“Our goal is to showcase what femtech can accomplish and that it is worth investing in”: Interview with Flo’s (the period tracker app) CEO and co-founder, Dmitry Gurski

This month British startup Flo, an app for period and cycle tracking, announced a €42.2 Series B funding round, bringing its total capital raised to approx. €54.8 million and the company valuation to around €675 million.

You might find it surprising to learn that over 1 billion menstrual cycles have been tracked within the app, and 27.7 million women got pregnant while using Flo. With over 200 million Flo users, the scaleup states that every tenth woman between ages 15 to 49 in the world manages her cycle using the app. With reach like this, it’s not hard to see why fellow femtech founders, Jane Sagui and Sabrina Mason of startup Pollie, have said: “We do not think femtech is niche”.

Flo was co-founded in 2015 by Belarusian co-founders Dmitry Gurski and Yuri Gurski – and we were recently lucky to speak with Dmitry. We spoke about the growth of the Flo app, his predictions for the future, the experience of being a male co-founder of a female product, and what they’ll be doing with their recent funding round. Let’s get to it!

Hello Dmitry! Thank you for joining us. To kick-off, could you briefly tell us how and why you started Flo, and why it’s unique?

Flo is the world’s leading one-stop health app for women during their entire reproductive life cycle: from first periods to menopause, from pregnancy to young moms. We are living in a time where women’s health is severely under researched, underfunded, and often overlooked, which generally leads to women and people who menstruate feeling poorly educated on the matter.

We believe knowledge is the ultimate source of empowerment for women around the world. Flo aims to reshape the industry at large by democratizing access to trusted and relevant health information from a secure community of experts, helping millions of users understand their unique signs and symptoms and use this knowledge to take care of their overall health more efficiently. This is reflected in our mission, which is to significantly improve the health and wellbeing of women, girls and everyone who menstruates worldwide.

Flo helps its users to understand the meaning behind their bodies’ signals and engages them to take a proactive role in their wellbeing and management of their overall health. The app provides users with accurate cycle predictions and insights, and a wealth of science-backed and at the same time user-friendly content. In order to uniquely meet the needs of our users, we use data science and AI to deliver the most personalized cycle predictions available for each individual and offer a wealth of resources, including Our Period Tracking and Cycle Predictions, Health Assistant, Health Insights, Community and Health Report.

Flo is developed together with over 100 scientists, doctors and health experts that ensure that both app content and functionality are medically credible.

Flo is one of the world’s fastest-growing period and cycle tracking apps. What is your vision for the future?

As we look to the future, our vision is for every girl, woman and person who menstruates to use Flo on a daily basis, learning more about their health and feeling more empowered as a result. With this as our foundation, we will continue to develop our product in a way that helps our users leverage their deeply personalized health insights so that they can proactively manage their overall health and appropriately advocate for themselves when they feel their symptoms are being overlooked. In the long run, we will also continue evolving the expertise as a proactive care solution, as well as add new complementary areas, such as telehealth, DTC, or employee benefits. As a recent example, this year we’ve introduced Flo as a benefit to US employers to better support women in the workplace with the resources they need to thrive both physically and mentally.

The term femtech is still quite new. What is your opinion on the state of the femtech sector in 2021? How do you see it changing in the next 5-10 years?  

A decade ago, the femtech industry attracted just $23 million in venture capital investments. By 2019, investment jumped to nearly $600 million. While the growth is evident, it is not skyrocketing in comparison to the broader health & fitness category. We are currently observing that the femtech market is maturing, as there are more and bigger funding rounds. We’ve also noticed the signs of upcoming consolidations and M&A deals, so there will be more public companies that will integrate various subdomains. On top of that, I also feel there will appear more products for the audiences whose needs are underserved at present, such as menopausing women. There will also be more top of the funnel market growth as founders and VCs will see successful examples in the industry. At Flo, our goal with everything we do, and this funding in particular, is to showcase what femtech can accomplish and that it is worth investing in.

What is your experience of being a male founder of a femtech period and cycle tracking startup? Do you ever experience challenges in this way?

Well, I would rather say that the real challenge is to be a founder in general, and even more so a CEO – no matter what the industry or product is. I feel that’s a challenge each and every executive can relate to. In the beginning of your journey, you may feel sad that you are leading a product you won’t be able to personally use and benefit from. But at our stage of growth, I talk to Flo users daily, who are sharing how Flo helped them to better understand their bodies and improve their health, and that’s truly rewarding! And, of course, at Flo we are committed to ensuring a strong gender balance across the organization, and thus have over 50% women across the whole organization, and among key executives.

Data protection is a concern for users of health apps. Could you explain your data protection policy?

Users of the Flo App share their most intimate details with us and would not do so if they could not trust us to maintain their privacy and ensure the security of their data. We have created a culture of privacy at Flo that is supported by robust policies and procedures, which are embedded into our processes and are constantly monitored and reviewed as part of our privacy programme.

Our aim is to be open and transparent with our users about our privacy practices and users can read more in our privacy portal and security page, which we regularly update to keep users informed in addition to our privacy policy.

Would Flo ever expand in the direction of male health (fertility, contraception, etc.)?

Well, for starters, it’s important to note that we often hear stories of men tracking their girlfriends/wives cycle so that they have a better understanding of when their partners are ovulating or when they have their period. The reality is, pregnancy is a shared experience. Empowering men to leverage the insights Flo provides equips them with knowledge and relieves women of the emotional burden to explain their experience. We always love hearing these stories because it gives a couple the language necessary to even the playing field and create a more shared understanding, and also gives them permission to explore topics they wouldn’t normally discuss.

Women, girls, and people who menstruate will always be our core user base. Given the lack of women’s health research and disproportionate support women receive in comparison to men in the healthcare industry, supporting this user base is what gets us out of bed each morning. What we aim to do is to develop a partner mode in the app so that partners – both male and female – can have clearer insights into what their partner is experiencing, to better support them on this journey.

Flo recently landed €42.2 million – what are your plans for these funds?

We plan to use the latest funding to enhance personalization and provide users with advanced cycle insights and symptom patterns to help them effectively manage and proactively improve their overall health. Beyond this, we will use our funding to fuel our continued headcount growth as we target top talent across product, engineering, R&D, data science and medical roles.

This past August, we launched our Flo 7.0 update to help users better understand how their cycle is an important indicator of their overall health, and this is just the beginning. This particular update included pattern recognition to help users track cycle changes over time, in addition to providing personalized insights that can be shared with a doctor to better understand advanced cycle stats, symptom insights, and exceptional cycle insights.

Our aim is to continue advancing and providing updates like these to our users and this funding will help us to provide better personal health feedback at the touch of a button.