Pam Garside: “Many VCs are still in the dark about women’s health” - BioInnovation Institute

Pam Garside: “Many VCs are still in the dark about women’s health”

Pam Garside: “Many VCs are still in the dark about women’s health”

For more than two decades, Pam Garside has been part of the start-up community in the digital health space first in the US and later also in the UK. She has a background in health care administration and as the Chairman of Cambridge Angels investment group, as a Fellow of the Judge Business School of Cambridge University, and as a management consultant in the sector she keeps a close eye on new development in the space where digital health and women’s health emerge.  

She is a member of the Investment Committee of Cambridge Enterprise, the technology transfer company of Cambridge University, and for the past two years, she has been a member of BII’s Healthtech Program Advisory Group.  

Now, she also joins BII’s Women Health Innovation Panel. We spoke with her to find out what’s happening in digital and women’s health.  

How has the investment community adjusted to the current focus on women’s health?
I am in the digital health space, and we’ve seen massive investments here in the past 10 years led by Silicon Valley. It’s mostly been men investing in companies led by men and in the general health sector, but they now see the women’s market in this space. Women make a lot of the financial as well as health decisions in a household and that’s what the investors have clocked on to. What surprises me is how much in the dark they are around women’s health issues and how they tend to find it somewhat disgusting to hear about the detail! Men don’t like talking about eggs, menopause, vaginal dryness and how to treat it. It’s ’tabootech’. But young women don’t mind, and they tend to go full force on all the terms when pitching to investors.     

What’s happening around women’s health in the academic environments in the UK?
It’s quite interesting actually. Just recently, there was a conference focusing on women’s health and I see young women coming together to talk about femtech and ensure that capital is invested in this area. Many start-ups are quite ’soft’ and focused on tracking women’s health and fertility in apps to the end-consumers, but a few start-ups are also emerging in more deep-tech. We just need to help by coaching them to be assertive and smart in their pitches. I am currently getting approximately a pitch deck every day and I always prioritize speaking to female founders. 

What’s driving the focus on women’s health?
I’d like to think that science is driving the change, not only at the universities but also through companies investing in R&D. This is, however, such a long process, and female consumers can really be quite desperate. We see that in especially infertility and menopause because the patients are so vulnerable and there are not many options available. The growing market and the demand for services for women also drive the focus. 

What’s the temperature of the current market?
In the past year, the digital health market has had a downturn like all markets, and this has also affected the women’s health space. Digital health was probably an overvalued sector, and VCs are now faced with a market that has lower valuations and even some bargains. It’s slowly adjusting now and if you have a good product in femtech, you just have to battle on. I will still say that friendly financing is a good place to start and that is why angels are a good choice, or women-led VCs. In the Cambridge Angels investment group, we’ve managed to get quite a few women to join, and it has increased focus on women’s health. At the end of the day, angels will only invest in good companies but many of us will bend over backwards to support both women founders and women’s health.  

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