By Michelle Hua @MadeWithGlove
In this exciting area of digital health, our courageous designers and female founders have turned an uncomfortable topic of conversation into business opportunities by creating innovative solutions for the female market.
It was only fitting that our next Women of Wearables event explored The Future of FemTech with our sponsors and partners Zinc, a product design and innovation lab, Elvie, a smart pelvic floor device, Hypnobirthing Works who is developing an app to help mothers prepare for their birth and Mystery Vibe’s Crescendo, a smart vibrator, explained how FemTech is a new phenomenon that takes digital health for women seriously.
Our panelists, Graham Rittner from Zinc, Andrea Zitna from Elvie, Rosie Goode from Hypnobirthing Works and Stephanie Alys from Mystery Vibe, gave us golden nuggets of information, educated us, inspired us and made us all giggle and blush a little bit. Moderator of the panel was our CEO, Marija Butkovic.
Designing health tech products with women in mind
Graham Rittner, Founding partner of Zinc kicked off our event by explaining the journey of working in design labs internationally to starting his Zinc with his co-founder Blake. In a matter of a few years, Graham and his team became known as FemTech designers and designed a number of wearable tech and IoT products specifically for women. From a pregnancy tracker to helping women with menopause, incontinence to breastfeeding devices. It was very impressive to hear that a firm founded by two men designed so many FemTech products!
Graham says historically (and until recently) there has been very little empathy for women when it comes to innovation. Products were typically designed by men for men or ‘everyone’, but rarely for women with real empathy, so for Graham, empathy is key.
For all projects, they did a lot of user research, prototyping and testing to really understand the people they were designing for and to test out and co-create prototypes as they went through the process. They always used female researchers to ensure the participants were relaxed and open to talking about any potential sensitive issues. Also, their Product Design Lead, Insights Lead and Visual Lead are all women.
Graham says having women on the team and leading the team is crucial in designing FemTech products. We think Graham and his team are certainly in touch with their feminine side and it was inspiring to see that they recognised it very early on in the product design process and brought in women with the right skills to work on their projects.
Hardware is hard… and expensive
On obtaining funding, Stephanie Alys, co-founder and CPO of Mystery Vibe said getting access to finance that would support their growth for a sextech product was very difficult. Stephanie and her team were very successful in securing $3.5 million from angel investors and while they spent a lot of time speaking to VC firms who were intrigued by their smart vibrator, they were ultimately turned down because the VCs were restricted from investing in sextech. Because, Stephanie said, it was about sex. And most of the time, it is because of sex that prevents or restricts them from progressing with their business.
However, one firm of VCs in our audience welcomed Stephanie to pitch to her firm because they don’t have those restrictions and confirmed they are able to invest in FemTech and SexTech products!
Stephanie also recently started a new podcast - The Curious Nature of Sex, where she investigates the ever changing worlds of dating, sex, love and all things erotic.
Andrea Zitna, Chief Revenue Officer from Elvie emphasized user experience and feedback was crucial in designing a comfortable wearable device that was as small as possible.
Elvie, the pelvic floor exerciser works by inserting the small pod inside the vagina and it connects to the phone via Bluetooth. As you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, a gem on the app lifts. The stronger your squeeze, the higher the gem lifts. Lots of women want to know how strong they are inside and gets competitive.
The team worked with doctors and physiotherapists to create personalised training programs and targets so that women can see improvements and track their scores.
In seeking funding, Elvie secured £7.8 million from VC firm Octopus Ventures with participation from female – focused VC firm Allbright. This is the largest funding round in a British female-led consumer #FemTech start up to date which is very inspiring.
Rosie Goode, founder and CEO of Hypnobirthing Works stressed the importance of developing a structured program via an app to enable women to feel empowered when they prepare for birth. Rosie likened the birthing experience to interviewing for a job or working on a project – she strongly recommended that women have to be prepared for birth just as they would need to prepare for any other important experience.
"Using the right techniques with the aid of technology will help women and make it an enjoyable experience." - Rosie Goode
Golden nuggets of advice
The key takeaways from the evening after our Q&A session included:
FemTech crosses between the medical and consumer electronics sector when it comes to regulation. For Mystery Vibe, their product could also be classified as novelty toys. So inevitably, not complying with the regulations makes FemTech a risky investment. However, our panelists reassured us that if one invests, most of the other investors will want to invest, too.
Investors invest with their head or their heart. It is better to have the lead investor invest with their head.
Building FemTech products takes more capital and time than you will ever think.
Spending 50% on marketing and 50% on product development is key in getting your brand and product out there.
Intensive research to understand the problem is key. Building a product that is comfortable and as miniature as possible is key for our development.
When looking for funding, treat it as like dating. Ideas, goals and vision must be aligned.
User experience, research and empathy is key in developing FemTech products.
The Future Is FemTech
So, is the Future in FemTech? We certainly think so. After the event, our WoW community felt inspired, educated and empowered to learn more about taking control of their own bodies to give them better insights about their own health which ultimately gives them the choice, the confidence, the freedom and the empowerment to make informed decisions.
And to confirm our prediction, here are just some of the feedback we received and we know that this is the start of some very interesting conversations in FemTech!
"What a fantastic night, engaging speakers, delicious snacks and a fabulous venue. I also made a few connections which will be useful in the development of our new project at Blaze Creative Consultancy. We look forward to the next one!" - Vivienne
"A great event with inspirational speakers. Femtech is truly the next big thing! Wow is a wonderful organisation every woman in tech should follow religiously!" - Essi
Our FemTech prize winners
Our #WoWwomen panel speakers selected our winners for one Elvie, a pelvic floor exercise trainer, one Crescendo, a smart vibrator and one Hypnobirthing session on the night! The smiling faces of the winners say it all!
A big Thank you! goes to our sponsors and partners Zinc and Graham Rittener for their continuous support during this event. Gavin from Soul Food Collective treated us to delicious healthy guilt free snacks while the perfect venue - Blooms, UK’s first female business club and co-working space launched by Lu Li, hosted our event.
If you’re interested in speaking at or sponsoring our events and meetups, then get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you at another WoW event soon! :)