As part of the startup Interview series, we are going to interview Mrs. Nandhini Gopal from Femcy, a Singapore-based FemTech startup making an app that offers evidence-based lifestyle guidance for better menstrual health.
Nandhini, thanks for taking the time to catch up with us. Can you briefly outline the company’s story, what is Femcy’s key goal? Who are the founders and how it all became what it is today?
For too long, stigma and societal taboos have prevented women from accessing better care for issues they face every month. And in the past decade, the impact of diet and lifestyle on menstrual conditions has become increasingly clear. Each body is unique, and hormones affect each person differently. That’s why the solution needs to be tailored to each person, based on their menstrual phase and symptoms.
The research and scientific knowledge behind Femcy is already being used to train top athletes and sportswomen. We believe that everyone’s life is a marathon, and we all want to be at the top of our game. And at last, more women are empowered and have access to the financial freedom necessary to spend on these health goals. And so we’re taking this knowledge to the average person, in a format that they can easily use and benefit from.
Our goal is aligned with UN SGD 5: Gender Equality. Femcy’s goal is to empower women to achieve gender balance at the workplace and in society, by fighting menstrual stigma and enabling earlier diagnosis of conditions that can hamper their productivity and quality of life.
This cause is personal to us as founders –
me, Nandhini Gopal, a marketing and partnerships expert and PCOS sufferer who fought many years of deep-rooted period stigma before she even realized she needed a diagnosis for her mysterious menstrual symptoms.
Jacqueline Kressner is an endometriosis sufferer whose symptoms moved her to leave her corporate finance career to train as an integrative health coach and ayurvedic practitioner, mentoring women to help them find natural, lifestyle-based solutions to their issues.
Rahul Kanoi is a strategy consultant with a background in AI and robotics, who is passionate about women’s health.
What kind of products and services does your company offer?
Femcy offers a three-pronged strategy for better menstrual health:
Personalized lifestyle guidance content, based on the symptoms and menstrual phase of each user, to help manage symptoms caused by nutritional deficiencies and chronic hormonal conditions like PCOS.
Expert consultation, for earlier intervention and guidance in case of concerning “red-flag” symptoms that could indicate an undiagnosed underlying condition.
Curated menstrual wellness products, such as nutraceuticals and pain management devices, that fit into users’ busy lifestyles to offer nutritional support and better quality of life.
What’s the latest progress in the project, and what are you focusing on right now?
The Femcy app prototype was launched in May 2021, and we’ve been learning from our early user feedback to tailor the app experience to their needs. Based on user feedback, we launched the expert consultation feature, and we’re currently focusing on building our curated products vertical to supplement the lifestyle guidance from the app.
What pain of your customers are you helping solve? What is your company’s offering and what kind of customers and partners are you looking for?
Femcy is relevant to every menstruator, from menarche to menopause. We spoke to over 1000 menstruators across India, Singapore and the Philippines, understanding their current menstrual needs, how they resolve their period issues and how much their issues matter to them. Overwhelmingly, we learned that they want to see solutions to their symptoms, are concerned about the potential downstream impact to their fertility as well as the quality of life issues such as productivity at their workplace, reducing mood swings, and aesthetic reasons such as skin health, weight loss, and fitness gains.
These people currently use a hit-and-miss combination of apps to troubleshoot their issues – period tracker, calorie tracker, exercise app, and so on – together with a dose of self-experimentation + inherited knowledge + unverified tips from their support network. In these regions, there is also a stigma around menstruation which makes many people reluctant to consult gynecologists till their issues become severe.
Femcy bridges these gaps by providing personalized menstrual health guidance and solutions for each menstruator, as well as guiding them toward earlier intervention from the right experts in the case of concerning “red flag” symptoms. For these sufferers, the Femcy app can offer a range of benefits, from reduced PMS and better quality of life to better pre-pregnancy wellness and management of chronic conditions like PCOS and endometriosis.
As we build and scale the curated products vertical at Femcy, we would love to partner with menstrual wellness product manufacturers across South East Asia – nutraceuticals, period pain management devices, hormone-friendly menstrual care products… our aim is to offer our users a choice of the products they need at the right time of their menstrual cycle.
What differentiates Femcy from its competitors?
In South East Asia, there are no wellness apps focused on menstruators, for whom hormonal balance impacts menstrual wellness and almost every aspect of overall health. The closest competitors would be period trackers – which offer tracking and sometimes, educational content around menstrual symptoms but no solutions, nutrition and exercise apps – which are mostly generic and don’t offer tailored guidance as to the needs of the female body change through the month, and telehealth apps – which are completely user-initiated and don’t aid earlier diagnosis or intervention. Femcy is unique in this market, in offering a personalized menstrual health solution that can aid earlier intervention and diagnosis.
Do you use AI technology in your product? How does it work for you?
The core of the Femcy app is an AI-based engine that offers smart recommendations to nutrition, exercise and wellness using the symptoms and menstrual cycle data entered by the user – we use over 40+ data points to offer personalized wellness guidance unique to each user’s menstrual health needs. The engine also identifies “atypical, red-flag symptoms” from each user’s cohort to flag issues for human expert intervention, enabling earlier diagnosis of possible underlying conditions. As more users start using Femcy, the app will get smarter and will be able to offer better predictions and more detailed guidance, as the AI-based engine learns from a larger data pool.
What is your business model and how are you planning to get early customers onboard? Have you already raised money for your operations and building the platform?
We plan to acquire users through a mix of B2B2C and B2C initiatives. We are currently acquiring most of our users through our social media handles, and plan to continue acquiring users digitally. Also, we are acquiring users through webinar events to corporate women, schools, and colleges, offering awareness webinars and personalized menstrual health consultations to their female members.
Femcy also has the potential to be an integral part of gynecological practice, helping medical professionals track and analyze trends in patient histories through the menstrual cycle and create tailored lifestyle modifications that are trackable and easy for their patients to follow.
What milestones have you had in fundraising and where are you now?
Femcy was bootstrapped to build the initial product. Now that we have a prototype in the market, we’ve started fundraising. Our goal is to close our pre-seed round by the end of 2021.
What was it like growing your team? What are the challenges and surprises you encountered? What tips do you have for building a solid team?
Perhaps it is the cause we’re working on, but Femcy has been fortunate in building our talented team. We’ve had amazing, talented people reach out to us, volunteering their time and expertise towards the Femcy app. We’ve also been able to build a great team of mentors and advisors who guide us on aspects from app design to navigating the healthcare ecosystem in our primary markets.
What are your company’s plans for the future, your major dream in 2021?
We hope to see Femcy as a valuable tool to guide every female smartphone user in South East Asia – their days begin and end with lifestyle regimens from Femcy. Our goal for 2021 is to make the process and app easily and intuitively fit into our users’ lifestyle – building that habit of using Femcy regularly will make us as well as our users successful. As this habit of using Femcy grows, the opportunities for growth are manifold: ordering at-home test kits for hormone levels on the app, connecting with smart devices for more accurate menstrual wellness guidance, catering to key life events like pregnancy and menopause…
What do you think about the business climate in Singapore and in Asia in general?
Since 2020, the business climate for female health has been amazing in Singapore, and across South East Asia – with a growing list of startups focused on female health and wellness. From discreet birth control prescriptions delivered straight to the home to sexual wellness guidance, to fertility advice and tests, there are multiple companies focusing on the complete spectrum of female health. We even have investors and funds that are tailored to aid female founders and female health ventures. It’s a great ecosystem to be a part of!
To summarize our interview I would like to ask your opinion about the future of the HealthTech industry, especially considering the impact of pandemics and all this economic turbulence.
Did you know? Health and wellness spending was already a greater priority than travel for millennial smartphone users in India, even before the Covid-19 pandemic began! And since the pandemic and lockdowns, people are increasingly focused on personal care and wellness. Although economic turbulence has resulted in concern over financial security and health insurance concerns, all of these trends have only spurred users to take better preventative measures for their physical and mental wellness.
The silver lining in these troubling times is that people are more willing than ever to look at holistic health solutions – looking beyond pharmacological solutions towards lifestyle, nutrition, gut health, and fitness. This is a welcome trend and one that is likely to persist after the pandemic blows over. The future of the Healthtech industry will definitely focus on incorporating these user behaviors to offer more evidence-based, personalized lifestyle and wellness guidance for better health outcomes.
Learn more about Femcy: Website, Instagram, LinkedIn.