‘The dollars are massive’ when you invest in women’s health, venture capitalist says

·Reporter, Booking Producer
·4 min read

Women's health companies are at a pivotal moment of recognition, according to Deena Shakir, a partner at the venture capital firm Lux Capital.

According to Lux Capital, the value of its portfolio of women-led companies has risen to $10 billion. That's from the venture capital firm's $100 million investment in women-led companies. Approximately 20% of Lux's companies are led by a women founder or CEO.

"The dollars are massive when you think about the TAMs [Total Addressable Markets] and all of the related areas when you start to invest in women's health," Shakir told Yahoo Finance's Julie Hyman in an interview at the 2022 SXSW conference (video above).

AUSTIN, TEXAS - MARCH 15: (L-R) Julia Cheek, Kate Ryder, and Deena Shakir speak onstage at Women Building and Funding Healthcare Unicorns during the 2022 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Hilton Austin on March 15, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Saucedo/Getty Images for SXSW)
Julia Cheek, Kate Ryder, and Deena Shakir speak onstage at Women Building and Funding Healthcare Unicorns during the 2022 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Hilton Austin on March 15, 2022, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Saucedo/Getty Images for SXSW)

Until recently, the women's health category was "considered niche" and "some sort of tangential afterthought," Shakir explained.

But now, she continued, women's health is viewed more broadly as an access point into families' lives.

"Women are often the chief medical officers of their families," Shakir told Yahoo Finance at the 2022 SXSW conference, adding that "women's health is not only a wedge into women's bodies, their reproductive systems, their mental health, but also into broader family health."

Shakir credited the heightened interest in women's health to the presence of more women in venture capital.

"The investors around the table started to look more like you and me," Shakir said. For women investors, "it's very obvious and very personal, and I think many of us are embracing that conviction from a personal perspective and bringing that to our theses."

"There is data that shows that women investors do invest in more diverse companies," Shakir added. "Diverse founding teams hire more diverse workforces, so there's definitely a domino effect. It's critical."

Shakir estimated that around 15-17% of check-writers are women, which she said is "very low."

TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Katie Ryder and Tia Powell on Wednesday July 31, 2019 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)
Maven CEO Katie Ryder and Tia Powell on Wednesday July 31, 2019. (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

The 'generational opportunity' as women return to the workforce

The women-founded companies that Lux Capital backs operate in digital health, health care services, and technology automation.

Some of those companies include Alife, which addresses the fertility crisis; Adyn, which aims to develop a test to determine the "best" birth control for women in order to eliminate adverse reactions; Gameto, which addresses ovarian longevity; Waymark, which takes on vulnerable populations with Medicaid; and Maven, which provides support to working mothers.

One company that Shakir championed, in particular, was Maven Clinic, which raised $110 million dollars in its Series D funding round co-led by Lux Capital. Katie Ryder, the CEO and founder of Maven, joined Deena Shakir at a session during the 2022 SXSW Conference to discuss funding for female founders who are making headway in the health care sector.

Shakir noted that Maven is the "first unicorn in women's and family health" and said that Ryder embodies the "personal perspective" of the space.

"She's really a role model for a lot of early-stage founders who see that there is not only a venture-type outcome but truly a generational opportunity to be had here at the earliest days," Shakir said of Ryder.

Maven offers workplace family benefits ranging from pre-fertility care through pediatrics, which is critical as employees return to the office following the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When it comes to women's health and postpartum care, it's everything from lactation support to sleep coaching, career coaching, and everything in between," Shakir said. "And we see that employers want those types of solutions. They don't want to be navigating many, many different vendors for benefits."

Brooke DiPalma is a producer and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at bdipalma@yahoofinance.com.

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