Making it Work: New platform aims to ‘fill huge void’ in female healthcare

Keyforher, founded by Donna Ledwidge and Renee O’Shaughnessy, is an advisory service that provides subscribers with personalised health recommendations

15th October, 2021
Making it Work: New platform aims to ‘fill huge void’ in female healthcare
Donna Ledwidge and Renée O'Shaughnessy, founders of Keyforher. Picture: Fergal Phillips

Femtech is the newest phenomenon in the world of medical business, generating $820.6 million in global revenue in 2019. But in Ireland, it seems companies have yet to grasp the potential of the industry, or the importance of providing a technological solution to women’s health needs.

That might be about to change. Keyforher, a new platform launched by Donna Ledwidge and Renee O'Shaughnessy, aims to put women at its centre with an algorithm-powered advisory service that gives personalised health recommendations to subscribers.

Its website has yet to go live, but Keyforher has already attracted significant investment from Mary Ann O’Brien, founder of Lily O’Brien’s chocolates, and Donal Kavanagh, the co-founder of Zed Candy. It also has backing from Enterprise Ireland.

As well as its online assessment tool, Keyforher has developed a range of natural food supplements which aim to help women at all stages of life with their specific health needs.

From Monday, November 1, customers will be able to sign up online to the company’s subscription service, which costs around €30 a month and gives users both medical insights and supplements delivered straight to their door. Non-subscribers can also buy the supplements for €45 a box.

While the company expects to offer diagnostics on a range of medical issues, its focus for next month’s launch is on women going through perimenopause, Ledwidge said.

“It’s such a huge problem. By 2025, there’ll be more than a billion women going through menopause, and they need information, support and product solutions. And that’s what our platform does.”

While menopause is at the core of Keyforher’s early plans, the company believes it is “filling a huge void” more generally in women’s healthcare.

“What we’ve built, there’s nothing like it on the market,” Ledwidge said.

“Femtech companies tend to focus on particular areas. Some just focus on cycle trackers, or the menopause, or fertility. But we’re an all-life-stage platform – from your first menstrual cycle to your last and beyond. We support your healthy ageing.”

Women have not always been at the centre of life sciences research, meaning medical technology businesses have never really focused on female-specific needs.

Ledwidge and O’Shaughnessy, who previously founded a retail business together, decided to establish Keyforher after discussing their frustration at the paucity of options in the market.

“We both felt we had a higher purpose with this market,” Ledwidge said, “because it was so, so under-served.

“Finally, women are starting to open up about the problems that they’re facing. So Renee and I had the idea to build an all-encompassing platform that would combine individuals’ symptom management with ongoing information and solutions. That’s something that has never been seen before.”

The pair have ambitious plans to scale the business globally, and expect to raise further funding within the coming year. It aims to hire up to 15 staff in the next six months.

“It’s a very exciting time to build the platform, and we need to be able to move fast,” Ledwidge said. “We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved to date, and we’re really excited to have people start to join from next month. And from there? The sky’s the limit.”

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