What Occurs When Your Femtech Startup Can’t Use Social Media For Advertising?

Marketers Alison Greenberg and Audrey Wu used to log out investor emails with “satisfied vaginas!”

The co-founders of Ruth Well being sought after to supply telehealth products and services for pregnant ladies to discuss incontinence, intercourse and different changes that include giving beginning.

Like maximum cash-strapped startups, Ruth Well being started leveraging social media to put it on the market the corporate. However the content material proved “offensive” to these platforms: Early in 2020, Instagram took down a publish that used the phrase “vagina.” On Pinterest, one in every of Ruth Well being’s advertisements appearing a breastfeeding girl was once flagged for irrelevant content material.

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“It simply doesn’t make any sense,” Wu stated. “Then we attempted a special set of images and the ones had been rejected as smartly. And it simply turns into tough. Like, how do you in fact display a girl feeding her kid?”

Ruth Well being isn’t the one startup suffering with this quandary. The billion-dollar femtech sector is stuffed with startups of their infancy. In reality, 40% of funded femtech startups in 2022 are at their seed level, in keeping with Crunchbase information. Armed with a small advertising price range, they depend on broadly used social media platforms to develop an target market and display evidence of thought to buyers. With out that get admission to to broadly used advertising platforms, attracting investment can also be difficult

“It reasonably frankly puzzles us, however sadly if we need to do that at the platform, we need to abide by means of the foundations they set,” Wu stated.

Hassle getting buyers on board

For a very long time, femtech (learn: female-driven fitness applied sciences) have sat at the again burner a raffle investment from a mostly-male VC pool. For the reason that time period was once coined in 2016, the field broke the $1 billion mark in project capital raised for the primary time in 2021, in keeping with Crunchbase information.

Now it’s going through a brand new hurdle: Getting project companies on board as startups combat with a go-to-market technique.

Emmeline Ventures, which invests in women-centric startups, has a portfolio of startups tackling ovarian most cancers, sexual fitness or even a sports clothing startup that permits for air flow across the pelvic space.

“We need to speak about it proper in advance as a result of we all know those problems are available in the market, and (founders) wish to have a plan round how they’re going to marketplace what they’re development, given the place the hurdles are,” stated Naseem Sayani, cofounder and managing director at Emmeline Ventures.

Dipsea, a sexual wellness startup that gives a variety of audio erotica, has a historical past with Meta courting again to 2018 that comes to a rotating forged of Fb representatives. Weeks would cross by means of when Fb allowed Dipsea’s content material, the corporate stated; on different weeks, posts would get slashed regularly.

“We consider {that a} pleasure-first product, the product that creates erotica, is a sexual wellness product,” stated Gina Gutierrez, co-founder and leader inventive officer at Dipsea. “And we predict that keeping apart delight out of doors of wholesome intercourse is in fact in reality problematic.”

As Dipsea started pitching its sexual fitness platforms to essentially male buyers, the similar questions arose: How can Dipsea be much less beholden to Fb and Instagram and nonetheless get in entrance of a big quantity of shoppers? Would it not be conceivable to scale the platform with out Fb? May it live to tell the tale if it had been not able to put it on the market on Meta?

“I will expectantly say that it makes buyers second-guess making an investment in sexual wellness companies,” Gutierrez stated.

However project companies received’t be capable of forget about the femtech trade for much longer. The sphere is rising as extra corporations in pharma and virtual fitness construct fertility medication, health-tracking apps and sexual wellness merchandise.

Investment peaked all over the second one quarter of 2021 at $892 million, an $807 million leap from the former quarter. That momentum hasn’t stopped in spite of the new financial downturn.


The Lowdown, a London-based femtech startup, additionally skilled getting flagged on Meta platforms. The sexual fitness platform crowdsources peoples’ reviews with several types of birth control so sufferers can higher perceive negative effects and pick out the appropriate beginning keep an eye on means.

Regardless of this reputedly noncontroversial goal, the platform has to make use of an @ image when discussing the vaginal ring on social media.

As soon as the workforce posted “Who’s up for some Sunday intercourse chat?” on an Instagram tale to advertise a panel discussing libido, vaginal dryness and uncomfortable reviews with sex. Instagram took it down for violating what it known as “grownup sexual solicitation pointers.”

“We don’t permit other folks to facilitate, inspire or coordinate sexual process on Instagram,” the platform stated.

“It’s simply every other barrier for girls looking for details about this type of stuff,” stated Matilda Lucy, virtual advertising strategist at The Lowdown.

Social media platforms make use of promoting and content material rules to assist observe posts because the platform scales. Sexually suggestive content material isn’t allowed on Meta platforms (within the handful of examples given, a unadorned statue of David is compliant however a girl consuming a banana isn’t).

Tiktok bans advertisements occupied with “intimate” frame portions. Instagram doesn’t permit nudity both, even within the type of artwork, however will permit feminine nipples within the context of breastfeeding, health-related content material or as a type of protest.

Navigating the precise laws for each and every platform is tricky. Algorithms have hassle digesting the overall context of a picture: Is a photograph of feminine nipples a type of artwork? Protest? Well being consciousness? Or all 3? But it surely additionally has hundreds of human eyes scanning the web, witnessing issues too terrifying for Fb’s platform, and making split-second choices on whether or not or to not permit that.

However the ones split-second choices can cripple startups that depend on social media to marketplace their early-stage startups.

“(Now) we’ve got completed it lengthy sufficient that we’ve got a way of what’s ‘secure,’ however that calls for us to speak round our product in some way that arguably isn’t the most productive revel in for Fb customers,” Gutierrez stated. “As a result of if individuals are promoting merchandise to you with out the use of the reality of what the price proposition is like, is {that a} very best case state of affairs?”

Getting inventive

Regardless of the limitations to social media advertising, startups have discovered tactics round large platforms.

“It’s a barrier to expansion and conversion, but it surely’s now not a dealbreaker as a result of there’s such a lot of tactics to achieve that finish client … it in fact turns into about, how inventive is that founder being round navigating round the ones hurdles?” stated Emmeline Ventures’ Sayani

From the startup standpoint, Dipsea has invested a bigger proportion of promoting bucks in podcast advertisements, capitalizing at the shared audio platform. In the meantime, The Lowdown has in its armory a robust search engine optimization technique for natural searches, bringing other folks at once to its platform.

Ruth Well being discovered its house on Tiktok, garnering hundreds of perspectives in keeping with video on breastfeeding, affected person advocacy and lifestyles postpartum. In reality, Tiktok is without doubt one of the greatest visitors drivers to its website online.

“We finally end up having to take those to different puts as a result of, are you able to do an Instagram are living about this?” Wu stated. “I don’t know. We haven’t attempted. And reasonably frankly, why trouble, proper?”

Representation: Dom Guzman

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