Femtech funding - why confidence is key 

We’ve got a femtech problem.

Impressive startups such as Elvie and Flo have rightly garnered the headlines. Elvie has raised over $150m while Flo was valued at $800m after securing a $50m Series B. Analysts have pinned a $50bn value on the global market by 2025. 

But scratch beneath the surface and the progress is haltingly slow. For a ‘bandwagon’ that appeared to be gathering pace, investors have been slow to jump on. Consequently, femtech still only makes up a very small percentage of the overall healthtech market.      

When talking about femtech, there is lots to be optimistic about. Women’s health is no longer a taboo topic and it is encouraging to see more open conversations about the issues affecting them, from fertility to menopause to endometriosis. Raising awareness of these issues is crucial as it shows the market demand for technology aimed at women’s health. Founders have spotted the large gender gap in healthcare and responded by starting exciting ventures tackling everything from menstrual tracking to pelvic health.  

But the recent tech markets downturn seems to have disproportionately affected female founders. Female-founded startups accounting for 0.8% of the total venture capital raised in Europe compared with 1.1% last year. In contrast, the total capital raised by male-funded companies increased from 85.2% to 86.7%.  As the majority of femtech companies are founded and led by females, this may explain the low percentage of femtech within the healtech market. 

Historically, the majority of femtech funding has come from venture capital firms with a majority or all-female team, as well as those who seek to back female-founded businesses. It makes sense that women are better equipped to understand your investment case and your product since they have first-hand experience of women’s health issues.  

A number of funds and angel investors have set out to focus on female founders, as well as various healthtech programmes such as the P4 Precision Medicine accelerator and Panacea Stars in the UK. This is an encouraging development, but there is still a big gender gap in venture capital which needs to be addressed. In 2021, women held just 13% of senior investment roles in VC firms in the UK.  

Developing technology in the healthcare sector usually involves clinical trials and medical research that is costly and time-intensive. Femtech founders need sufficient financial resources to fund their business in the early-stages.   

In more challenging fundraising conditions, it is crucial that female founders get the pitch right.  

Female founders can lack confidence  

I feel very lucky I get to work with successful femtech founders day to day to help them protect their intellectual property. Consistent with their ability to attract investment, they all have something in common: confidence. 

I am a regular at various pitch events where I get to listen to inspiring women entrepreneurs with a vision to revolutionise women’s health. However, compared to their male counterparts, I noticed they tend to downplay their achievements and undersell both themselves and their company. While men are prone to overselling, we usually find women at the other end of the spectrum. 

As a result, they are not doing themselves justice and can miss out on crucial investment. Being a woman myself, I know selling yourself can be easier said than done. It’s a generalisation, but boasting about our achievements doesn’t come naturally to us; it is something we need to teach ourselves. We disproportionately suffer from imposter syndrome. Like the founders I work with, I am interested in finding solutions, so I recently started hosting free coaching sessions for my female clients to get them ready for investor pitches. And it all starts with preparation.  

For founders in the healthtech space, thinking about your IP strategy early on is crucial. It underpins the value of your innovation and as a result, often determines your success when pitching investors.  

So, you need to do the groundwork and have the right IP strategy in place before speaking to investors. The work doesn’t stop here. In order to successfully present the commercial value of your innovation, you need to present your intellectual property with confidence. 

Standing in front of an - oftentimes all male - team of investors is nerve-wrecking. The stakes are high and as a result, we tend to forget about our strengths and focus on our weaknesses. Coaching founders has helped me understand the areas in which they struggle, and the best ways to overcome these hurdles. Every startup and every founder is different, but if you adhere to these universal rules, you are guaranteed to put your best foot forward.  

Four tips to present your IP with confidence 

  1. Don’t just present a list of patent application numbers; instead, have an impactful summary slide (graphics help here) showing how the IP links to the commercial products and adds value to the company. 

  1. Have a short summary of what each patent covers, e.g. platform technology, method of treatment, product.  Don’t forget about other important forms of IP such as trade secrets. 

  1. Granted patents are gold dust – shout about them 

  1. Early-stage companies may not have any granted patents. A pending application will have more of an impact if you have a positive opinion from the patent office or a short statement from your patent attorney. Be very clear about ownership/licensing situations (any lack of clarity can spook inventors) 

Don't take it personally 

These tips don’t guarantee you funding, but they are a great starting point to help you prepare for the pitch. Thinking of potential questions and how you would answer them ahead of time can help make you feel more at ease. As with everything, practice makes perfect and you are likely to be more confident the third time you pitch than the first.  

Also, don’t take rejection too personally. The reasons investors turn us down are generally outside of our control. Ask for feedback and focus on your next move. Not every investor will be the right partner for your business journey. Speaking to different investment funds will help you determine what it is you are looking for in an investor and the kind of support you will need. An investor should add value beyond the finance. They should become part of your team and provide advice and guidance. The right investor will believe in your product and understand your business and the market.  

Femtech is an incredibly exciting sector to be in, and I am very lucky I get to work with so many amazing women developing innovative solutions to improve female healthcare. The potential to democratise access to healthcare for women worldwide is there. But without sufficient investment we cannot scale these technologies. If we want to make femtech more accessible, female founders need to receive more support - and start asking for it.