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Women's health investment sees "speed bump," per SVB report

Data: PitchBook and SVB, a division of First Citizens Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Venture investors are loosening their purse strings for women's health startups, even in a tough economy.

Driving the news: Despite the stark funding crunch for generalist health care companies, women's health is seeing what Silicon Valley Bank analysts describe in a recent report as "more of a speed bump."

Details: Venture dollars flowed to women's health over the past five years, with the sector seeing a 314% rise in investment compared to just a 28% increase in overall health investments, per the analysis.

  • At its current pace, 2023 is on track to be the third-best funding year on record for women's health.

Meanwhile, even as the number of women's health deals dropped 8%, investment dollars rose 12%, the report's authors conclude.

Zoom in: Investors poured $435 million into non-fertility startups in Q3 2023.

  • That single quarter record "shows a heartening shift in the long-held misconception that fertility and pregnancy are the sole focus of women's health," write SVB lead authors Jackie Spencer and Raysa Bousleiman.
  • "Women's health has been siloed into being just about menstruation or reproduction, but the true breadth of it is: Women predominantly make health care decisions ... and women are the CEOs of the household," Maveron partner Anarghya Vardhana previously told Axios.

Plus, 76% of women's health companies have a female founder, a rate three times higher than the overall startup sector.

The big picture: A groundswell of support for women's health surfaced in the wake of the reversal of Roe v. Wade, Axios reported in June.

  • Builders of women's health companies told Axios at the time they were increasingly motivated to expand their offerings as demand for existing health care resources surged and current supply buckled.
  • Last November, women's health dominated midterm talk.
  • Virtual-first primary care and other in-home and remote services began gaining steam after the Dobbs ruling, as women delayed in-person care because of fear of criminal prosecution.

Yes, but: Women-focused startups continue to face an uphill battle in today's male-dominated venture landscape, a trend reflected in women's health companies' collectively lower valuations, per the report.

  • "What is ... surprising is the consistency with which women's health companies are valued lower than health care companies overall," Spencer and Bousleiman note.

State of play: While fertility-focused companies previously garnered the bulk of investor attention in women's health, funding is increasingly flowing to companies addressing the broader spectrum of women's health concerns.

What's next: "We expect deal counts and dollars to accelerate with a greater realization of the unmet health needs of women, improvement in women's health research and funding as the sector matures," say Spencer and Bousleiman.

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