The next big opportunity: FemTech

You might be wondering - what in the world is FemTech?! I'm launching an incubator in New York City focusing on start-up businesses targeting women, or those run by female founders. The world's first FemTech Lab.

This Lab will focus on the world's largest emerging market: WOMEN.

Did you know? Women drive the world economy. Women represent 72.8% of US consumption directly or through influence according to the Harvard Business Review. Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases. Globally women now control $20 billion in annual consumer spending, and that figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years.

There are a lot of business sectors that seem to be ripe for disruption when it comes to targeting women, from consumer packaged goods, fashion, child care, education to fitness, aging and wealth management. Many of these sectors employ “old school” business models run mainly by men. Therein is the opportunity for disruption, and we will be encouraging our member companies to start by using innovative technology to leverage data sets that profile behaviors and unmet needs.

Many companies simply have much to learn about selling to women. Jenny Darroch, a subject matter expert, is a professor of marketing at The Drucker School of Management at Claremont College, the author of a 2014 book“Why Marketing to Women Doesn’t Work”, and a blogger for the Huffington Post. She notes that lots of the marketing that targets her as women just doesn’t make sense.

Darroch talks about the expression “shrink it and pink it” used by some companies – like BIC and their pink lighter targeting women which is designed to be easier to use, or Black & Decker who makes pink power drills designed to be more user-friendly for women. They still drill the same holes in the what's the benefit?

While such theories may have worked in the past, the tech enabled generation demands products and services that solve real pain points. Changing the color and size is simply not enough. Efficiency, convenience, personalization, quality and affordability are paramount to the customer. The priorities of the female consumer are universal and together we represent the largest emerging market in the world.

Darroch observed that when pink is used it falls into the connotations of femininity: Sweet, demure, modest, loving, friendly, kind – all the stereotypes linked with femininity. “Shrinking and pinking” sure doesn’t synch with the characteristics of many start-up founders.

Entrepreneurs build businesses to solve pain points - the product or service is built from day one with the customer archetype in mind. They simply can't afford to just change the color and hope for the best. They are relentless innovators and their out of the box thinking and fearless attitude empowers them to ask the tough questions and challenge the norms.

Male or female, founders are able to quickly build tech enabled businesses while collecting real time feedback and data from customers. It's not about their preconceived notions; it's about real results. While it's obvious that women are most aware of what features would enhance their everyday and are building businesses to do just that, the FemTech lab will also mentor male run startups and provide the requisite sounding board to create more diverse perspectives that focus on the true needs of the target customer.

It's imperative that businesses are built with the consumer stakeholders perspective in mind. The FemTech lab will encourage diverse teams as it's well documented that it's truly better for everyone.

Corporate America: Take Note

While big companies spend millions on trying to understand women, they seem painfully slow to “get it.” Our founders will take a nimble and agile approach, using fast pivoting business models in order to greatly increase their likelihood of succeeding.  

As Steve Jobs once said “I want to put a ding in the universe.” Our mission with the FemTech Lab will be to help some interesting start-ups empower the world of the female customer, and create an environment where they can have lots of fun in the process.

FemTech: A Chance to Go Big

So my definition of “FemTech” goes well beyond a clever play on words or “shrinking and pinking” as a marketing approach. FemTech is about thinking big and on a strategic level, to go after an under-served $25 trillion market. The FemTech lab will push boundaries and break stereotypes to truly understand how to serve women better. 

The FemTech lab with provide a symbiotic environment for the participating companies – using highly detailed consumer profiles / segments based on real-time big data and the best technology to create companies that improve the everyday of women. Together 20 start-up companies will create businesses based on innovative solutions targeting women.