On September 22nd, Tech4Eva made a great debut at London Tech Week. The third Roadshow of 2021 gathered investors, entrepreneurs, health industry leaders, and NHS experts to discuss the opportunities and key partnerships to scale femtech start-ups in the UK.
UK is a conducive market for Femtech
The panel discussion on “How to scale your femtech start-up through strategic partnership” convened, Catherine Davies from Monticles and Women of Wearables, Nicole Leeds from Clue by Bowink, Berthold Hinzen from Bayer for a discussion on the resources the UK market offers to femtech start-ups to scale.
Nicole Leeds from Clue by Bionix shared that the UK was one of Clue's first target markets because women in the UK are very engaged in their health care, and there are active advocacy efforts for the betterment of women’s health from many sectors, including industry, the medical community, and society. In addition, the government and the press consider and cover many different women's health issues, which does not often happen in other countries. "If you are able to start with a small foothold, for example, something that is not a regulated medical device, but is maybe more of a consumer device, or content index user in the UK, it gives you a chance to really test the market. What we found is this engagement from users in the market both in terms of interest and revenue” said Nicole Leeds.
Working with the NHS
Catherine Davies, Managing partner at Monticles and Expert in residence at Women of Wearables shared tips and best practices for interacting with the NHS as young start-ups. She shared the NHS is generally very enthusiastic and welcoming towards innovation, but the process of working with them can be slow. Catherine suggested that it's critical to build a relationship with NHS based on an understanding of its needs, meaning, to not just think about the problem it is solving for patients but also think about what problem they can help the NHS solve, she said "the more targeted you can be about a solution that is helping a system-level problem, the more effective that is likely to be."
Further, Catherine shared 3 different pathways for start-ups engaging the NHS.
First, there is the pilot option where companies work with an NHS organisation for a short period of time to test the technology/solution as an early-stage. This helps the start-ups get established. The second option is a partnership approach, where start-ups co-create a solution that will be helpful to a particular population. The third option offers a procurement route where more established companies respond to a tender from the NHS. This last option tends to work better if the company has a history of working with the NHS in the past, through the steps outlined above.
The UK Femtech Investment on the rise
The road for health and femtech start-ups is challenging due to the many regulations, certifications, and strategic partnerships required to bring a solution to market. The biggest support an investor can offer is to connect the start-up with a network of experts.
During the “Rising Investment in the UK” fireside chat, Susan Trent from Innovo by Atlantic Therapeutics and Sophie Ehrlich from Silicon Valley Bank shared the trends in rising femtech investments and how start-ups can benefit.
According to a report from the Silicon Valley Bank, presented by Sophie Ehrlich "The amount of money that has been invested in VC dollars into health tech businesses is really on the rise. "Femtech businesses and companies have been raising larger rounds, since 2019. We would be seeing rounds of over a hundred million dollar rounds”, which Sophie Ehrlich considers it a pivotal moment in femtech since there is a tremendous amount of interest raised in this space.
Taking advantage of the rising investment wave
Susan Trent, CEO from Innovo by Atlantic Therapeutics shared the essential characteristics for femtech start-ups: to have to be an attractive investment; and to be a unique product or service that addresses a significant unmet need in a vast population. She shared, "For example, Innovo by Atlantic Therapeutics is a very unique, non-invasive medical device that helps to treat Stress Urinary Incontinence. When you look at this particular market, and you think about the scale of the requirements for real solutions in that market, about 1 out of 3 women suffer from some form of bladder leaks; it is a huge unmet need".
The road for Innovo followed to meet these characteristics. From the beginning, the goal for Innovo was market expansion. It first tackled the European market while at the same time, it begun to explore the US market. By the time Innovo got to the fundraising part of the process, the brand was commercialized in Europe and pre-commercialized in the US and the company was able to fund clinical trials, product development, and an FDA submission that would allow for the commercial opportunity.
Perception of Femtech is changing for the better
According to Susan Trent, the perception of women’s health as an important health issue is rapidly changing but there is still work to be done.“It is fantastic to see how women have started to break down some of the stigmatism that was in many sectors of health care and situations they would find themselves in. For example, we talk far more about menopause. We talk far more about sexual health, period health. The unfortunate news is that urine incontinence remains one of these taboos; world health organization call it the last female taboo. There is, therefore, a big amount of work to break down this taboo. When women find a viable solution, they will be far more prepared to talk about the condition when they solve it than when they are still suffering from it. To me, that is the role that we can play”, explained Susan Trent.
The London Roadshow 2021 highlighted the strategies for start-ups to scale and insights about strategic partnership opportunities in the UK. Additionally, the investment landscape is tilting favorably to femtech start-ups, but there is still a lot of work to be done to support the growth of this sector and change women’s health care for the better.
The next roadshow will take place in Boston on November 17th, 2021, and will allow FemTech start-ups and investors to learn about transforming women’s health through inclusive gender research while connecting and understanding the femtech sector to the US.