Flo, a fertility focused period-tracking app, has closed a $50 million Series B funding round which it says values the company at $800M — underlining how much value investors are now attaching to women’s health tech.
The 2016-founded startup raised a $1M seed in its first year and has gone on to raise a total of $65M. The latest B funding round is co-led by VNV Global and Target Global.
Flo’s user-base has grown to around 200M globally — a proportion of whom pay it a subscription to access exclusive content, in addition to the core period tracking features.
The app uses machine learning to offer users “curated” cycle tracking and predictions, personalized health insights, and real-time health alerts — based on tracked symptoms, with data fed in by its sizeable user base. So while it started out as a period tracker Flo now touts its app as a proactive, preventative healthcare tool for women — connecting them to “science-backed content, expert-led courses and accurate cycle predictions”.
But that’s also a measure of increased competition for women-centric utilities like period tracking — with Apple, for example, (finally) adding cycle tracking in the Health app that’s native to iOS back in 2019. So femtech startups like Flo have to do a lot more than provide basic utility to win women these days.
Flo appears to be getting something right with its current content and marketing mix: Over the past 12 months it says its active subscriber base has increased 4x — hitting 1.5M in August 2021 — and it’s targeting reaching a $100M Annual Run Rate by the end of the year.
While its core business model is subscription-based, Flo also offers a freemium version of the app too (to provide basic period tracking). And all versions of the app can collect a wide range of data from users — including but not limited to sensitive health data related to users periods, fertility and pregnancies intentions.
Per its iOS App Privacy disclosure notice, the app may link a wide range of other data to the user too — including search history (!) and contact info. This disclose also reveals Flo’s app may track users’ location, purchases, usage data and identifiers in order to link their activity on third party apps and websites.
Since it’s serving up personalized health predictions you’d expect a lot of data capture to be going on.
Clearly, though, some of the data types its apps can collect are related to marketing efforts, rather than health — and Flo has suffered some privacy missteps on this front.
The company’s enthusiasm for collecting and sharing user data got it into hot water with the Federal Trade Commission recently, after a 2019 report by the Wall Street Journal — which analyzed a number of apps’ data-sharing habits and found Flo passing in-app activity to Facebook — such as when a user was having their period or had informed it of an intention to get pregnant — despite loud marketing claims that it would keep user data private.
This January Flo settled with the FTC over those allegations without admitting any wrongdoing.
As part of the terms of the FTC settlement, it is currently displaying a banner at the top of its website which links to a legal statement on the matter — where it informs users that between June 30, 2016 and February 23, 2019, its app sent an identifying number related to users along with information about their period and pregnancy to third party adtech companies that Flo uses for analystics and measurement services, including Facebook, Flurry, Fabric, and Google.
As part of the FTC settlement Flo also agreed to obtain an independent review of its privacy practices and that it would gain users’ consent before sharing their health information. The statement on its website reiterates this — telling users it will not share any information about their health with any company “unless we get your permission”.