In 2020, there was a boom in female technology startups (femtech) in Singapore.
Femtech refers to the use of technology to develop products, tools, and other software or hardware applications that focus primarily on women’s health.
The term was coined by Danish businesswoman Ida Tin in 2016. Ida is also the founder of Clue, a period and fertility tracking app.
At least eight femtech startups were launched in 2020 alone. For example, Remote health i Ease they are sexual health platforms that offer discreet home delivery testing and home birth control options.
Stop SG creates an online marketplace for all femtech products, Take it is a sexual welfare center and community that aims to empower women to have their sexual pleasure and Bona Vibes SG is a self-produced sex toy company.
Last but not least, Ying Yi Wellness is an online wellness brand that uses traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practices to relieve problems and symptoms of the period.
|Start name||Product and services|
|Remote health||STI home delivery and birth control tests|
|Fig Hello||A platform that tests and manages polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) by tracking lifestyle changes.|
|Ease||STI home delivery and birth control tests|
|Dear doc||Unique healthcare solution for women|
|Stop SG||An online marketplace for all femtech products|
|ZaZaZu||A sexual wellness center and community that aims to empower women to have their sexual pleasure|
|Bona Vibes SG||A sex toy company of its own production in Singapore.|
|Ying Yi Wellness||An online wellness brand that uses traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practices to relieve problems and symptoms of the period.|
The rise of femtech startups could be precipitated by a number of factors.
First, Covid-19 closures and work-from-home measures have led to the spread of telemedicine platforms and access to online healthcare from the comfort of one’s own home.
Then quarantine and social distancing have led to a growing demand for sex toys for people who want to meet their sexual needs at home.
Finally, the rise of femtech startups corresponds to the viral spread of #Me too global movement. The movement raises awareness of women’s legitimate claim to sex and sexuality and announces the next chapter of the feminist movement.
Although the femtech industry is very nascent, it is of profound importance to the economy and society.
The importance of femtech and sextech
Femtech is expanding more and more to cover any type of application, platform or company with technology that supports gender equality in areas where women are under-represented.
This can include financial management, engineering, coding education for girls, and the list goes on.
Femtech companies and products are usually created by female founders, keeping in mind female customers.
In the past, the female welfare and sexuality industry had been formed and decided primarily by men, and women had a minimal opinion on it.
Historically, women have also been excluded from clinical trials and research aimed at creating female health products. For example, in the United States, it was not until 1994 that the the law made it mandatory for the inclusion of women and minority groups in clinical research.
However, to this day, women they are still underrepresented in clinical trials of new drug research.
When it comes to sexual well-being, 75% of women worldwide have never reached orgasm through sexual intercourse. This phenomenon is known as the orgasm gap – a general disparity between heterosexual men and women in terms of sexual satisfaction.
This is largely due to a lack of understanding of female anatomy and genitals by both men and women.
“We have been taught growing up that female sexuality and female genitals are associated with negative connotations,” she said. Janice Lee, sexual welfare advocate and sex toy consultant based in Singapore.
Sexual welfare companies try to educate the public and help women have female pleasure and love their own bodies.
“The rise of the femtech industry is a testament to women’s desire to claim ownership and regain power,” said Karen Heng, founder of Headquarter, a content platform that covers the world of femtech in Asia.
Femtech in Singapore
Femtech is a very new concept, especially in Singapore.
For a long time, Singapore has online sex shops like Casa Mika i Horny.Sg. Some brands of female sex toys like Creators of smiles has been in existence since 2013 and is now available in Singapore pharmacies.
However, the focus on using technology to specifically address women’s sexual health and well-being only officially began in 2018.
Spark Fest Asia was launched in 2018 by Erin Chen and Sinnead Ali and is proposed as the first sexual wellness festival in Asia. He describes himself as an event that provokes new conversations about sex, intimacy and love through inspiring and informative talks, edutainment experiences, arts and products and services.
The team also organized the Sex Tech Hackathon, which provided aspiring founders with a platform to showcase new ideas and solutions to women’s problems.
A lot of angel investors, investors and acceleration programs have shown their support for femtech startups in the city state.
For example, Fig Health and Ferne Health are funded by Antler Venture Capital and Iterative VC respectively, while She Period, a menstrual disc company, is part of the Singapore Textile and Fashion Federation (TAFFS) Fashion Incubation Cohort.
Karen told Vulcan Post in an interview that it is relatively easy for founders to start a femtech startup in Singapore, as there is no government resistance to startups in this category.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has been working on a regulatory test box since 2018 for telemedicine and mobile medicine, to create a framework for online and mobile health platforms. Especially due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health has intensified efforts in this area.
In February 2021, the Announced by the Ministry of Health (MS) which launched a regulatory test box with a framework to monitor online and mobile healthcare platforms.
In the future, more emerging female technology companies are expected in Singapore, and more female founders are expected to follow the trend.
Barriers to femtech growth
According to Karen, the number one barrier to growth in the femtech space is the stigma and bias associated with funding. The founding women still are with brutal funding everywhere worldwide, including Singapore.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reported that the founders give better income than the male founders: for every dollar raised, women-run startups generated 78 cents and male-run startups generated 31 cents in revenue.
Meanwhile, according to a report published by Allied Market Research, the global sexual welfare market generated US $ 74.777 billion in 2019 and is estimated to reach US $ 108.322 billion in 2021.
In order to address the funding imbalance, Karen has started a crowdfunding platform at Della’s headquarters for femtech founders to raise funds.
The stigma and taboo that still surrounds the femtech and sexual wellness space can also pose challenges for these startups when it comes to scaling.
While they may have no problem getting started in Singapore, mass adoption can be a challenge. It can take a while to convince women that they need to prioritize their reproductive health and sexual well-being.
It is more difficult to advertise products and services like this openly, as women’s health and sexual well-being are still perceived as problematic, sensitive and secretive issues.
Jingjin Liu, CEO and co-founder of ZaZaZu, said that despite all odds, the sexual welfare industry in Singapore has been growing in recent years and that startups working in the sector have a mission to normalize sexual well-being.
The female technology industry may be relatively new and may not grow as easily, rapidly, and as expansively as other less stigmatized sectors, such as transportation, social media, or e-commerce.
However, this sector represents a massive untapped potential of half the world’s population gaining more social, economic and political power.
Therefore, it is crucial that bold entrepreneurs get to claim this new space and ensure the advantage of the industry in the first place.
Featured Image Credit: Ease Healthcare