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Techstars NYC Female Founders on Closing the Gender Data Gap Through Femtech

ELANZA Wellness, a digital health startup focused on fertility, has been announced as a Techstars New York company. Co-founders Brittany Hawkins and Catherine Hendy explain how they are tackling the gender data gap in reproductive health, why diverse voices are essential in designing the next generation of digital solutions, and how backing from a leading voice like Techstars is a giant step forward for women's health.

Today marks a major milestone for ELANZA Wellness, and the opportunities it will allow for driving faster change in reproductive healthcare. ELANZA co-founders Brittany Hawkins and Catherine Hendy will spend the next three months going through the world renowned Techstars New York accelerator program. The resources that the Techstars New York City program will jumpstart our goal of improving the fertility outcomes and experiences of millions of people around the world.

Why Femtech matters

Women’s health is under-researched

We live in a world where the subjects in clinical trials have been "default male" for generations - and women's health has been historically sidelined from a research and funding perspective. The result is that less is known about many female-specific conditions and how to treat them - and a lack of specialist tools and technologies that address specific challenges. There’s still a lot we don’t know about how women’s bodies work and how female physiology reacts to different environments and medications. Although women have a longer life expectancy than men, this means we actually spend less of our lives in good health.

This is particularly pertinent in reproductive health

While fertility is not just a women's health issue (male issues account for 40% fertility struggles), the reality is that women are disproportionately impacted by sub-fertility and infertility. Be that the physical burden of painful, under-diagnosed conditions that impact fertility (endometriosis, for example, has an average diagnosis time of eight years), the burden of treatment protocols and under-researched experiences like pregnancy loss. All these things contribute to shocking rates of mental and emotional issues: anxiety, grief and even feelings of personal failure, which commonly accompany fertility treatments. Women with fertility struggles have been shown to face higher psychological trauma, costs and more prejudice (for instance, in the workplace) than men experiencing infertility. As such, fertility often falls into the category of a women's health issue.

Long term, what we’re excited about are the unique data insights into what’s going on and how things affect our bodies that our platform will make possible. For instance, ELANZA not only gives people the ability to prepare for fertility treatments and manage their reproductive health more effectively, but it will also give insight into what sorts of things are contributing to problems in the first place. The insights we can begin to draw with this data that can help support more informed decisions and drive better outcomes.

Femtech places women's voices front and center of solutions

A growing number of female-founded femtech startups like ELANZA Wellness are emerging with digital solutions focused on women's health. These companies offer exciting opportunities that contribute to data, which can help close existing gaps and contribute to radically better patient care - for both men and women.

Women's health solutions driven by technology make it easier for women everywhere to access more timely, personalized care. Personalized, "whole patient care" incorporates everything from lifestyle interventions, mental and emotional health, patient-centric clinic operations as well as a greater focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion measures.

At ELANZA, we are dedicated to radically improving the care paradigm in fertility treatments and providing better access and support for women at every stage of their fertility journey. We are deeply proud to be part of the rising Femtech movement that is working to close health gaps and help women live healthier, happier lives.

Why founder diversity matters

It is absolutely critical that women's voices are represented in the funding, building and deployment of solutions that are designed for women. At the concept and early-stage, lived diverse experiences impact design, adoption, engagement and - critically - efficacy. Involving women in the design and distribution processes ensures solutions are being built in ways that address our underserved needs.

Women have unique needs and therefore we need unique solutions that leverage technology to help us better understand our bodies and optimize our health outcomes. This can not only improve outcomes, but can also genuinely transform experiences, particularly in areas like reproductive and maternity care.

Women solving women's problems

Like many of the startups in this movement founded by women, we began this journey after personal experiences of feeling painful gaps in a traditional approach to reproductive healthcare. Experiencing these first hand means we are literally creating the solution we couldn’t access and have insight into how to better meet patients' needs at in the fertility treatment care continuum.

Why Techstars backing Femtech founders matters

Women's health startups are under-funded

In the first half of 2020 - which was an unprecedented boom funding year for digital health - just 1.5% of total funds went to Femtech companies. That’s to say: digital health companies focused on women’s health. This represents a fall from 2018 (4.7%) and 2019 (3.3%).

Although more companies solving women's health problems are getting financial backing (such as Elvie, Clue and KaNDy Therapeutics) what's important to note is that these companies are the exceptions, not the rule. Femtech trails total funding relative to other sectors in digital health. This is despite the fact that women control 80% of healthcare decisions in the US and spend 29% more per capita on healthcare compared to men.

Partly, this is down to the tendency of some majority male investment teams to characterize gender-specific health solutions as falling into a "niche" industry, a fact whispered amongst female founders with war stories from pitch meetings where conditions like menopause (which at some point will affect over 50% of the world's population) have been described as such.

"If she can't see it, she can't be it"

We need more investors that fund at early stage to recognize that you can make money while also making a positive impact on the health and lives of half the global population. More investors that acknowledge loud and clear that women’s health is not a niche.

With a strong track record of delivering a best-in-class experience thanks to its extensive network and expertise from top leaders, operators and investors, the mentor-led Techstars program - which accepts just 1% of applicants - is synonymous with identifying scalable solutions for the future. As such, Techstars backing Femtech carries weight.

Techstars will not only help us to more rapidly scale to achieve our vision of supplying tech-enabled, personalized support to transform the outcomes and experiences of reproductive healthcare for patients globally, but demonstrate to networks of investors and digital health leaders that our solution is necessary and our market is vast.

Catherine Hendy, Co-founder ELANZA Wellness

The intensive 13-week Techstars program is designed to fast-track the next generation of unicorns. Not only will we get access to the Techstars worldwide network, and digital health leaders who can help us to fine-tune our offering, but also after three months we will showcase the ELANZA Wellness product at an investor demo day on June 17th: a day we are focused on jumping into and creating a huge splash in the name of Femtech.

Join our journey

A huge thank you to all of you who have supported ELANZA Wellness in millions of small and big ways since we first started. We’ve worked really hard to create a community, product, and brand that delivers quality and value at all touch points, and we are delighted to be able to celebrate this milestone in our startup journey.

The last few months have been busy for us: from new integrations with fertility clinics to launching our Whole Patient Care Initiative and gearing up for the launch of our Optimizing Fertility program. If you are a fertility clinic, patient or you are interested in innovation in this space we'd love to hear from you.

In the meantime, you can follow our journey through Techstars New York on Twitter where we'll be sharing @elanzawellness | @hawkbritt | @cmhendy.

You can also find us in the Techstars room on Clubhouse at the event "Meet the Unicorns of Tomorrow" on Wednesday 26th at 5pm ET.

Brittany Hawkins and Catherine Hendy are cofounders of ELANZA Wellness.


About Techstars

The Techstars worldwide network helps entrepreneurs succeed. Founded in 2006, Techstars began with three simple ideas — entrepreneurs create a better future for everyone, collaboration drives innovation, and great ideas can come from anywhere. Now it is on a mission to enable every person on the planet to contribute to, and benefit from, the success of entrepreneurs. In addition to operating accelerator programs and venture capital funds, we do this by connecting startups, investors, corporations, and cities to help build thriving startup communities. Techstars companies today have a combined market cap valuation of more than $185 billion.

ELANZA Wellness is a behavioral health coaching platform for fertility patients. It gives people the information and tools they need to be at their healthiest, physically and psychologically, to unlock the best potential outcomes and experiences. Clinicians can sign the ELANZA Whole Patient Pledge today to qualify for consideration for a selective clinic directory. Optimizing Fertility, a virtual 30 day program designed to help women take control of the preconception period. Registration is opening soon for those that want to enroll. 30 Day Program to Kick Off on May 1.


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