Is the Femtech Revolution Finally Underway?: The Broadsheet
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Mary Meeker’s annual report is out, harassment at Lloyd’s of London gets worse, and Kirsten Green’s Forerunner Ventures backs Modern Fertility. Have a wonderful Wednesday.
• A fertile industry. Today's guest essay comes from Fortune senior editor Beth Kowitt:
Yesterday Fortune broke the news that Kirsten Green, the founding partner of VC firm Forerunner Ventures, is the lead investor in femtech startup Modern Fertility’s $15 million Series A round. She’s also joining the board of the company, which provides an at-home hormone lab test that would normally be conducted at a fertility clinic when a woman is struggling to get pregnant.
“We in society today are so focused on preventing pregnancy instead of planning for it—it’s this almost immediate transition and it’s a total black box,” Modern Fertility CEO and co-founder Afton Vechery told me. “We’re really transitioning the conversation to how can we think about fertility in a preventative care context proactively.”
Green’s bet on Modern Fertility is a big deal on a number of levels. The VC has become a household name in the startup world with her investments in trailblazing consumer brands (and ones often founded by women) like Glossier, Outdoor Voices, and Away, so her foray into women’s reproductive health is telling. For one thing, it means that the same trends Green sought out and fostered in retail—cult-like brands that develop long-term, trusted relationship with consumers—are now about to reshape women’s healthcare, too.
The investment also underscores the ways startups like Modern Fertility are trying to turn women’s reproductive health into a less taboo conversation and more mainstream wellness issue—something that can be tracked and monitored just like how much sleep you get or how many steps you take.
Femtech is experiencing an influx of investment and innovation, in large part because it’s been ignored for so long. Vechery told me that when she was raising the company’s seed round, investors would question whether women really wanted their product. Just 18 months later, she said investors are so much more educated and have a thesis on fertility and women’s health. “The industry understands that women are just a massive part of commerce,” she says “and investors are paying very close attention.” Fortune
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Ford on the farming crisis. Land O'Lakes CEO Beth Ford writes for Fortune about the crisis facing American farmers. Amid floods and low commodity prices, Ford writes, "It’s not enough to count on farmers to tough it out. America needs to start listening to the voices of the heartland." Fortune
• The lowdown at Lloyd's. The news out of Lloyd's of London, the "most archaic corner in global finance," is getting even more serious. Two executives have resigned, one accused of groping colleagues (plural) and one accused of stalking a junior employee. Bloomberg
• Affectiva's AI. At Fortune's CEO Initiative in New York yesterday, we heard from Rana el Kaliouby, CEO of Affectiva, which creates "human perception AI," or software that can detect human emotions. The company is applying its software to the auto industry, scanning drivers' faces for signs of fatigue or impairment. Fortune
• Resetting the bar at Citi. Also at CEOi, Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat talked about the bank's decision to publish its global gender pay gap—in January it reported that female employees earn 29% less than men do—and discussed how the company is setting goals to increase the number of women and minorities among its higher-ranking employees. Fortune
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Intel named Sandra Rivera chief people officer. Vector hired Blue Origin's Stephanie Koster as CFO. Calvin Klein promoted Cheryl Abel-Hodges to CEO, making her the first woman to hold the job.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Vice on thin ice. The past few weeks have seen layoffs and executive turnover at Vice as well as the cancelation of Vice News Tonight on HBO. This story goes inside the chaos and how CEO Nancy Dubuc is managing it. Vanity Fair
• An Ivanka initiative. Ivanka Trump is the White House official behind a new initiative to give women a bigger role in global efforts around peace and security. The plan will promote the physical safety of women and girls and and aim to increase women's participation in disaster recovery and conflict resolution. Wall Street Journal
• Trendspotting. Mary Meeker is out with her first Internet trends report since splitting with Kleiner Perkins. This year, she says that image-based communication is on the rise, privacy concerns are high "but moderating," and media time spent on mobile has hit "equilibrium." CNBC
• FDA on formula. As you might remember from our report on formula startups a few weeks ago, parents are importing infant formula from Europe that has higher standards for its ingredients. But there are some dangers: with non FDA-cleared labels in German, parents can't read the directions and can get serving sizes wrong or mix the wrong amount of formula with water. New York Times
ON MY RADAR
The case for boring office clothes The Atlantic
The audacity of Hope Solo Elle
35 U.S. states still charge women a tampon tax Fortune
The irresistible authenticity of Gayle King Washington Post