The Well Woman, Redefined: Five Female Femtech Founders Shaping Women’s Health
I must admit that the making of this article has been such an indulgence. I feel so lucky to live in an era with founders like Joanne, Jenna, Allison, Jill and Kristina of Kindbody, Uqora, Every Mother, Genneve, and kegg. For the past month, I have been taking a personally-directed master class in the area of “femtech” — a fusion of technology and women’s health. The reality is, however, that most women do not need to delve into the depths of the internet to learn about the areas of women’s health that need disruption. Our own library of health experiences is often rich enough with failings to make our expertise immediately relevant.
In my conversations with femtech founders over the last few weeks, I have consistently had the warm feeling of being welcomed into the “red tent” where frustration about periods and pregnancy moves from a whisper to fervent discussion and shared wisdom. While this red tent is more apt to be a buzzy conference room at The Wing these days, the beauty of honest female conversations and bonds over the very physical experience of being a woman remain.
State of Femtech & Deal Flow in the Women’s Health Space
In this era of free-flowing venture capital, innovations in the women’s health space are on the rise. Over the past year, there have been 20+ deals in the femtech space with over 47 active investors. The global femtech market is set to reach a whopping $53B in 2027. Investments in consumer healthcare, by way of physical clinics, have occurred in parallel to the growth of the femtech market, and they often intersect. Reinventing the female patient experience has expanded digitally as companies with and without physical space have identified the need to provide 24/7 accessibility in addition to scalability. Kindbody, featured below, is a fusion of femtech and consumer health with its focus on reimagining the fertility clinic and providing digital tools to connect patients to their providers beyond the confines of the treatment room.
Complementary growth and advancement in behavioral health applications and biometrics has spurred the creation of patient empowerment tools as well. Major technology players like Apple have picked up on consumers’ interest in “knowing thyself” and maintaining personal health records on their phone. Apple announced a long-term study with NIH and Harvard in September that will leverage Apple Watch data to monitor and evaluate critical women’s health concerns, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), infertility, and osteoporosis.
In selecting Kindbody, Uqora, Every Mother, Genneve, and kegg for interviews, I wanted to be cognizant of representing the range of start-up activity in the women’s health space. These 5 companies showcase the disruption happening at every stage of womanhood — from infections that particularly impact women to the various gaps in prenatal, postpartum and menopause support that women receive. The founders are united by their immense compassion and commitment to helping women to take control over their health outcomes.
Uqora founder Jenna Ryan poignantly noted in our conversation that women have the tendency to shoulder pain. For so long, many women’s health challenges were seen as part of daily life or as a secondary concern next to that of the child. In that vein of thinking, many femtech startups are rallying around the importance of having a strong community of support. Every Mother and Genneve specifically embed a community element into their fitness and educational platform to ensure women know they are not alone in struggles with diastasis recti and menopause, respectively. Kindbody, Uqora, Every Mother, Genneve, and kegg are all female-led startups in an era where many women’s health decisions at the national level are still decided by a male majority. In the words of Kindbody co-founder Joanne Schneider, it is time to put the women back in women’s health. By enhancing the female health experiences of the future as founders, investors and customers, we all play a role in celebrating the unique needs of the female body.
The Who: Joanne Schneider
The What: Kindbody is reinventing women’s healthcare for the modern woman, starting with fertility and wellness services. Through a national network of boutique clinics, Kindbody is bringing together clinical excellence, best-in-class technology, and accessible pricing — connecting the full patient experience in one intuitive solution. In addition to fertility services including IVF, egg freezing and third-party reproduction (donor egg and donor sperm), the Company’s services include gynecological care, nutrition counseling, mental health services, and return-to-work coaching. Kindbody is also proud of KindEMR, their proprietary medical records software, and KindPortal, their personalized patient portal, as they’ve allowed the Kindbody team to fully rethink the patient journey.
Founder Background: Joanne is the Co-Founder and Head of Product at Kindbody. Joanne is a self-described third culture kid with a diverse background in technology and healthcare. She started her career at Google, founded a medical tourism company, served as an Acumen Fund Fellow, and then led Product teams at Flatiron Health, New York’s top VC backed exit.
The Moment of Inspiration: Prior to Kindbody, CEO Gina Bartasi founded the Fertility Authority as an educational resource for women and families. Fertility Authority later merged to become Progyny, which built a first-of-its-kind fertility benefits solution for employers. Kindbody was founded in 2018 to cut out the middle man by building provider-led clinics from the ground up, reinventing the patient experience and increasing accessibility of care.
Kindbody’s Guiding Vision: Kindbody’s vision is to redesign women’s health services from the ground up and to democratize access to care.
The Kindbody Customer: Kindbody’s target demographic is between 26 to 42 years of age. Kindbody provides all of the services a woman would need in her pre and post-natal years, including OB/GYN services, mental health support, nutrition counseling, and fertility assessments. Kindbody offers a “Well Woman” membership that is inclusive of care for endometriosis and PCOS.
Milestones ahead for Kindbody: Kindbody just reached a new milestone in the past month with the opening of their flagship retail-level clinic in New York on September 10th, in addition to their existing clinics in Midtown, NYC and in the Castro in San Francisco. They will be opening a clinic in LA next, launching a small clinic with a larger flagship clinic to follow. Additionally, Kindbody will focus on building out their digital experiences through the end of 2019 and 2020. They use technology to not only make in-clinic care modern and seamless, but also to help patients feel connected to their care even outside of the clinic, i.e. personalized digital care plans, video-chatting with a fertility nurse while doing hormone injections for IVF, etc.
Joanne’s Advice for Female Founders in Femtech and Women’s Health
“Don’t be afraid of thinking big and pitching big! Believe you can build a huge business and don’t be shy of big numbers.”
The Who: Jenna Ryan
The What: Uqora is a start-up dedicated to biohacking UTIs. Uqora was designed to help more people rely less on antibiotics. They have 3 signature products — Control, Target, and Promote, that are built on clinical research and supported by physicians who believe in prevention.
Founder Background: Jenna Ryan transitioned to the world of UTI prevention after several years at DocuSign, focused on growing their direct-to-consumer e-commerce business. Her personal experiences led her to found Uqora with her partner, Spencer Gordon, who has a background in molecular biology.
The Moment of Inspiration: Uqora was built after Jenna Ryan consistently struggled with UTIs and became determined to figure out how to best manage the problem without antibiotics. According to a 2019 article in The New York Times, UTIs are the single biggest risk to healthy people from drug-resistant germs. In creating the Uqora products, Jenna and Spencer leveraged cutting-edge research at universities and hospitals on preventative medicine in addition to natural ingredients. Jenna noted that women have the tendency to shoulder pain and so “women’s health issues” are often overlooked. Uqora is her answer for the UTI struggle!
Uqora’s Guiding Vision: Uqora’s guiding vision is chiefly to help women know that UTIs are not their fault and that women should not feel on their own when it comes to this infection. UTIs are the second most common infection in the world!
The Uqora’s Customer: Uqora is for any woman struggling with UTIs or seeking to prevent UTIs. Uqora’s Control, Target and Promote products can be used as a set or separately. You can take a quiz here to see what might work best for you! These products are squeaky clean and contain anti-inflammatory ingredients like curcumin and green tea extract. Uqora also has an amazing Instagram presence — follow them @uqora.
Milestones ahead for Uqora: Uqora has ambitious long term plans to support women’s needs. They are focused on growing awareness and use of their Uqora product set. They are currently recruiting individuals for a long-term clinical study. If you are interested in participating in the study, please check out the details here.
Jenna’s Advice for Female Founders in Femtech and Women’s Health
“Get to know the other women making waves in femtech. There is a growing number of incredible female founders driving massive innovation. The vast majority of them are super generous with their advice and willing to collaborate in a ton of different ways. I’ve felt so supported by the community of women’s health brands — it always makes me think of the expression “a rising tide lifts all the boats.” We really are stronger together.”
Company: Every Mother
The Who: Allison Rappaport
The What: Every Mother is a program that embodies what Every Mother needs: education, a space to share, and the tools to care for and love her body through pregnancy and many years beyond that. The program specifically offers an evidence-based pre and postnatal fitness exercise program proven to prevent and resolve diastasis recti and improve core strength and function while building total body fitness through safe, effective workouts.
Founder Background: Allison is the Co-Founder & CEO of Every Mother. Allison knew from a young age that she desired a meaningful career and identified early on that she had an entrepreneurial bug. After a successful few years in finance, she got her MBA at Columbia Business School and upon graduation, she launched the Columbia Business Lab (now Columbia Startup Lab) to foster innovation in the Columbia community. She then founded InteractAble, an education-focused company, providing social skills and cultural learning. During this journey, Allison met Leah Keller, a personal trainer in New York that had popularized a pre and postpartum exercise regimen called The Dia Method. Leah launched a Dia Method pop-up class in San Francisco and was met with overwhelming demand. Shortly thereafter, NPR featured The Dia Method and the article became the 4th most popular article of 2017. Following the pop-up launch and NPR feature, Allison and Leah joined forces to form Every Mother using The Dia Method as a foundation and adding a programming and community element to reach women in all stages of motherhood. Every Mother officially launched in May 2018 and is currently part of the Techstars 2019 class.
The Moment of Inspiration for Every Mother: Allison’s first experience with Every Mother was as one of Leah Keller’s private clients. The training allowed Allison to have an amazing pregnancy and postpartum recovery, especially relative to many friends that were also becoming new mothers. It was then that she knew two things for sure: 1) she wanted to make Leah’s way of working out the center of her own personal fitness lifestyle going forward and 2) mothers everywhere deserve the chance to find their power through motherhood the way she did with the help of the EMbody Program. In 2017, Allison and Leah joined forces to accomplish the second goal and bring Leah’s proven program to every mother across the globe.
Every Mother’s Guiding Vision: Every Mother strives to be a wellness partner for women and help them feel confident that their body, not just their child’s, is worthy of attention and care.
The Every Mother Customer: Most women come to Every Mother in the postpartum stage. There are three programs offered targeting women at different stages of their maternal journey: EMbody Prepare, EMbody Reclaim, and EMbody Surpass. EMbody Reclaim is designed to help women that are looking to close diastasis recti. The individuals that then close the diastasis move onto the Surpass program.
Partnerships on the Horizon for Every Mother: Every Mother currently partners with midwives to engage expecting and new mothers in their programs. They also have content partnerships to drive the readership for their educational materials. Every Mother currently has a lot of other exciting partnerships that are in stealth mode — stay tuned!
Allison’s Advice for Female Founders in Femtech and Women’s Health
“Stay true to yourself, love what you do and make a conscious choice at every step to build a company and career for what you want your life and world to look like.”
The Who: Jill Angelo, CEO and Founder of Genneve
The What: Genneve is first-of-its-kind online clinic for menopause where women can book video appointments with practitioners specialized in menopause. Genneve curates products for symptom relief; offers menopause tools including the ob/gyn-created Menopause Assessment and free access to physician-informed blogs, podcasts and videos on menopause symptoms and remedies; and provides a community of women and practitioners dialoguing about their own menopause journeys.
Founder Background: Jill is a former Microsoft executive that founded Genneve to help women take control over their perimenopause and menopause symptoms.
The Moment of Inspiration: Before founding Genneve, Jill surveyed women across the U.S. and discovered that only 7% of women find that they get the help they need when it comes to managing their menopause symptoms. Genneve was launched to help women take control of their lives in midlife.
Genneve’s Guiding Vision: Genneve was designed to empower women to take control of their health in midlife. The Genneve team strives to help women manage their bodies during this period of fundamental change.
The Genneve Customer: 70% of Genneve’s customers are in the perimenopause stage. They are having any of the 34 myriad symptoms associated with estrogen depletion, such as: insomnia, anxiety and hot flashes.
Milestones ahead for Genneve: Genneve will expand their network of strategic partners over the coming months. Genneve has the opportunity to be really impactful in the oncology space as hysterectomies can often send women into early menopause. Genneve hopes to offer their resources to women who are adjusting to life post-hysterectomy. Additionally, Genneve continues to investigate exciting applications for wearable devices for symptom monitoring.
Jill’s Advice for Female Founders in Femtech and Women’s Health
“Find your passion and start following it. You learn so much by putting a product or solution out into the world. Don’t hold yourself back!”
The Who: CEO Kristina Cahojova and Head of Marketing Pear Poolvaraluk
The What: kegg is a 2-in-1 fertiliy device that uses cervical mucus to more accurately predict windows of fertility. Data collected from the device populates a mobile app that can track your windows of fertility, in addition to providing insights on your period and when to take a pregnancy test.
Founder Background: Kristina Cahojova is an entrepreneur and a crusader for women’s health. Previously, she was working in marketing for tech giants like Amazon and eBay. Having faced discouraging advice from her OB/GYN, she decided to build a product that could help her take control of her fertility journey. Realizing that many women face the same distraught, kegg has turned from a project into something much bigger than herself. When Kristina’s not working, she is an avid swimmer and a ballet enthusiast.
Pear Poolvaraluk is a FemTech advocate and a health geek. She earned her dual degree in Global Public Health & Sociology from NYU and worked as a Fellow at Startup Health. She has a passion for the digital health space, but after being diagnosed with PCOS and realizing the knowledge gap in fertility, she joined Kristina in her mission to help women reconnect with their bodies and take control of their health.
The Moment of Inspiration: Kristina’s moment of inspiration arose when told by her OB/GYN to start learning a fertility awareness-based method (FABM), which involved observing and touching her vaginal fluids. Many women are already practicing FABM to avoid or achieve pregnancy based on observing and tracking scientifically proven fertility signs like cervical mucus and basal body temperature. Kristina always found tracking cervical fluid the au naturel way unreliable and stressful and realized a product like kegg could help give women objective data about what’s happening in their body.
kegg’s Guiding Vision and Mission: kegg’s vision is to equip women with the deep fertility insight to empower them to make decisions about their own reproductive health. For women trying to conceive and women trying to avoid pregnancy, kegg is on a mission to simplify their fertility goals with a natural, convenient solution by leveraging cervical fluid data.
The kegg Customer: kegg was designed primarily to help women get pregnant naturally, faster. When you know your fertile window, you are four times more likely to conceive! Nevertheless, the device can be helpful for anyone who wants more insight and control over their bodies. When you track your menstrual cycle, you’re in control of your body, your schedule, your well-being. Unlike probability-based solutions, kegg tracks your cervical fluid in real-time, so it can help detect your fertile window, even if you have irregular cycles — as Kristina and Pear both do.
Exciting Partnerships for kegg in 2019 and beyond: In Q3 2019, kegg launched an Indiegogo campaign and was fully funded in 36 hours. kegg is currently available for pre-order for up to 50% off. Check out their fundraising page here! In Q1 2020, kegg will have their US nation-wide e-commerce launch.
Kristina’s Advice for Female Founders in Femtech and Women’s Health
“Stick to your values. People are going to give you all kinds of advice — how you should think, act, and even what clothes to wear. Thank them, consider them, but decide for yourself if that’s who you want to become. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help and know when you can offer it back!”