As the app market in health care grows increasingly saturated, at least one company is standing out from the pack. Based in Berlin, Germany, Clue bills itself as a more holistic solution for women.
Earlier this month, the health tracker announced that it would integrate its systems with Apple's flagship HealthKit app, where users can already track factors ranging from blood sugar to UV light exposure to water intake.
Apple, it's worth noting, had received a barrage of criticism following the release of its HealthKit update earlier this year in March, where promises of "reproductive health" capabilities neglected to include menstrual cycles -- and further suggested a lack of attention to women in tech.
It's no secret, after all, that Silicon Valley is a boys club. Apple's own internal diversity, with just 30 percent percent women globally as of 2014, is no exception. "Steve Jobs didn't have a period -- so HealthKit doesn't need a period tracker," decried one skeptic on Twitter when the feature was first released in September of 2014.
Significantly, with Clue, users are able to monitor their menstrual cycles, as well as factors like body temperature and cervical mucus.
The startup has added as many as 23 additional categories by popular demand, including food cravings, digestion, energy levels, exercise, and mental health. It will now recognize a broader range of birth control methods -- including the cervical ring and an IUD -- and will allow users to log into their most recent doctor's appointments. (For the outwardly inclined, a 'party' feature lets you make note of alcohol consumption and hangovers.)
"Period tracking isn't new -- it's something women have been doing throughout history. Knowing when your next period is coming is critical info at every stage of life," says Clue co-founder and CEO, Ida Tin. "What an app like Clue does is it takes the pen and paper and guesswork out of tracking your cycle, and adds machine learning and data analysis to your own patterns."
Clue's carefully honed algorithm lets users track their period, and alerts them when changes might indicate a serious medical issue. As of today, Tin tells me that algorithm is 10 percent more accurate than ever before.
The business is up against robust competition. That includes Max Levchin's startup Glow, which is headed up by CEO and founder Mike Huang. The fertility app has facilitated more than 100,000 pregnancies, and has raised an impressive $23 million in venture capital funding to date. Its tagline is apt (if slightly condescending): "Womanhood demystified by data."
Looking further east, there's also Dayima and Meet You, two China-based health trackers which have collectively raised more than $65 million.
Venture capitalists are peckish for businesses that are solving a long-standing and expensive pain point for women: Real-time information about their reproductive health. In 2014 alone, women's health apps raised more money than all other categories combined, according to recent CrunchBase data.
"The great thing about the space is that the engagement is absolutely incredible -- people go back on a daily basis and they always want to find out more," said one investor with the Chicago-based VC firm Lightbank, in a TechCrunch interview. Pescatello had invested in an app called Ovuline, a similar fertility tracking resource.
The difference with Clue, says Tin, is in the data. Each of the 23 additional health categories has some bearing on your menstrual cycle, according to scientific research. The company partners with researchers at Columbia University and elsewhere to stay up to date with the latest in women's health.
Clue's $3 million angel investment is nothing to sniff at, and it's free for download in the app store. Presently, Clue counts around 2 million active users in 180 countries worldwide, with nearly half (40 percent) of that user base located in the U.S.
"I think it's important that women's health keep moving away from its status as a 'niche,'" says Tin. "When we look at past studies on women's health, the sample size has been very limited. Now that we have massive amounts of data, we can look at female health trends on a much larger scale and really move the field forward."