Portfolia recently launched its sixth fund, which targets the Femtech space: female products and services that focus on improving women's health and wellness. These include smart breast pumps, health and wellness, vaginal rejuvenation and fertility-tracking devices. “From the very beginning, when we built Portfolia, it was all about activating women investors around the companies we want in the marketplace,” says Portfolia founder and CEO, Trish Costello. “We initially launched an active aging fund and found solutions to menopause, bladder control, and pelvic health. We started seeing all these opportunities that had little to do with old age and a lot to do with women’s health specifically.” And so Portfolia created the first Femtech fund in the nation to address this need, drawing on the expertise of doctors, scientists and healthcare investors to source deals and vet startups. Current investments include Joylux, a vaginal rejuvenation device; Madorra, a non-hormonal treatment to address vaginal dryness; and Sandstone Diagnostics, a fertility-tracking company.
Follow the money
Last year, CB Insights estimated that more than $1 billion has been injected in the Femtech space since 2014. Here are some examples of Femtech startups that are backed by VCs. “These are companies that are priced right, venture backable and can generate great returns,” adds Costello. “And there are hundreds to choose from!” When you see the investment opportunities in this space, it’s hard to believe that it has taken this long to disrupt women’s health. But seeing as more than 90% of investors are men, it’s not that surprising, especially when they refer to the Femtech space as a “niche” market -- when in fact it concerns more than half of the population. “The issue has been on the venture capital side but also on the Angel side,” says Costello. “We know that investors are more likely to invest in areas where they have a personal understanding of the product.” Granted, relating to a breast pump or a menstrual disc can be trickier for a man.
“When you look at the fertility space, however, it generates more interest as men have a part to play in it.” Having more female VCs is key, as is getting more female limited partners (LPs) involved. Melinda Gates recently gave an interview where she talks about the importance of having more women LPs. “Melinda’s leadership on this is going to be huge as she is investing her own money,” says Costello. “Unfortunately, a lot of the institutional money, like pension funds, is still controlled by men.”
It’s encouraging to see more and more startups tackling this space as they try to modernize products and services in women’s health. Although the speculum was created in the 1820s, entrepreneurs are only now beginning to rethink its shape and function. Same goes for the breast pump. “Naya Health, which created a much lighter and practical breast pump, was the first company we put on the Portfolia platform,” says Costello. And there are so many other products and services related to women’s health that are waiting to be disrupted -- one of which is the screening process for breast cancer. “You know there’s technology that can change that,” adds Costello.
To invest in the Femtech Fund, accredited investors must invest a minimum of $10,000. Experts in the field will then handpick the best startups in the U.S. and diversify the investments across 6-10 companies. Each startup will end up raising between $50,000 to $500,000, depending on the stage. Just 7% of venture capitalists at the top 100 firms are women. “At the end of the day, we are intent on changing that mix by helping more women learn that they can directly impact their marketplace by learning to smartly invest in the companies they want to see in the world. Portfolia investors enjoy the engagement component of being an Angel investor, with the diversification of being in a venture fund,” says Costello, “and we think that’s just smart venture investing.”