-clinic and via telehealth –  is equally important. Sharing this essential information is something we at strive to do and we all can and should do.

FTW: What feedback did you get from those who accessed your services?

CA: We send a follow-up survey aftercare and we have got wonderful feedback from our patients both from a data and direct feedback perspective. This data is collected and shared with permission from our patients and has been made anonymous. On average, our patients score us a 4.6 out of 5 – with 5 being “perfect” – and 98 per cent of them would recommend Choix to a friend.

FTW: What are your ambitions for Choix for the next five years?

CA: Choix will continue to expand to every state where we can safely and legally provide abortion care, and our goal is to be in every single one of those states by the end of 2023. We will be expanding our sexual and reproductive healthcare services to include testing and treatment for sexually transmitted and vaginal infections. We are also working to connect with corporations who want to offer abortion care and sexual and reproductive healthcare benefits to their team members.

For more info, visit mychoix.co.

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