A top VC explains why she’s betting on these 3 trends in women’s health

October 27, 2022, 11:08 AM UTC
Female Founders Fund founder Anu Duggal lays out her predictions for the healthcare space.
Courtesy of Female Founders Fund

Health care has become a buzzy space in the startup landscape—and companies focused on women’s health in particular have garnered more attention from venture capitalists in recent years. 

But there’s still quite a ways to go when it comes to funding, and meeting, the varied needs of this vast population. So where is the puck heading? 

“I’m hopeful that for 2023,…that momentum continues and you start to see these companies going public, you start to see real proof points around some of these bets in women’s health,” argues Anu Duggal, founding partner of venture firm Female Founders Fund. “I think there’s never been a better moment to be building in that space.” 

Duggal’s 8-year-old firm, which boasts LPs like Melinda French Gates and Goldman Sachs, invests only in female-led startups and focuses on seed-stage investments, wielding $100 million in assets under management, including a $57 million fund closed last year, which Duggal tells me in sum is only about 30% deployed so far. Female Founders Fund is an early investor in women’s health startups like Maven Clinic—which last year became the first unicorn, or startup worth at least $1 billion, in the women’s and family health space. Overall, funding into so-called femtech, or startups focused on tech-enabled products addressing female health and the needs of people who menstruate, topped $1 billion last year for the first time, per PitchBook data (other estimates, like McKinsey’s, put that figure at $2.5 billion). 

One morning over coffee recently, I asked Duggal what she expects to see in terms of trends in health care over the next few years. Her predictions? Menopause, preventative care, and startups focusing on breast cancer.

“We did a study on menopause two years ago, and it’s insane: the lack of products and services that really speak to that consumer,” Duggal notes. She argues as the current generation “starts getting into perimenopause, the expectations are going to be more and more” for such products and services. Whether that’s “through HRT [hormone replacement therapy], whether it’s through telehealth, whether it’s through consumer products, I think that’s a really big opportunity,” she believes. There, Duggal invested in Kindra, which makes science-backed products for menopause care, while Maven Clinic also recently launched a menopause offering. The opportunity from a dollar spend perspective in the space could be big: Duggal says that per the firm’s deep dive into menopause, on average “a woman spends 10 years in menopause and perimenopause and spends $20,000.” (On the flip side, startups targeting period care, like Sunny Period, are also gaining traction, as Jessica explored earlier this week.)

Duggal believes preventative health care, a space that’s taken off in recent years, will also become increasingly important. 

“We’ve been treating health as kind of a symptom and then solution-based model, and I think that there’s a lot more innovation that needs to happen in getting to the root of the issues that people face and preventing them from becoming chronic,” Duggal says, whether that’s treating things like “blood sugar, whether it’s sleep, whether it’s exercise.” There, she points to a recent investment in a startup (yet to be announced) offering a primary care membership model, which combines a doctor, a holistic practitioner, and a concierge. “They really complement each other,” she argues, “so I think more of an integrated approach to health care that does take a preventative approach” is key.  

Meanwhile, startups targeting the prevention and treatment of breast cancer are garnering attention and funding, with venture dollars flowing into companies focusing on things like imaging. Duggal believes “we’re starting to see more innovation” in that space, and notes “venture capital funding for women’s health care as a category has tripled over the past five years, but we are long overdue on innovation and investment in tackling this incredibly important health care issue both from a preventive and curative standpoint.”  

The traction is encouraging, but funding for female-led startups and those focused on women’s health still lags other categories by a large margin. Still, Duggal’s confident her firm can help companies meet the health needs of millions of women—and make millions for her investors in the process. 

FTX’s M&A fuel: Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange powerhouse FTX is in talks to raise new funds, in part to fuel “efficient acquisitions” in the crypto space, Bankman-Fried said at the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live conference on Tuesday. FTX has been an active investor in beleaguered firms during the so-called crypto winter, though Bankman-Fried said future acquisitions would be more focused on acquiring retail users versus bailing out beaten-down companies. 

See you tomorrow,

Anne Sraders
Twitter: @AnneSraders
Email: anne.sraders@fortune.com
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