Just a few weeks ago the UK Department of Health & Social Care shared its Vision for the Women’s Health Strategy for England, a directional document that has garnered a lot of attention in the UK and beyond. The findings in this report are largely based on input collected last spring as part of a Call for Evidence seeking input from patients, clinicians and other experts. The idea behind the initiative: In order to improve the way the healthcare system serves women and to improve women’s health outcomes, their voices and experiences need to be the starting point for any work done towards more equity.
So last spring when the government asked, more than 100,000 women answered the call, which probably makes this one of the largest government-funded programs to date to listen and understand women’s health, a space that has been underserved, under-researched and underfunded for far too long.
The first outcome of this effort is the recently released vision document, which outlines six areas of focus for women’s health. Those will consequently be addressed by a women’s health ambassador, that is soon to be appointed by the UK government.
.The six focus areas are:
- Menstrual health and gynaecological conditions
- Fertility, pregnancy, pregnancy loss and post-natal support
- The menopause
- Healthy ageing and long-term conditions
- Mental health
- The health impacts of violence against women and girls
It is great to see a concentrated effort in the women’s health space on governmental level and hope is that more countries will follow the UK’s lead to better address the needs of women. But now that the first results are in, follow-up and execution are key in order to turn these early learnings into actual improvements and results. The women’s health innovation community is well-positioned to add value here and play a big supporting role in making it happen, however just like advocates, researchers, and many others in this field, entrepreneurs are lacking one crucial thing right now. And that is funding.
Last year, as the government initiative and call for evidence was well underway, another effort to support women’s health kicked off in the UK as Priya Oberoi, the Founder & Managing Partner of Oberoi Capital, set out to help close the femtech funding gap and raise a new £100M Venture Fund to invest exclusively in women’s health startups across the UK and Europe.
Oberoi has experienced first-hand how difficult and frustrating it can be for women to nagivate the healthcare system. She lives with an auto-immune disease herself, is a vulvar cancer survivor, ‘IVF mom’ and a great believer in technology’s ability to drive change in this sector. After spending the last 10 years fundraising for PE & VC firms in the Middle East, COVID-19’s travel restrictions made it difficult for her to continue ‘business as usual’, and she took the time to rethink, reinvent and eventually co-founded Goddess Gaia Ventures with the goal to pay it forward, drive change and invest in innovative solutions that target women’s health and wellbeing.
According to Oberoi “investing in women’s health is a no-brainer. The pandemic has impacted our wellbeing on many levels and uncovered how many get left behind in our healthcare system as it is today. We need to focus on the areas of health that have been underserved and underdeveloped. Women’s health in one of these areas.”
Goddess Gaia Ventures is a thesis driven and tech agnostic fund with plans to invest in innovations that make a difference to women’s health. Oberoi explains: “We are closely watching developments and investment opportunities around female fertility, female cancers, lifestyle diseases, femtech and chronic conditions, as well as primary care. There are so many areas in women’s health that are overdue for innovation. We’re really looking at anything from menarche to menopause.”
As an avid angel investor Oberoi is no stranger to early-stage investing and also women’s health innovation. Her portfolio to date includes healthtech companies like Fertility Circle, Naytal, Wild AI, Bio-Rithm, Latch Aid and Planet Nourish. Her new fund Goddess Gaia Ventures will focus on seed and pre-Series A rounds with room for follow-on investments.
“All our investment verticals pivot around women’s health. We’re interested in how nutrition, good gut health, mindful practices and holistic treatments can provide 360° solutions. Every portfolio company we invest in will have a positive impact on society. We invest using the lens of diversity & gender, sustainability and social impact with the SDGs guiding our work.” It is indeed possible to create positive societal impact while creating great VC financial returns, as the many exits in the women’s health space over the past years have shown.
“In this much needed effort to improve women’s health outcomes we all have a role to play. It is great to see the UK government step up to create better policies and funding opportunities for healthcare, research and so on. But there are also countless entrepreneurs and investors like us, who create and fund impactful healthcare innovation and we’re excited to do our part in helping achieve better health for all.”
Oberoi concludes in the words of Andreesen: “To create the future we want for our own children and grandchildren, we must build.”
And build we all will as we advocate for better public health and education, better policies, more research programs and also more funding opportunities for entrepreneurs in the UK and beyond who tirelessly work towards a healthcare system where no one gets left behind, no matter who or where in the world they may be.
Editorial Disclaimer: Femtech Insider Founder Kathrin Folkendt is an Advisor to Goddess Gaia Ventures.