- Fertility treatment startups have captured Silicon Valley’s attention with an estimated $320 million in venture funding.
- NEA, one of Silicon Valley’s oldest venture capital investors, gave Business Insider a look at how it evaluates investments in the broader women’s healthcare industry.
- Vanessa Larco, a partner at NEA, told Business Insider that she thinks fertility is the niche within women’s healthcare that is resonating the most with investors.
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Silicon Valley is trying to hack women’s health.
The trillion-dollar market covers everything from menstruation products to menopause tracking and everything in between. But over the last 18 months, fertility treatment startups have caught the eyes of some of tech’s biggest names in venture capital.
Fertility treatment startups alone have raised an estimated $320 million in venture funding according to NEA partner Vanessa Larco. As a partner at one of Silicon Valley’s largest venture firms, Larco says she’s witnessed an explosion of fertility treatment startups within the pitches the firm reviews every day.
"Fertility is felt by man and woman. It’s not just a women’s thing," Larco told Business Insider. "Genders mostly go through it together, in a lot of cases it’s a heterosexual couple, and when you think of the diversity of experiences with fertility treatment, it includes women and men."
She adds: "If you think about the investing population, it’s mostly men. Investors invest in things they can relate to, and this is more relatable to them than some of the other areas of women’s health."
NEA has invested in Nuelle, a sexual wellness startup, and Willow, which makes a smart breast pump. While Larco was evaluating the numerous fertility startups knocking on the firm’s door, she created guidelines for the investing team to evaluate any new startup in fertility or the broader women’s health space.
One of the hottest areas right now is "femtech," which refers to the new crop of startups that address women’s digital reproductive health — everything from a smart breast bump to a period tracking app. Femtech is a subset of the broader women’s health sector, which includes things like breast cancer treatment and healthcare.
In looking through proprietary and publicly available data, Larco also found that health products for aging women, particularly motherhood and menopause, are some of the most overlooked areas in terms of venture capital dollars and new companies created.
"We’re just getting women starting companies, and now we have to wait for women to start experiencing menopause to found menopause companies," Larco said. "Maybe wait 10 more years and we’ll see it, but selfishly I’d like it to accelerate so these products exist by the time I’m perimenopausal."
Here is deck Larco created to share NEA’s guidelines for investing in women’s health startups.
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