It’s been all over twitter these past couple of weeks: Community is the new moat and has founders and investors equally excited. Community has made its way back into pitch decks as a strategic advantage and the digital health space is no exception here. But what does all of this mean for women’s health startups and how does one build, scale and monetize community? This past Wednesday a couple of femtech founders and investors got together on Clubhouse to discuss just that, share their insights, strategies, but also the challenges that come with community building in the healthcare space. The session was hosted by angel investor and Forbes journalist Bérénice Magistretti, PERLA Health’s Janine Kopp and Guud Woman’s Jan Deruyck, who were joined by Sweet Capital’s Pippa Lamb, Ferly’s Billie Quinlan, Olive’s Alex Schinasi and Lee Rotenberg as well as Elektra Health’s Jannine Versi.

“People have an inherent need to belong. You can take advantage of that.”

So how does one actually build community in women’s health? For Olive, a femtech startup that’s still in stealth, it all started with identifying knowledge gaps and addressing those with their offering. Similarly Elektra Health opened up the conversation around menopause. The team started to organize events that connect physicians with women going through menopause. Today these events are still core to the company’s service as they proved to be eye opening for both women who finally got some of their questions answered, but also for providers, who got to appreciate the emotional rollercoaster midlife women are on sometimes. Ferly’s community grew organically from the start. The team also focused on connecting members and experts in the space from the beginning. For Billie Quinlan the key to building thriving communities is to understand what drives the group. What values do members have? What support systems do they need? What themes would they like to talk about and what topics are off limits? For both companies nurturing their communities is core to their business and mission alike.

Unsurprisingly investors like Sweet Ventures’ Pippa Lamb are also seeing this renaissance of community-driven growth reflected in the pitch decks they receive. She noted that communities are come in many different shapes and sizes, can have different goals and different strategic value to a company. As an investor it’s important to her why a community matters and how its value is measured. Panelists agreed on the importance of setting quantifiable goals for communities and measuring against those early on. This helps to be crystal clear on how community management efforts contribute to a company’s business model, growth, KPIs and what the ROI of the investment is.

“Use your community to build your community.”

Community matters and presents a competitive advantage if done right. But how does one get this far? And who’s involved in building the community? In Ferly’s experience, it is critical for people from across the company to be involved in community management. In their case this helped to build user empathy within the organization which proved to be a big advantage when building product due to the close feedback loop. While outsourcing community management efforts may seem like a viable strategy at first, it is probably not sustainable or smart when considering the knowledge lost and the missed opportunity of co-creating with your members. In Olive’s experience community co-creation not only leads to better products and services, but also loyalty and stickiness. A sense of belonging turns users into members, helps brand preference and eventually retention.

In order to achieve this though, it is important to eventually move the community from top-down to many-to-many communication. This critical inflection point happens when members start to talk to each other and not just to the community manager or team. In Guud Woman’s experience being intentional from the beginning about how people can ask questions and offering a structure to do this can fast-track some of these member-generated interactions. A critical mass however is needed to achieve this, so patience and persistence is key.

Cultivating Health Related Communities Requires Lots of Care

On a last note all agreed, that lots of care needs to go into managing health related communities to ensure the information shared with and by members is accurate and evidence-based. It is crucial to involve medical experts from the start to set the tone and ensure problems from other patient communities, e.g. in Facebook Groups or on Reddit, aren’t simply recreated in a different place.

The next Women’s Wednesday Session will take place on Wed, Feb 24 at 9am PST / 6pm CET / 5pm GMT. This week’s topic is “Hiring & Growing Your Team”.

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