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How Women’s Health Conversations With Investors Have Evolved

Women’s health is starting to be recognized as more than just maternal health, but there’s still more education that needs to be done with investors, executives said during a recent panel discussion at the MedCity INVEST conference in Chicago.

According to Joe Connolly, co-founder and CEO of Visana Health, conversations with investors have shifted a lot over the last five years. Visana Health treats women for a range of conditions outside of maternal health, including endometriosis, fibroids, menopause and polycystic ovary syndrome. Connolly helped create the company after seeing his mom, aunt and grandma suffer from gynecological conditions that impacted their day-to-day life. But when he first started talking with investors, he found that many of them didn’t understand these conditions.

“When I would say things like endometriosis and fibroids, they would almost completely shut down because they have never heard of these conditions,” Connolly said on the panel. “A lot of women that have these conditions are suffering in silence. They aren’t telling people about them. No one wants to talk about their heavy periods. [The investors] probably knew someone that’s suffering from this, but they don’t actually know about it at the end of the day.”

However, more women are starting to get promoted within the larger venture capital firms and are supporting women’s health startups, Connolly said. This was the case for Visana, he noted.

There has also been a change in the number of women’s health companies that venture capitalists are willing to invest in.

“It used to be a check box,” Connolly said. “‘I’ve got my women’s health investment’ and everything was in one. And now we’re starting to see that people are getting comfortable with multiple women’s health investments in different types of areas.”

Melissa Dennis, chief medical officer of Partum Health and a co-panelist, agreed with Connolly. The company offers fertility, pregnancy and postpartum support. Dennis noted that social media and the success of women’s health companies like Maven Clinic have brought more attention from investors. When Partum Health first began raising funds, it mostly received interest from smaller, more niche firms. Now, it’s seeing interest from larger venture capital firms.

However, she added that while the industry is moving in the right direction, there is still a long way to go, particularly for companies outside of maternal health and fertility.

“People’s thoughts on the women’s health sector are still very narrow,” Dennis said. “Partum Health does happen to be in that fertility realm, but so many of these other companies are not. So I think it’s just educating on all these other opportunities of investing in women’s health.”

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