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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.

Sorina Mihaila is the Femtech World editor, covering technology, research and innovation in women's health. Sorina is also a contributor for the neuro-rehabilitation magazine NR Times.

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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The AI start-up on a mission to democratise IVF

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Daniella Gilboa, co-founder and CEO of AIVF
One in six people experience infertility globally, according to the World Health Organization. However, many couples are still unable to afford treatment. Daniella Gilboa, co-founder and CEO of the Israeli fertility start-up AIVF, tells us how AI could democratise IVF and increase access to affordable, high-quality fertility care for those struggling to conceive.

 

What is AIVF?

AIVF is an Israeli reproductive technology company transforming the fertility journey to be intelligent, accessible, and full of hope.

Based on scientific research and driven by real-world clinical use, AIVF developed a proprietary Fertility Operating System with automated embryo evaluation and deep learning algorithms to optimize clinical processes and improve patient outcomes.

Our solution, EMA, addresses two unmet needs in fertility. First, AI capabilities assist embryologists in their embryo evaluation, instantly identifying what the human eye cannot detect alone.

Second, with the integration of platforms, our single dashboard system streamlines all data in one place. From patient records to personalised embryo analytics, our platform connects the patient, lab, and clinic all in one place.

What is the story behind your company?

While writing my Ph.D. dissertation, it was suggested that my thesis could be a start-up. This field attracted me immediately. I believe being an embryologist is the most fantastic job in the world —using expertise to support individuals and families in bringing life into the world and homes.

While passionate about being an embryologist, I realised the more significant impact I could make is combining this with my previous experience using complex data to solve problems.

Knowing this field’s “ins and outs” made me realise there had been no significant progress and a lack of innovation for decades. I decided to jump right in, knowing I could make a difference for the better.

The move from embryologist to CEO of a start-up was a huge step, and I am constantly learning. My passion for helping bring children into the world remains the same. It’s my greater obligation to the world around me to create the next generation of IVF for clinicians, embryologists, and, most importantly, patients.

What makes your technology different?

The AIVF software algorithm was developed using hundreds of thousands of images and videos of embryos tagged with successful conception and leading to a normal pregnancy.

Currently, the programme can independently identify the embryos with the highest chances of developing into normal pregnancy.

The software AIVF developed identifies biological processes the human eye can’t detect. For example, the technology can spot mitochondrial ‘energy action’ directly linked to the embryo’s collapse or chances of implantation.

Unlike most deep learning algorithms, the AIVF platform identifies the patterns driving its actions and can explain its decisions.

It will mark, for example, that it has given a low score to a specific embryo due to disruptions or disorders found during its development, a different behavioural pattern at the cell division stage, or abnormal morphological appearance such as fractures.

How would your technology change the patient experience and fertility care more broadly?

On average, the IVF journey takes four years, seven cycles, and three miscarriages, costing an average of US$12,000 per IVF round.

By improving the embryologist’s capabilities in selecting the most viable embryo, there is potential for AI to help a patient conceive in one or two cycles. Our technology aims to minimise IVF’s financial and emotional costs by reducing the cost and time spent.

Additionally, our technology aims to add transparency to each patient’s IVF journey. While patients can access more information than ever, they make decisions based on a leaflet in the doctor’s office or a quick internet search.

Individuals need friendly and professional guidance to help them understand their journey’s complexities. Our integrated platform provides a window into the IVF lab and personalised analytics that help patients understand each step of the journey.

Where are you with the business now?

We are integrated with Southeast Asia, South America, North America, and Europe fertility clinics. So far, studies from our European clinics show that the platform has demonstrated a 70 per cent probability of success for embryos with a high EMA score.

The clinical studies also showed that EMA improved embryologists’ accuracy by 38 per cent and reduced the number of cycles to achieve pregnancy by 21.5 per cent on average. By improving embryologists’ accuracy, AIVF saves both time and money in the fertility journey.

What are your goals for this year?

IVF is one of the most important medical innovations in the last 50 years. Yet, the legacy technology used today in clinics can’t serve the 25 million women in the US who have limited or no access to fertility care.

At AIVF, we aim to use technology to make IVF efficient, accurate, and accessible to all who wish to grow their families.

Where do you see AIVF in five years?

Embryo evaluation using AI will democratise IVF by increasing access across underserved groups. More specifically, it will facilitate reduced costs by optimising our labour, laboratory performance, shorter time to a healthy, live birth of a singleton, and reduced failed cycles by not transferring embryos with a low chance of implantation (deselected embryos).

The promise of AI mitigated freedom for the computational embryologist is not just a new toolkit. It is the democratisation of high-quality IVF services. We call it IVF 3.0.

As we integrate AI technology into IVF practices and our work as embryologists and clinicians, the goals should remain the same: minimise costs and patient drop-out due to stress and financial fatigue while ensuring the highest quality patient care.

 

Daniella Gilboa is the co-founder and CEO of the AI technology start-up AIVF. As an IVF researcher, she is dedicated to advancing the science of using machine learning to optimise IVF processes. Gilboa is committed to driving the next generation of IVF technology and increase pregnancy success rates.

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Q&A

The founder on a mission to help women find the perfect-fitting bra

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Valentina Biglia, founder and CEO at FindYourBra

When Valentina Biglia launched FindYourBra she had one mission in mind: to change the way women shop for bras. Driven by her grandmother’s battle with breast cancer, she set about creating a unique platform that would not only redefine women’s shopping experience but assist them with finding the perfect-fitting bra. She tells us all about it below.

 

Can you tell us a bit more about your background?

I studied product design at the Politecnico of Turin, Italy. The idea of creating things from scratch has always fascinated me. Beauty and harmony are two characteristics that I seek and pursue.

I did a master’s degree in advanced interior design for commercial spaces at the IED in Barcelona. Products, fashion and the user experience in shopping are something I have always been passionate about, just as I am interested in philosophy, psychology and anthropology.

I studied gestalt, a branch of psychology, to better understand the behavioural patterns of human beings.

During my professional experience I had a parenthesis where I trained and worked as a bra fitter in a specialised lingerie shop in Barcelona. This experience changed my life and led me to founding FindYourBra.

What inspired you to create FindYourBra?

There are three main things that inspired me to create FindYourBra: firstly my personal experience with my body. I have never been satisfied with it, in particular with my breasts. I thought they were a “problem” until I found the right bra size.

On the other hand, I saw how finding the right bra size immediately changed the expression on the face of the people I was serving in the fitting rooms of the bra shop. At the same time I understood that the user experience was quite poor that any comment or look could create a trauma for them and that at that moment their self-esteem was at stake.

And, third reason, certainly not because of importance, is because of my grandmother. She has fought breast cancer twice, she has come out the winner again in November 2022.

She has been hiding her breasts every day for the last 30 years, fixing the breast asymmetry with socks stuffed with rice. She and other women like her inspire me every day to create a solution to help them get their lives back as soon as possible.

How would you describe your innovation in a few words?

The easiest, fastest and more intuitive way to buy bras online that suits you in total privacy and autonomy. A selection based on you, your measurements – taken with our patented measurement system – needs and preferences that changes as you changes.

No barriers, No measurements, No conversions, No size charts: just buy what fits to feel supported, comfortable and beautiful.

(more…)

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