After Roe’s reversal, founders of women’s health startups prepare for battle

Advocates and organizers had been preparing for Roe v. Wade to be overturned since the U.S. Supreme Court draft decision leaked in early May. But Nadya Okamoto, co-founder of period care company August, still felt heartbroken when the decision became official in late June.

“One of the things that always made me passionate about policy and legislative action was that it always felt so permanent,” she told TechCrunch. “For Roe to be rolled back went against many of the beliefs I had about change and social progress.”

Activists like Okamoto are now on the front lines of once again protesting for an individual’s right to an abortion. As a startup founder, Okamoto said she’s ready to use her platform and position to help educate and influence others — and she’s not alone.

Many women founders running reproductive health companies are taking battle stances as the U.S. slips into a reality worse than what existed pre-Roe. Come November, 26 states face a near-total abortion ban.

The decision to reverse Roe also paves the way for the erosion of other rights, such as those that gave the right to interracial and gay marriage.

For this reason, TechCrunch conducted another vibe check, this time with the women founders taking themselves and their companies to the front lines of the fight for abortion. Okamoto and some of the others admit they never thought they would see themselves here; at the same time, it feels as if they’ve been preparing their whole life to take up this fight.

“It’s a privilege to have a platform,” Okamoto said. “That privilege should be reconciled by using said platform to do something important.”

Elektra Health funnels new $3.75M round into helping women navigate menopause

Every woman will go through menopause some time during her life, but like many other femtech topics, this one is still not talked about as much as it should be.

Enter Elektra Health, a women’s health technology company startup that raised $3.75 million in seed funding to continue developing its platform that provides evidence-based care, education and a community for women going through the various stages of menopause.

Co-founders Alessandra Henderson and Jannine Versi told TechCrunch that more than 50 million women in the United States are currently in some stage of menopause, while the industry itself represents a $600 billion global market opportunity.

CEO Henderson, whose background includes business creation platform Human Ventures, called menopause a “cultural zeitgeist” that is coming into its own in terms of the conversation and having investors believe in Elektra’s mission. The company is also personal for Henderson — she went on a hormonal health journey that began four years ago after experiencing symptoms that went unexplained by specialists.

Several years later, she wanted to start a company in femtech. There was so much already in the reproductive space, yet no one was talking about what comes next or the phases for moving through menopause, Henderson said. It was when she was introduced to her co-founder Versi, whose background is in digital health, that the idea for Elektra came together.

Menopause is a hormonal health transition that typically starts in women when they reach their 40s or 50s. There have been up to 34 identified symptoms of menopause, and research has found that 80% of women say menopause symptoms have negatively impacted their quality of life in some way. At the same time, less than 20% of obstetrics/gynecology residency programs educate doctors about menopause.

Elektra’s platform is picking up that slack by offering clinical care via telemedicine and its proprietary “Meno-morphosis” program that features evidence-based guidance on symptoms, a community of support and access to a 1:1 dedicated menopause expert. The program will open completely to the public in 2022.

“We are all about caring for women by providing content, education, care, coaching and counseling, especially working in the arc of their journey,” Versi said. “This is such an intimate topic, but we have referral rates of 40% where women are talking about it themselves and then bring a friend along. Sustaining that is important to us. We are seeing clusters of friends come along and really bond with the community.”

The New York-based company’s seed funding was co-led by Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six and Flare Capital Partners, with participation from City Light Capital, January Ventures, Human Ventures, The Fund, Community Fund and a group of angel investors, including Hannah and Guy Raz, Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Jenny Fielding.

This new round of funding will be used to grow its team and to expand its integrative, evidence-based solution to millions of women in the U.S., and beyond.

Since launching the company in 2020, more than 1,800 women have participated in Elektra’s private beta educational programming.

“Last year was about learning and growing the things that women want,” Henderson said. “We are making an impact in the way women deserve.”

Much of women’s health technology is aimed at fertility, but Elektra Health is not alone in tackling this issue: new startup Peppy recently reported funding to address menopause in employee health; meanwhile, Vira Health raised £1.5 million in seed funding for a U.K. platform.

Katelin Holloway, founding partner at Seven Seven Six, said in her previous roles leading compensation and benefits for companies, she became increasingly aware that the need for menopause care was just as desired by employees as fertility benefits.

When her employees began requesting desk fans, she started investigating the source of the requests and found it was from the company’s non-Gen Z employees, and all women.

“I realized I had a decent cohort of women experiencing menopause,” Holloway said. “The fan on the desk was kind of a ‘bat signal’ to other employees, unlocking conversations between them where they had previously been experiencing these symptoms in silos.”

Once she became an investor, she put out the call again looking for a company providing that kind of care and was introduced to Elektra. Holloway said there is a whole new group of women entering their 40s who want to talk about menopause and have the technology available, while also wanting privacy for care and a community to share in the experience.

She called Elektra’s co-founders “incredible women who care deeply about this space and have amazing credentials and background to bring to this company.” She also said she was sold on their approach of care, community and content, which aligns with what was working in the pregnancy and fertility spaces.