Technology designed for women exploded in 2016, with new products hitting the market ranging from wearable trackers for expectant mothers to networking apps to help female professionals get ahead. "The online consumer market of women is a new phenomenon" in part because investors are waking up to the opportunity, says Anu Duggal, founding partner of the Female Founders Fund, a firm that invests in women-led startups. "The purchasing power of women is massive and becoming clearer."
Many of the female founders that made our list struggled for years to raise capital, but were able to convince investors in their vision through persistence and creativity (and of course, a solid business pitch). Miki Agrawal from Thinx, a period underwear maker, tells us she requested that one of her male investors wear a maxi pad during an entire meeting to get him to empathize with what women experience. Others like Morena Simatic, cofounder of wearables startup Bellabeat, had little trouble raising financing for a product designed specifically for women rather than a pink version of an existing product.
Five years ago, Harvard Business Review conducted a landmark survey of professional women and found that most felt vastly underserved in the marketplace compared to men. That's starting to change. "Women were a neglected category, until recently," says Simatic.
To compile this list, we asked a range of investors and entrepreneurs and solicited feedback from dozens of women. Here are their picks, in no particular order.8. SEX AND SEXUAL HEALTH: FORIA
Two words: Vaginal cannabis. Many of the women we spoke to raved about Foria Relief, a cocoa butter-based cannabis for the vagina that is designed to help with menstrual cramps and other sexual health issues. That accompanies Foria Pleasure, a product that aims to increase sexual pleasure through a lubricant spray. As one happy customer described the experience: "(It was) like my vagina was kicking back on the beach in Mexico, without a care in the world." Sex and sexual health is a notoriously underfunded space, but Foria has garnered rave reviews from users and continues to sell well in Colorado and California.
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