Alley Lyles - FemTech Innovation in a World Designed for Men Apply to Speak

Automatic Summary

Discovering Femtech: The Rise of Products Designed by Women for Women

Imagine a world where everyday health and wellness products more effectively meet the needs of women -- this is the ambitious goal of Femtech. Inclusivity and gender-specific design are now driving innovation in the tech industry towards a more gender-balanced future. Inspired by the possibilities of greater inclusivity, let's delve deeper into the evolution of Femtech.

Understanding the Femtech Revolution

Femtech, a term coined by Ida Tin, founder of the menstrual tracking application Clue, refers to innovative products or services that improve women's health and wellness. The rise of Femtech marked the beginning of a necessary departure from traditional product designs that often didn't accommodate women's needs. Using technology, Femtech pioneers sought to bridge this gap, aiming for a market more reflective of gender realities.

However, do not mistake this for a crusade against men. In reality, the Femtech boom seeks to address significant discrepancies in the product design and tech space, noting a market demand for female-centric solutions.

"Women spend $500 billion USD annually in medical expenses yet only 4% of healthcare research and development target women's health issues." - Forbes.

This discovery indicates a colossal under-representation in women's healthcare research and shows a clear opportunity for product designers and tech innovators.

Breaking Down Stereotypes: The Need for Inclusive Design

Many might assume traditional designs, like the familiar seatbelt or razor, are universally convenient. However, a closer look reveals how these everyday items were mainly patterned on men's needs without considering their functionality for women. A classic example is the trend of marketing "female versions" of products which merely entail repainting a typically 'male' product pink, without functional design alterations. All too often, these products have a heftier price tag than their male counterparts, making them more expensive, yet no more effective.

The need for female-centered designs

There is a significant need for items designed with women's specific needs in mind. Such pieces will be functionally different and should involve more than an aesthetic overhaul. Not just converting a power drill, shovel, or razor blade pink, but ensuring the functionality best serves women.

Defying the Standards: A Spotlight on Companies Innovating Women's Product Design

In the journey to attaining a more gender-inclusive world, some companies trailblaze the path ahead by revamping designs to better serve women:

  • Volvo: An automobile industry giant, Volvo, looks beyond the 'one-size-fits-all' crash test dummy that predominantly male focused. It has come up with Ava, a female crash test dummy, reflecting a better understanding of women's anatomy, thus improving car safety for females.
  • Zephyr: This company saw the elevated risks faced by pregnant women in car crashes and redesigned the usual seat belt. Their model focuses on ensuring seatbelts are comfortable and safer for expectant mothers, minimizing the risk to both mother and fetus.

Setting the New Standards: Pioneering the Future of Femtech

Three standout startups are pioneering the Femtech arena with their innovations:

  1. BehaVR: This Virtual Reality program enhances the bonds between mother and child throughout pregnancy and following birth. It provides solutions for pain management and combating stress, offering a fresh approach to the traditional delivery of perinatal care.
  2. MobileODT’s EVA System: A solution to the problem of cervical cancer. The EVA System amplifies cervical visualization, documentation, and enables teleconsultations, giving women control over their own health and wellness.
  3. Grace: A wearable device designed to alert women when they are about to experience a hot flash. It enables users to manage, discretely, one of the most common symptoms of menopause, returning a level of control during these often-distressing moments.

The Business Potential of Femtech

Investing in Femtech suggests more than a techie trend. It's a business strategy that provides great ROI opportunities. As per global estimates, Femtech-focused tech start-ups could see growth up to $9 billion USD by 2024.

While women founders face distinct challenges in securing funding, they have documented significant returns. Businesses founded by women show approximately two times the revenue return, along with lower employee turnover compared to male-owned businesses. Thus, investing in women, in essence, is investing in a vastly untapped market with promising financial prospects.


The rise of Femtech signals a necessary shift in the product design and tech industry. By focusing on inclusivity and understanding the unique needs of women, Femtech is paving the way for a balanced and more diverse market landscape. Big brands and start-ups alike are seizing this opportunity to innovate and create efficient products that improve women's lives.

Video Transcription

In tech innovation and a world designed for men. Now, I might not be paying attention to the chat this entire time because it's slightly distracting.But if you have any questions, I'm going to put in my linkedin in the chat, feel free to uh find me on linkedin or email me at Ali dot fin tech And so thank you so much for joining from all over the world. Um I've had so much fun at this conference thus far and just syncing up with people whom I would only meet online virtually and hopefully in AAA better, more safer world, get a cup of coffee. So you put in my link in and then feel free to drop yours in to connect here. Um So let's see, let's see. Let's see. Let's see. There we go. There's me. All right, cool. All right. Like I said, uh my name is Ali and this talk is motivated by the need for more inclusive design. And typically, like when I, when I talk about inclusive design, like people just kind of roll their eyes and they're like, OK, I'm over it. This isn't for me, men like turn around and leave the room. This talk has nothing to do against men. I live with men. I like men. I work with men. Nothing to do with men.

But I think there's a lot of opportunity right now in the product design and tech space for inclusivity and there is a market demand for it. So let me just kind of walk you through that. Let me see. All right, it's a man's world. Uh So this is sort of what we're gonna be talking about today. Like what is Femtech? If you don't know? It's quite all right. Um Well, we're gonna go over it and uh in some detail and three products that are dominating Femtech and then the market appetite for Women centered design, this uh image of this book here um in a sort of funny way and it says, who says it's a man's world? And I say um a lot of common products that are out there from seatbelts to car safety design, which we're gonna go over. You mentioned of the clue app from I to 10. Um The clue app allows us to um monitor our menstruation cycle. It was only with that, that people started thinking, hm, we might need to decide technology for women. So I'm gonna hit you with some facts. Here's a fact. Um Five, let's see. Getting a little ahead of myself. $500 billion US D was spent in medical expenses. So $500 billion us d of annual medical expenses are attributed to women. And only 4% of healthcare research and development targets women's health and health issues. So this is actually a, a statistic from Forbes that just not didn't just pull it out of thin air on the internet.

But really this says like there is a lot of room for attention for women in healthcare research. I mean only 4% in 2021. That's astounding. So who am I? I am the woman in front of you. And I don't like to harp a lot about myself. Um However, I just wanna be able to say here's who I am because of, you know, oftentimes when we hear expert advice or we go to conferences and whatnot, I'm like, OK, who is that person in front of me? Uh So I'm Ali Lyles, marketing director at Femtech focus. Femtech focus is a nonprofit that provides support to FTE companies through exposure through networking, through business accelerators, uh syncing up with uh BC capital programs. And uh we do uh support everyone from seeding to CC.

So where I come in is I'm a consultant who specializes in human centered design, product development for technology brands, including tech companies here at this event. So um I'm super excited to be here and, and thank you for having me. So let's get into the meat and potatoes.

So pro uh problem need a partial solution. So I don't know, if some of you know, this, but women were only included at least in the United States in clinical trials in about 1994 to 1996. Meaning that was like basically less than 30 years of being uh at the table when it comes to female health products or, or, or health wellness products to begin with. And so right around like the 1015 year ago, Mark, we started looking at Women Centered Design because we saw that there are a lot of failures in what exists today. You know, we have a seat belts that aren't very good for pregnant women. We have vests that Kevlar vests which don't accommodate breasts. And so the more we idea on this, like the lack of uh technology and solutions for women, the more we said Femtech. So our I to 10 again, I I spoke about her earlier, she uh invented clue the menstruation app. And with that came the word Femtech. She was the first person to utter the word Femtech, which means female technology, film tech, technology, services and products that improve women's health and wellness. Uh These are things that, you know, when you say, OK, what about men?

It has to be a device or service that serves a need that disproportionately affects women. That could be menstruation, that could be cervical cancer, that could be menopause. And so basically this, this whole effort begs businesses to move away from making everything pink and move towards putting women at the center of their business strategy. So basically, like, raise your hand or just holler at the chat. If you had, you've seen a power drill that's pink or shovel that's pink or something that was traditionally made for men, but pink, I've seen it all the time and most of the time it's, it's, I, and, and, you know, something I actually just thought of is a, um a shaving like a razor shaper.

When you, when you're like shaving your legs or something like that, they'll take the exact same device that's black for men and then I'll make it pink for women and it's a dollar more. But you, they didn't do anything functionally. There's no curvature, there's no um anything that's different. So why am I paying more money for it? So five years ago, like I said, the, the word Femtech didn't exist and now there's a market for it. So it's one thing to say, OK, we're, we're going towards something we're, we're leaning towards this curve, but there's dollars behind it. There are statistics to back up. But now Femtech focussed tech start ups are a major investment category. So global venture capital, let me back that up.

Global VC film tech investments are estimated to reach 9 billion US D by 2024. So in three years, we're gonna go, we're gonna meet the um 9 billion mark and that's pretty impressive because compared to the fact that last, well, I guess in the first half of 2019 global uh VC investments across Femtech totaled 1.69 billion in the first half of 2009 in the first six months of 2009.

So we're going, you know, in a, in a trajectory where the first half of 2019 is $1.69 billion US D and then flash forward a couple of years in the future to 2024. And it's gonna be $9 billion US D and I for one cannot wait. So defy the standard, you know, I think in order to look at like where F tech is headed, we have to look at like where we started. And I don't mean that in a, in a silly, like sort of uh nostalgia way. I mean that because you have to understand that uh we're making a big stride. So these were crash test dummies that um were used in, in the 19 seventies. And up until recently, car companies, at least here in the United States didn't. Um We, we're not required to use a female crash test dummy. They could if they wanted males were at a standard. And so take a look at these crash test uh test dummies. You got a male who's £171.05 9 which is the average height of a man in America and we got a female who's £108 who's uh 4 ft 11 inches tall, which is actually five inches shorter than the average woman in America now. And so these were used by crash test dummies and there was really no like rhyme or reason as to why the proportions for women like that. So just by the standard women were considered to be tiny men, um the proportions weren't changed.

Um, you know, you have a slight um uh chess difference, but like the stature was not the same. And so this is something that we are trying to go miles beyond. So one of the things I want to point out and that there are people here that are just moving the needle, um especially Volvo and what, what I think is really unique and I'm gonna, I'm gonna share a video just a clip real quick and, and I don't, I'm not gonna use the um it's totally visual but basically Volvo who's a very progressive thinking comp uh company, it'll go like it, which is a very progressive thinking company, you know, said this is unacceptable, you know, pregnant women, uh suffer whiplash, older women, uh fatal injuries, women are 40% more likely crash due to the fact that the dummies um were not used during test testing and the seat belts don't, don't work properly.

Um What they've designed designed is Ava and she is a virtual uses when it's testing the safety of its cars and this is something that Volvo um company. Ok. What, like we need is enough and we need to go ahead and, and defy the standard and it is gonna, so, um, there is Ava, she's a trap crass uh AAA dummy that's been based, um, basically embraced by the uh Volvo world and I think that a lot of other companies are following suit because they realize that it's not progressive or safe to, um, to ride the way we do.

So, here's another company defying the standard that's defining the standard and it's er, it is not exclusively a Femtech company, but it does have Femtech devices. So the seatbelt, as we know it today, the one that's shown right here that comes across the lab um, was first patented in and since then, there has been little change in terms of comfort and, you know, car accidents are the leading cause of trauma related to maternal and fetal death and they kill more than uh one fetus each day.

And so what Arthur did was that, you know, what we need to think of something that is gonna be uh helpful for women who are pregnant. And so it's a small modification. It has like the same sort of going across the stomach, except if there's this green piece that makes sure it goes over the thighs and not across the belly. And while that might seem like something that is super duper small, it has a big impact on women's safety. And uh this is something that when this, um, seat belt hit the market, like they were out of stock for forever and had to like backfill a bunch of orders because there is a need for this. Now, let's like, think forward as to like where we are right now. So we were looking at the old standards for the seat belts and the crash test sum. let's look at the new standard, what are we headed towards? And um we are headed towards behavior, behavior um is a pro program with nurture VR that addresses critical issues related to third term pregnancy and the first eight weeks after birth. So this VR com uh company allows mommy and me to bond and the third trimester and then right after the birth of the baby. So this helps with pain management, uh mother, uh mother, baby bonding, coping with stress, overcoming emotional and uh um hormonal issues.

And this is something that has never existed before. I mean, you know, a lot of um mental uh uh therapists and psychologists are embracing VR as a means of dealing with reality and the ability to take things off. You know, if you're, if you feel a little bit too much and this is something that can fit in a woman's purse and go anywhere. And can you say yeah, a man can put that in his bag. Yes, yes, he can. Um But behavior is obviously geared towards pregnant women. Here's a new standard um Eva system. So not to be confused with the crash test. I mean, we just looked at this is mobile O dod PS Eva system. And basically it brings A I into cervical cancer screenings using the Eva system with the Eva system, women can magnify uh cervical visualization, documentation and telecoms consultation. So um this uh has device has been wildly successful and take a look at its design. It's small.

It's clear it's probably the size of a cell phone. So it fits comfortably into your purse. And um the results are very clear mu much like a pregnancy test where um it's discrete and it can go anywhere. And I think that um over the course since this product has been released by Mobile ODT, uh there have been 150,000 documented cases, 4000 users in 20 plus countries worldwide or a woman can purchase a device uh get cervical screened in her home and basically set up, set up um set up tele meetings and set up doctor's appointments and in order to take care of it.

So if uh you are like genetically predispositioned, are more likely to have to get cervical cancer result of like you see your family members in the past who have gotten it. This is an asset for you. Um And it's something that you know, you can monitor what when you want and you can do it on your own. Uh, I had one more. All right. So we're almost done. This is Grace. Now, Grace is a, uh, wearable and you can wear it much like an I watch or like a Samsung or a garment or anything like that. It looks like a BRAC set. And this is something that is probably one of my favorite devices on market right now. I'm not getting paid to say that, but I think it's pretty phenomenal. It helps women who are experiencing menopause. Um And it helps them understand when they're about to have a hot flash. So imagine like being in a conference room starting to feel a hot flash come on and having your bracelet looks like a bracelet, not a watch vibrate. So you could excuse yourself to go to the bathroom. And you know, menopause is something that is nothing to be uh uh humiliated about. There's nothing to be embarrassed about when I saw my mom go through menopause. I think part of it was the fact that she wanted a certain amount of discretion.

She wanted to go to the bathroom on her own and clean up and feel beautiful and not have to have something go on publicly in front of people. So this is grace is, is particularly um popular in the UK. I think 1.5 million women use it in the UK. And it's the first automatic tracking and cooling bracelet to relieve menopause um symptoms, grace um will detect a hot flash before you see it, it will not prevent any hot flash. It just helps you know that it's happening. And I think with that um is a lot of power um in, in addressing issues that uniquely would affect women. Now, one of the things I sort of want to wrap up with is this idea that investing in women investing in, in fintech, investing in, in technologies and products and designs that help women um is not a Kumbaya sort of moment. Um It's not something we do because it's nice, it's something you do out of necessity. And so Jessie Draper, who's the head of halogen ventures, she's look at our Femtech Summit recently. Um And she said, you know, investing in women is a strategic move that allows you and me to invest, invest in founders and leaders to build billion dollar industries like Spanx Sprout pharmaceuticals. It's a way to invest money in business that will exit faster for double the return.

It's a way to see advantage of wide open spaces. Many other V CS can't or won't see. And so the backup Jesse in Spades, we understand that there's a lot of potential, however, there are a lot of barriers. So I just want to paint the full picture here. Um Women notoriously receive less funding when it comes to V CS. Um giving out at angel investments, there is a learning curve when pitching to Male Bills, uh V CS. So those of you who are entrepreneurs out there, you know, imagine walking into your room and you have the VC sitting in front of you and you have your presentation, you have your deck and your demo. If you're presenting in front of Male B CS, it's not unheard of for them to go. Ok. Like what is menopause and how does it work? So there's a certain like um educational learning curve that and that's unfortunately something that's a hurdle, you know, for, for entrepreneurs who are uh going through the motions of pitching their product and getting funding. Um So the untold exits and mar market sizes, there's a fuzzy picture of the land uh film tch landscape and mainly because it's new, you know, it's difficult to quantify sex tech benefits.

Um There are uh vibrators out there like YNS um that actually can help you orgasm better, but like when you go to V CS and you're pitching them, like, what do they care? You know, you know, how is that gonna help you? Um There's a high barrier to FDA approval and then there's disqualifications from conferences and competitions like CE S um CE S which is the notorious like hardware conference that happens in the first half of the year. Lioness the vibrator that actually does research on orgasms and, and, and sexual health while you're using the vibrator was disqualified for being crude. Now, whether you believe that or not, it's just a fact, art of the possible. So all of these amounts are in us d but there is a demand there for these products and you can't say that there isn't um the market size for fertility, which is a subsection of uh Femtech is $36 billion fem uh female hygiene, uh $63 billion and there have been 51 exits thus far and there's purchasing power.

I mean women in the household 10 to hold the purse strings while they might not bring home the bacon, so to speak. Um They are the ones that overwhelmingly decide where money is spent. So $20 trillion is um spent worldwide uh by women. Uh We account for 80% of healthcare purchases, 85% of consumer purchases and shout out to the 15% of men. So um one of the things I just want to point out is that this is the business profile out there. There are 85% female founders and Femtech 8 15% of men. Thank you two times. The revenue is what their business businesses bring. Um their businesses bring a higher Roy than male businesses at 35% and a lower employee turnover at 22%. And so with that, I wanna say thank you. I think we're at time. Thank you so much for uh joining my talk and uh for learning a little bit more about them mtech and the landscape for us out there. Um There's definitely a lot has that has been done for men's health care and a lot more opportunity for women. So if you want to get a hold of me, um I'll drop in my linkedin in the chat and uh yeah, I'll talk to you later.