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Vira Health gains $12M to continue their mission to reduce the cost of menopause

Vira Health founders: Andrea Berchowitz and Rebecca Love
Image credit: Vira Health

Vira Health, the developers of the Stella health app for older women, has now secured $12 million in funding to continue its worldwide growth. First launched last year, the Stella app has tapped into a growing market for menopausal support, an area that has previously been largely overlooked, despite the significant personal and economic impact menopause has.

The investment, led by Octopus Ventures and with participation from Optum Ventures as well as existing investors, adds to the $2 million previously raised. The funding will support the development of additional features, as well as the expansion of the app in other markets, especially the US.

A practical app for menopause

Stella was launched in the UK in 2021 by ambitious female founders Andrea Berchowitz and Rebecca Love. The app delivers personalised menopause treatment plans to users. These are based on specific symptoms, and the complex guidance is broken down into simple steps and changes. The courses last twelve weeks, a length intended to help the changes embed as healthy habits.

The app has garnered rave reviews from users who have witnessed the benefits at first-hand. But for those that need a little more help, the app also provides access to trained experts, as well as offering additional resources, like education, recipes, and even online classes.

“Menopause is an enormous yet underserved and underfunded market,” Octopus Ventures’ Kamran Adle said, “1 billion women, approximately 12% of the global population, are expected to experience menopause by 2025.” The impact of this is huge. Research by Vodafone found that 60% of women with menopause symptoms said it impacted their work, with almost a third missing work, while nearly one-in-five said they had passed up on a promotion or even resigned because of the symptoms. However, three-quarters of those who completed the Stella treatment plans experienced an improvement in symptoms.

The last few years have seen attitudes toward menopause start to change. Many workplaces are starting to increase support of menopause, developing menopause policies or more practical steps like appointing champions or even re-designing uniforms. Vira Health even noticed the change between their funding rounds, with other startups competing for investment. Co-founder and CEO Andrea Berchowitz told us, “We had one person who did invest in us say they’d seen 30 menopause companies! There is real interest and awareness, which is great, but also competition for dollars and pounds.”

“The conversation really does exist now,” Berchowitz added, “my own TED talk — which was on menopause and the workplace, had 1.6 million views in the last year.”

A rapidly growing app

Since its launch, Stella has continued its growth. The team has grown to be nearly twenty-strong, and the app is now available in Ireland and the US. But they are also adding features to the app.

The creation of a Stella community is among the new elements that Berchowitz highlights. “We love the community features we’ve added,” she told us. “It could be a yoga class or a Q&A with an expert or even group coaching sessions where women come together and talk about a shared issue.”

However, Vira Health is also looking at expanding the options that are available to users. “A big part of this investment is about expanding what we call the ‘full care pathway’,” says Berchowitz. The app, so far, has been based on lifestyle and behaviour change. Although 75% seeing an improvement is a considerable success, some women may need more support or prefer other options.

“Lifestyle is still the fundamental pillar for good menopause care,” Berchowitz told us. But a user will be able to use Stella to consider all their choices in the app. “She’ll also have the option to explore pharmaceuticals, most likely HRT, and see a specialist if she wants.”

Vira Health will also be using the funding to continue their expansion in the US market, especially through workplace partnerships which can see the app added as a benefit. These partnerships would add to Vira Health’s overall mission to improve outcomes for women. The most obvious is in health, and menopause can be linked with poorer physical and mental health.

However, Berchowitz also recognises that the lack of good support during menopause has implications for equality. The most immediate impact is on old women, who, as the research showed, can miss out on advancement because of menopause. However, that can also have a knock-on effect for younger women. “When you have few women at the top,” Berchowitz explains, “you have fewer role models for younger women.”

Despite all the wider social benefits, through, Berchowitz is clear that the prime purpose of the app is to help women through menopause. “It’s really important that women know that Stella works and feel totally confident,” she says. “Clinical validation is a key part of our strategy, it’s our intention to be able to say that if you follow our plan, we know that you will see a decrease in the severity and frequency of your symptoms.”

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