Female startups rising

By Georg Tichy


The last years have seen a number of exciting startups securing venture capital and developing innovative products that include healthcare wearables. FemTech is the name for the women-led, women-designed new product startups, and the success of these traditional and consumer health care products can be summed up in two words: market potential.

Women’s healthcare has been underfunded by the research and development world, but the last few years have seen a number of innovative products brought to market. While much of femTech is focusing on reproductive technology and sexual health, such as fertility startups that are helping young women harvest and save their eggs for later childbirth decisions, to a birth control telemedicine and delivery model, to apps that are as sensitive as the birth control pill for contraception, not all the focus is on reproductive health.

Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of women worldwide, and Bloomer Tech is developing a number of wearables with biometric sensors to collect and analyze heart heath data. The data can be used to guide real-time medical decision making, while collecting big data amounts of women’s heart health data for research. The material developed has flexible, washable circuits embedded in textiles, a technology that will allow a number of interesting developments in the ability of wearables to collect biometric data. Their first product is a bra with the flexible circuits embedded to collect data on heart disease risk factors. It communicates to an app on a smartphone via Bluetooth. Most important, the user decides on how much and what data can be shared with a medical professional, researcher, or other person.

Bellabeat, the maker of LeafUrban jewelry, is leading the jewelry/design/health monitoring pack. The beautiful leaf-shaped jewelry looks nothing like a fitness tracker, and provides several important tools for women hoping to find a better tool to monitor health: it helps track menstrual periods, so women can keep track of fertility and contraception, and it monitors signs of stress and offers guided meditation. Like other health and fitness devices, it monitors activity and sleep, and gives the user data.

However, the largest amount of VC funding remains with startup companies focusing on a product that has both cachet and market potential. Many, or most, new products focus on women’s sexual and reproductive health. Elvie raised $6 million for a small device to help women do Kegel exercises properly. Women’s health care startups in FemTech have raised, to date, over $1.1 billion for research and development.

We need some cyber warriors, and we needed them yesterday. Especially at Equifax, the agency that used to guard our credit reports. The 143 million people effected by having their personal financial data stolen, however, are only the tip of the failed cyber-spear. Innovation in medical IoT and medical wearables is dangerously vulnerable to hacking, and new biometrics are being hacked almost before they come into the marketplace. What we’re doing now is trying to plug the holes before the dam in breached. Working backward to fix a problem, however, usually only gives us a patch job that has a limited life span. What we need is innovation, creative thinking. We need the Cyber Warrior Princesses.

A generation ago, young girls between 6 and 12 were known for developing sudden, intense passions for something, usually horses. These days, horses are being replaced by video games. The education program Cyber Warrior Princesses is a school based training program that starts with video games and grows into coding and cybersecurity and computer science at university until these bright young minds save us all.

San Francisco based innovation and education group Black Girls Code is working on both diversity and STEM education. Their hackathons are becoming legendary for the cool, smart kids, and their goal of teaching one million girls to code is just the beginning of their beautiful snowball.

The Center for STEM Education for Girls recently held a think tank and conference on, among other STEM topics, ideas about collaborative partnerships between education, industry, and other stake holders.

What we have right now is a system where innovation is growing faster than a teenager’s feet, and like a teenager’s feet, parents are scrambling to buy new shoes that fit every three months. Innovation and growth are exciting, the fun part of the new world order, and cybersecurity is the dull structure, like traffic signs warning us to slow down, steep grades ahead. Cybersecurity experts find themselves in the strange position of shouting to a new coder to slow down! Put the seat belts on! One way to save us all is to let the next generation of strong, smart girls, who are learning to code and growing up very fast, think up some solutions that are as unique and smart as they are.

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