Femtech startup Clue is looking at expanding the feature-set of its period tracking app to attract women outside its current younger demographic.
“Menopause is a huge space,” said founder Ida Tin, speaking on stage here at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. “I’ve been submerged into this area of female health for almost a decade now and every day I learn something new and everywhere I look I’m like ‘why is nobody dealing with this?’
“Where is technology? How is technology serving women’s needs when they go through menopause? There is nothing — it’s really, really just this open space. So what we really want to do with Clue is to kind of be a companion as they walk through life.”
While she said the current priority for the app is adding more features to serve its existing user base, who are mainly using it for period tracking, features for tracking menopause symptoms could also be added “in the coming months and years”.
The transformative potential of tracking data to unlock a deeper understanding of health issues was also discussed during the session.
“Give it a few years and I think that people will start understanding that having this longitude data-set of your health is going to be an incredibly valuable thing to have — almost like life insurance,” said Tin.
“Because we will learn to pick up early signals of disease that currently we have no ways to detect early enough — ovarian cancer would be one of them. Which is totally treatable if you catch it early. But it’s hard to catch it early.
“And I think there will be many more things like this where people will learn to know that collecting data for your health is just a really, really smart thing to do.”
But on the data front she also cautioned that technology companies pushing into the health space really need to prioritize data transparency and ethics.
Taking time to do due diligence on potential partners is one of the reasons Clue has been holding off on doing more integrations with third parties which could expand its own data pipe, she added, noting also that it would rather partner with a hardware maker than build its own devices.
Hardware devices that are really exciting her are “the kind of things that can tell us about what’s going on in the body at a more molecular level”, she said.
“And also things where the user experience can be true mass market — I think at the moment we have some solutions for natural family planning but… the user experience is not what it needs to be for it to be something that’s really working for a lot of people. So those are the kinds of things we think we have ideas that could make that better.”
“That’s definitely an ambition that we have to integrate with a lot of different things — and it’s wonderful to be in this space of femtech because there is so much happening,” added Tin. “But we’ve been holding off til we’ve figured out what really to do with those extra data streams, what partnership we felt is a really good brand fit.
“Especially with some of the big corporations — we want to really make sure that we have the user’s needs at the center of our attention. And make sure that we can navigate something as challenging as a partnership with a big corporation without that, in the end, not benefiting the user.”
Responding to a question about concerns raised in the UK by a data-sharing and app development partnership between ad giant Google DeepMind and the country’s National Health Service, she said: “I think the lack of transparency is really problematic.”
This summer, a 2015 agreement between the Royal Free NHS Trust and DeepMind was judged by the UK’s data protection watchdog to have broken privacy laws. Under the arrangement, the medical records of 1.6M patients using three London hospitals passed to DeepMind without the people’s knowledge or consent — and, as it turned out, with no legal basis for the information to be shared.
“Things that happen without users understanding where their data is going I think just shouldn’t happen,” said Tin.
“There’s always this kind of tension between — that data can be used for bad and data that can be used for good. And I think right now there’s so much connotation that data is kind of a negative thing, and people are misusing it, selling it, hacking it, breaking it. And I really want to also raise the voice — and it’s a fantastic thing that we can now understand all this thing that we couldn’t understand before. And really be a stance that we can use data for good — we just need to get it right. We shouldn’t shy away and think data’s bad.
“Data’s fantastic — it’s when we misuse it, it becomes problematic,” she added. “So let’s build good, ethical, solid data companies.
“It’s starts with a very deep, ethical choice that you make as a founder, as a company… What kind of company do we want to be? And what do we think is right? And then living by those standards.”