Women’s healthcare pins growth on personalization

SWAT Equity Partners' Sarah Foley says as more women advocate and educate themselves about their healthcare choices, women's healthcare is becoming a big growth area for entrepreneurs.

The pandemic has helped to cement the idea that personalized healthcare can be achieved at home, and as more women become empowered to advocate for their own care, entrepreneurs are ready to fill in the gaps.

Sarah Foley, a partner at SWAT Equity Partners, said the healthcare sector had become one of the fund’s focus areas because of how much potential has been fueled by the pandemic.

“This is one of the few themes that SWAT Equity Partners is looking at. We just started digging into the business and are doing some deep-dive due diligence,” Foley said. “It’s a great opportunity for sure. We’d like to use some time to see where to invest because some are just too early for us.”

Foley said one of the growth areas is in women’s health and wellness. The sector attracted many entrepreneurs who realized women have fewer healthcare choices despite being the primary healthcare decision-makers in their families. This allowed people to set up businesses that catered to different healthcare needs.

Women’s healthcare also presents possibilities for the growing supplements and personalized vitamins business. Foley noted that many women, herself included, are not proactive in taking care of their hormones, making for a ripe market for products like supplements.

As part of their interest in the sector, SWAT Equity Partners recently invested in Stix, a female-founded start-up selling direct-to-consumer women’s reproductive health products and offering educational resources to women ages 17 to 28. Foley said she had been following Stix founders Cynthia Plotch and Jamie Norwood since their time with Venture for America. SWAT Equity co-led the $3.5 million fundraising with Resolute Ventures.

Stix began in 2019 by selling pregnancy tests directly to consumers. It has since expanded to run the gamut of reproductive health products including ovulation tests, prenatal supplements and UTI products in discrete packaging. Each box includes scientifically-backed educational information.

SWAT Equity has made investments in several women’s beauty and personal care brands, such as Supergoop, which sells skincare, and Knix. The firm also invested in the maternity-wear brand Hatch. More than just investing in brands for women, Foley said she is proud that many female entrepreneurs approach SWAT Equity for funding.

“There are a lot of different ways that women can provide solutions for other women,” Foley said. “And we are aware that we tend to attract a lot of women-led companies because we have women on the GP side.”

But of course, women’s health is not the only significant growth opportunity in the space. Foley said that opportunities to look at brands addressing men’s health and wellness also exist.

She cited the boom in telehealth as a big driver, as the pandemic boosted the use of telemedicine. She said that patients will continue to choose telehealth over visiting clinics in-person, even as social distancing restrictions are eased up.

The CDC said in a report that telemedicine use grew 50 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. The agency also noted that telehealth is likely to remain an important tool in healthcare after the pandemic.

Foley said she sees telehealth growing not just for people, but for pets too.

“It is such a growing category,” she said. “We see that with the explosion of supplements and vitamins and with telehealth growing during the pandemic.”

Update: The above story was updated to include SWAT’s funding of Stix.