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“The cost of living crisis pushes women with chronic conditions into poverty – I am one of them”

By Isabella Fricker, women’s health advocate



Isabella Fricker, yoga teacher and women’s health advocate
Social isolation, stigma and discrimination might describe how many women with long-term health conditions are feeling during the austerity of the cost of living crisis.

I am one of the hundreds of thousands of young women in the UK living with long-term health conditions that affect their abilities to live independently during the cost of living crisis.

In the past eight years, I have been struggling with chronic conditions like endometriosis, chronic fatigue and vulvodynia, alongside many other unpredictable and debilitating symptoms. I have been unable to work full-time, in-person or remotely.

The co-morbidity of endometriosis, alongside chronic fatigue, has affected my ability to work, even part-time, resulting in a huge loss of income and lost career opportunities, especially when recovering from surgery and managing extended periods of post-exertional malaise (PEM). My heart goes out to all the women experiencing long Covid, chronic fatigue syndrome and other similar conditions.

My life as a young woman trying to forge a creative career in London after university took an unexpected turn. In 2014, I was diagnosed with a borderline ovarian tumour, losing my left ovary at the age of 25. Signed off, I took out a loan to survive, followed by laparoscopic surgeries in 2019 and 2021 for severe endometriosis and IVF preservation funded by the NHS.

When my health has allowed me, I have worked part-time as a visual stylist, customer service executive, creative packer, housekeeper, copy editor and proofreader. I decided to train as a yoga teacher and women’s health therapist, in the hope that one day I could support women at all stages of their life.

Over the years, I have budgeted for counselling, acupuncture and supplements to support the management of my health which has been a huge financial strain.

Loneliness and social isolation, low self-esteem, stigma and discrimination might describe how many women with long-term health conditions are feeling during the austerity of the cost of living crisis.

The security of affordable housing and the lack of properties are making it impossible for women to meet the rise in prices and rental criteria, especially since the local housing allowance has been frozen for the past three years.

I have moved 12 times in over a year which has taken a huge emotional and physical toll. Agencies require a guarantor who is earning 36 times the monthly rent. In some cases, they even ask for six months rent upfront. How can women with long-term health conditions afford that?

Living at home has never been an option for me because my sister has severe myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. Therefore, over the past 18 months, I have stayed with extended family and friends, house-sat, rented Airbnb’s and short-term summer rentals, before securing a one-bed annexe in the summer of 2023.

Women need social independence and financial security. We can’t expect every woman to have savings, or to rely on partners and family.

Furthermore, women who can carry out part-time work won’t always be earning enough to reach economic independence. Women have always been overrepresented in part-time jobs, zero-hour contracts, fewer career opportunities and lower pensions. Not to mention the gender pay gap.

I have been on government support due to my low income. However, the support is not enough to meet the rise in inflation.

If this continues, women with long term-health conditions and disabilities will be pushed into further poverty, resulting in worsening health, preventing them from saving and trying to work in the future.

Women shouldn’t have to cut back on essentials, especially if they require heating to aid any pain or discomfort relating to their condition.

In November 2023, it was announced by the government that hundreds of thousands of people will be told to look for work they can do from home, or face having their benefits cut.

I would like to put questions forward to the government:

Will there be enough, if any, part-time, remote roles for women with long-term health conditions?

Where is the support to find these specific roles?

How can someone with a long-term health condition be expected to work remotely full-time or even part-time if they are unable to?

For those women, trying to enter back into work, support should be offered without any threats to benefits.

Since the world of flexible-hybrid working started post-pandemic, the job market has become increasingly competitive. Reading many online forums, women are failing health assessments. In my opinion, the government and assessors need to understand that people’s symptoms with long-term health conditions vary from day to day.

Navigating the benefits system has made me feel like a third-class citizen. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Health Assessments for UC, ESA and PIP are gruelling. I wouldn’t wish anymore to enter the system to just get a small amount of money that financially only covers the bare minimum. The system needs a total overhaul due to the systemic failings of a broken benefit system.

Femtech companies and women’s health charities need to lead, support, campaign and even employ women with long-term health conditions.

Not every woman will be able to work a part-time 30-hour week. Women have so much potential, but they need the opportunity to thrive in flexible and supportive working environments.

Everyone deserves a warm place to live, nutritious food, fair work, government support and a sense of independence and security – these are the fundamental building blocks of a happy and healthy life.

Isabella Fricker is a UK-based women’s health advocate and yoga teacher at


Femtech funding: what investors want you to know in 2024

If boosting your business is on the cards for 2024, check out the tips investors have shared with us



Building a business takes hard work, but ask any femtech entrepreneur and they will tell you that building a business in women’s health can prove ten times harder.

Women are massively under-represented among both venture-backed entrepreneurs and VC investors, with companies founded solely by women receiving less than three per cent of all venture capital investments and women accounting for less than 15 per cent of check-writers.

The gender health gap, which refers to the wide gaps in medical research and treatment ability for areas that are unique to women, doesn’t help either.

However, we are here to tell you that there are people out there who want to support women and dismantle inequalities.

We sat down with some of the most prominent investors in the health tech space and asked them what advice they would give to women’s health start-ups in 2024. Here’s what they said.

Priya Oberoi, founding general partner at Goddess Gaia Ventures

Head down and build your business, build your sales funnels, improve your margins, and figure out if you need to pivot or not. If you are early-stage there are a number of grants you can apply for.

I think it is important to focus on old fashioned profitability, who is your customer, how do I penetrate this market whilst also keeping your eye on the longer-term goals: growth trajectory and the size of your exit market.

Arianne Kidder, partner at Seae Ventures

The fundamentals of building a company in women’s health should not differ from building any other health care business. Showing early traction on solving a significant need for a patient segment, while producing outcomes for the patient and the entity that will pay for said outcomes are all important.

However, in women’s health, we know all too well the barriers to raising capital. Build relationships early and constantly iterate the pitch to ensure it speaks to as broad of an audience as possible.

Storytelling backed by dat plus maximising chances to pitch plus a bit of luck should produce opportunities for the many phenomenal founders taking on the great responsibility to build for women’s health that is still so needed.

Marissa Fayer, angel investor and entrepreneur-in-residence at GrayBella Capital

Femtech start-ups should look both inside the femtech investment world and also outside of it, into general healthcare and technology funding sources.

There is a deficit of women’s health investors, and if executives/founders/CEOs look outside the limited funding landscape of femtech, it broadens the opportunity pool of capital and also exposes other non-specific women’s health investors to the industry.

You have the ability to show investors the opportunity and the returns, which in a few short years will open the funding market up to others following you.

Mary Grove, managing partner at Bread & Butter Ventures

Hone in on your go-to-market plan and stay laser focused on execution.

Healthcare continues to be a constrained capital market, so focusing on defining your GTM and how you will test, validate, and shift gears, if needed, is super important to ensuring you have sufficient runway to hit the milestones that will allow you to raise your next round of funding.

Annie Theriault, managing partner at

Think strategically, comprehensively and creatively about your financing strategy – look at the whole capital structure for your financing, from grants or revenue to debt and equity, and structure each of those components creatively as well.

For example, for equity, look to VCs, but leverage family offices and foundations as well. For revenues, some companies may want to jump in on joint projects or a consumer strategy.

Each start-up is different and so is each subsector of femtech (e.g. digital platforms vs. medical devices), so be really intentional, thoughtful and re-evaluate your strategy regularly.

Jessica Federer, board member at Angelini Ventures

Consider the type of investor you want to add to your cap table. VCs aren’t the only option.

Strategics, or corporate VCs, can bring different things to the table to support company growth. This also applies to the increasing number of foundations with investment arms, as well as family offices and local governments.

Poonam Malik, head of investments at the University of Strathclyde

Focus on crafting a compelling narrative that emphasises both the societal impact and financial potential of their innovations and clearly articulate how your solution addresses a pressing women’s health issue. Demonstrate a keen understanding of the industry landscape, large market size and highlight a scalable business model to reach that potential.

Engage investors by showcasing a diverse and experienced team. Ultimately, the key is to convey a powerful story that aligns passion with profitability, instilling confidence in investors about the transformative potential of your venture.

For slightly advance stage health tech start-ups with a valid clinical viable product, my advice would be to prioritise robust clinical validation. Establishing the effectiveness and safety of your solution through rigorous scientific evidence will instil confidence in investors.

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The Craftory’s Valerie Evans on the rise of women’s health consumer goods companies

Valerie Evans is an investor at the global investment house The Craftory



Valerie Evans, investor at The Craftory

For decades, issues around women’s health and personal care have been surrounded by stigma and misinformation. Thankfully, if we look at consumer goods companies in the fertility, menopause or wellness space, things are changing.

One person who knows this too well is Valerie Evans, investor at the global investment house The Craftory. Here, she shares with us what excites her in this sector and what she would want more founders to know.

Valerie, we know how passionate you are about consumer goods companies. Could you tell us what specific areas attract you as an investor?

At The Craftory, we invest in fast-moving consumer goods. We look at anything in the consumer goods space and we’re especially interested in women’s health.

We tend to look at [businesses in] period care, menopause care, prenatal, as well as anything that impacts chronic conditions like endometriosis and PCOS.

What do you look for in a start-up?

We usually invest in companies that are generating around US$15m run rate. However, aside from revenue, we are also looking at how that revenue is being generated. Is it from multiple products? Is it from one product? What does your growth look like? How sustainable is the margin profit?

Then it’s very important for us to make sure the product actually works the way it’s being claimed to work. This means making sure that the product is based in science, that there’s research that goes into the product development process and that there is an understanding around how new product development is conducted.

Then more broadly, we look at the market size and potential market size based on consumer behaviours.

Are there any femtech trends or companies that have caught your eye?

We’ve just invested in Needed, a science-backed perinatal nutrition company, which uses nutrition to improve perinatal outcomes. They’ve also created Needed Labs, which is focused on developing new data through research and clinical insights. Given the lack of representation of women in clinical research, we are bullish about the focus to advance women’s health.

We are optimistic about the number of companies focusing on treating different areas of women’s health, such as overlooked chronic conditions, improving testing for women, and creating products specifically for women, rather than backfitting default-male oriented products for women.

Thiya, a company focused on improving cervical cancer screening services, has created an at-home smear test, allowing women to access vital testing more easily and comfortably.

When products default to the male body, it can be difficult to find products that are more suitable for women’s bodies. There are a couple brands making advances in this space, including Oya Femtech, an apparel brand focused on better vaginal health.

Clothing brands, especially in the sports world, have historically been created for men which means women don’t have access to products designed solely for them; that’s exactly what Oya is trying to change.

Ida Sports and Hilma Running Shoes are additional examples of making sporting goods for women’s bodies to not only fit better but reduce injuries women face from products ill-suited for their bodies.

You invest in a lot of women-led companies. Have you got any tips for female founders in the consumer goods space looking to secure investment?

I would say, first, research the investor fully before having a conversation – there are many messages that are very unrelated to what we are doing. The more homework you do on an investor, the better you know the potential fit.

Secondly, have a data room ready to go. It makes it a lot easier to have a conversation and you’ll get answers a lot faster from investors if you have some of these key metrics already put together at the stage in which we operate.

Lastly, figure out a way to connect with the investor. While investors may not be able to connect with some women’s health issues directly, it is a priority for many.

Effectively communicating the issue your company is solving matters a great deal for investors to see the growth and market potential. It’s very much about making sure you’re resonating with the investors whenever you’re pitching them.

Valerie Evans is an investor at the global investment house The Craftory. Valerie joined The Craftory after completing her MBA at INSEAD, where she also spent time working with a variety of impact-focused funds and female-founder focused funds in Europe. She has helped funds analyse potential femtech investments and is now spearheading the women’s health focus at The Craftory. At The Craftory, she sits on the investment team where she focuses on finding brands seeking to change the impact on people, planet, or society in the consumer landscape.

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Passion Capital’s Eileen Burbidge on femtech and addressing inequitable access to healthcare



Eileen Burbidge, founding partner at Passion Capital and executive director at Fertifa

Passion Capital is a London-based early-stage venture capital firm committed to fostering an ecosystem of technology, collaboration and executional excellence in Europe. The firm aims to help founders and early-stage teams build impactful technology companies and has been involved in the largest European technology exits of the past decade.

Here, Eileen Burbidge, founding partner at Passion Capital and executive director at Passion portfolio company, reproductive health start-up Fertifa, shares her thoughts on the femtech sector and how entrepreneurs could maximise their chances of securing funding.

The global femtech market size was valued at US5.1b in 2021 and is expected to grow. What areas excite you the most in this space?

I usually try to avoid the label “femtech” because I fervently believe that anything affecting or targeting women, who are 51 per cent of the world’s population (mothers, partners, daughters and sisters), genuinely affects us all – and is not “just” femtech, but tech without any qualification.

Having said that, to answer the direct question, any solutions directed at women is of interest to me, given how historically under-invested, under-targeted and under-served women have been all this time.

I’m particularly interested in health and addressing inequitable access to healthcare and wellbeing support for any and all women’s health issues, which have been historically under-funded.

What business models are you interested in?

Like most people, I’m always dazzled and intrigued by consumer propositions (as a potential customer myself), but as an investor I believe faster and more efficient scale is achieved through B2B.

Along those lines, I find SaaS business models and propositions with recurring revenue most compelling. For example, one of the reasons I’m so bullish and excited about what we’re doing at Fertifa is because we sell to corporates and employers which feels a ripe channel.

What do you look for in a healthcare start-up?

As an early-stage investor, I’m always focussed on the founding team. For healthcare, this means I’m looking for a set of complementary skills on the team, which includes high performing start-up experience and instinct alongside experience from the traditional healthcare market, system or patient care.

Too many times I’ll see very strong tech-centric teams without any clinical experience or understanding of how health providers or clinicians work or on the other hand, medical professionals wanting to solve a problem simply by bringing on an “IT person” – and neither of those feels to me likely to succeed.

What are the qualities of a good founding team?

I look for a combination of complementary skills. Within health, this means a balance of “blind ambition” about what’s possible and pragmatism about how long it may take to create, deliver or distribute value for health and patient outcomes.

What are some of the mistakes founders make when seeking investment?

I hesitate to describe anything founders do as mistakes, because everything is simply a step or iteration towards a better outcome or solution. Some founders might try to pitch a proposition without considering how they’ll bring it to market (i.e., customer acquisition or distribution channels) and others might spend too much time building and perfecting before they speak to their target customer or distribution partner base.

There are so many angles and points to develop and refine when building something new, so there are likely sub optimal decisions at every turn. For example, one mistake would be to choose investors solely based on financial terms (or quantum) and not put enough consideration into the working dynamic, relationship or trust (or lack thereof) with the target investor.

How can they maximise their chances of securing investment?

The only obvious way to maximise chances of securing investment is to not rely on nor need it in order to build.

So whatever founders can do to maximise their optionality, either by bootstrapping, friends and family angel investor support, grant funding, loans or ideally generating revenue, any of those would help the founders to not depend on investment as existential and absolutely required (which would make it difficult to have sound judgement).

What would be your best tips for founders wanting to attract investment?

The only piece of advice I’m comfortable offering is that founders shouldn’t take “rejection” as a negative nor personally.

Take it as input, feedback and ideas to consider alongside any other feedback – and try to incorporate it to further improve either your thesis and conviction or to address early friction.


Eileen Burbidge is a founding partner at Passion Capital, the pre-eminent early-stage technology venture fund based in London, which led to Fortune Magazine describing her as “The Queen of British VC” and one of London’s most influential venture capitalists. She brings extensive operational experience to her investment activities gleaned from roles at tech giants including Yahoo!, Skype and Apple. On behalf of Passion, Burbidge serves as non-executive director and board representative on a number of fast-growth tech firms including Monzo Bank, Marshmallow, Butternut Box and others. 

Burbidge is also the executive director at Fertifa, where she applies her passion for inclusive and accessible reproductive healthcare after experiencing her own fertility and reproductive health journeys. She was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to business in 2015.

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