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RALEIGH – It was an insightful evening at Blush CoWork in Cary on Tuesday night as innovators from the FemTech industry presented their products and services designed to support women’s health. 

Hosted by the team at RIoT  (the internet of things users group based in Raleigh), the event presented the facts and figures behind this growing industry and demonstrated both the strong need and strong incentives to get involved.

Big, quick exits

Brittany Baretto, Ph.D. of FemHealth Insights was the first to speak. She kicked things off by introducing the audience to the definition of Femtech: solutions to conditions that solely, disproportionately, or differently affect female women and girls. 

“When we think about women’s health we have to think about how our biology is presenting diseases and conditions differently, and then about how to treat and monitor these diseases and conditions,” said Baretto. 

The huge surge in interest in FemTech is delivering results for start-ups. Baretto reported that statistically, Femtech start-ups are more likely to deliver success to their investors, providing exits that are – on average – $100 million dollars higher and 4-5 years earlier than the traditional start-up exit.

Baretto was followed up by three start-ups working on their own contributions to FemTech. 

The Sure Company

April Kelly of The Sure Company told her story of plant-based baby milk that she helped to formulate after her third daughter had an allergic reaction to soy-based formula. They’re preparing to launch next month and looking forward to filling the lucrative formula market that has remained limited to few producers and plagued by shortages.

Free to Feed

Dr. Trillitye Paulin, a molecular biologist, started her company Free to Feed to build an allergen test that helps breastfeeding women identify the allergen proteins lurking in their breast milk. Paulin faced challenges firsthand when her children showed early allergies that could not be identified. Her test, and the associated app, can help moms identify the proteins aggravating sensitive babies and target food more specifically to be eliminated from the mother’s diet.


Dr. Rahima Benhabbour, an associate professor in Biomedical Engineering at UNC, spoke about her start-up, AnelleO. Benhabbour has developed a 3D-printed intravaginal ring for progesterone supplementation, an important part of fertility treatments. The ring is designed to manage drug delivery, allowing a single ring to administer an entire course of treatment over weeks or months.

But fertility is just the tip of the iceberg for Benhabbour. The ring can be used to deliver other kinds of drugs as well. And with control over the release of the drug, and the ability to order different doses based on an individual’s needs, the technology has huge potential for more tailored health solutions.

“It will literally be a bespoke technology for women’s health because now you can control the dose. It’s not a one-size-fits-all, it’s not one-dose-fits-all, says Benhabbour. “One ring for everybody.”

RIoT accelerator seeks applicants

RIoT had other health and tech-related start-ups on hand. Several in attendance were currently or formerly part of their Accelerator Program. Amplifi Labs, CliniSpan Health, Boreas Monitoring, and Upper also shared their products and services with the assembled audience. RIoT’s summer accelerator program is accepting applications through this Friday.

FemHealth Insights, Free to Feed, and The Sure Company each have open fundraising for various projects and products. AnelleO is doing larger-scale fundraising in preparation for pre-Clinical trials. 

“Femtech needs a lot of champions and advocates. Know the statistics and jump into the solutions,” said Baretto.