Silicon Valley is proving its growing commitment to femtech. On Tuesday, breast-pump maker Elvie announced it had raised $42 million in Series B funding, led by IPGL, serial investor Michael Spencer, and supported by Octopus Ventures and Impact Ventures U.K. The British health-tech startup has now raised a total of over $50 million to date.
Founded in 2013, Elvie manufactures two standout products for women: a silent, wearable breast pump and an app-connected Kegel trainer to strengthen the pelvic floor. According to Kaiser Permanente, one-third of women suffer from one or more pelvic floor disorders. Most women are prescribed Kegel exercises or invasive surgery, with not many treatment options in between.
Elvie garnered a cult following for its design-centric approach to female health products. Its collection offers sleek, smart alternatives to a sector that generally doesn’t see much innovation.
While femtech companies raised over $1.1 billion last year, reports CB Insights, female-led startups are still widely underrepresented: only 9% of health-tech businesses are founded by women, and women make up about 11% of health-tech partners.
Last year, however, saw an influx of femtech startups targeting underserved populations struggling with hushed-about issues. Willow is a direct-to-consumer underwear brand for those living with incontinence; Genneve is a telehealth service helping women going through menopause; and Joylux targets the millions of women who are too embarrassed–or cash-strapped–to seek medical treatment for pelvic floor and vaginal tissue problems.
According to a survey of 2,000 U.S. women conducted by online market research firm AYTM on behalf of Elvie, only 32% believe technology is designed for their needs in mind, with 70% of women citing look, feel, and tone as key shortcomings.
“Whether it’s menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, women’s bodies have been shrouded in taboo for centuries. We know so many issues of womanhood can be improved by technology, and there is so much potential in this space,” said Tania Boler, CEO of Elvie, in a statement.
The Elvie pump garnered a dozen awards, including a 2018 International Design Award and IoT Breakthrough Wearable Device of the Year Award. The company’s annual revenue run-rate tripled in the the past six months and is expected to grow by another 500% by the end of the year.
Elvie has been successful in marketing their band, in part because it isn’t afraid to take risks. This past fall, Elvie hired Mother London for a musical ad in which choreographed moms dance among cows in a barn. The lyrics include, “In case you had not noticed, these are not udders, they’re my boobs,” and in a nod to the Elvie breast pump, “I’ve been milking all along, and you didn’t even know.”
To celebrate Mother’s Day in the U.K., Elvie paraded giant inflatable breasts around London. The campaign, titled #FreetheFeed, intends to end of the stigma of public breastfeeding.
Moving forward, the company plans to expand its femtech offerings for all stages of a woman’s life, from pregnancy and childbirth to periods and menopause.
“The female-health sector has historically been underserved by technology, and there are very few companies addressing women’s health challenges,” Michael Spencer said in a statement. “Women’s health and wellness should not be a niche market and Elvie is pioneering smarter technology for women with a mission to improve women’s health outcomes globally.”