About Flo Health
Founded in 2015, Flo Health has built an app that helps its users track their menstrual cycles. Since then, it has accumulated 200M users worldwide, 36M of which are monthly active users, and most recently raising a $50M Series B in Sept 2021 that now values the company at $800M. To its users, Flo promises a highly personalized health companion – offering women (and those who menstruate) advanced health insights related to their menstrual cycles and overall health. In exchange for these insights that can help users achieve their contraceptive, pregnancy, and even broader general health goals, Flo monetizes off recurring B2C subscription revenues, alongside B2B advertising and research contracts with pharmaceutical and health-oriented CPG corporate partners.
Generating a Valuable Reproductive Health Data Asset
To start, it’s helpful to understand how data is collected, generated, and mined in order to offer valuable and monetizable insights to its users.
When a user is onboarded on the app, the user inputs their initial health metrics including height, weight and age. After collecting these initial broad profile-related data, users get access to a calendar that pushes reminders to collect data on their menstrual cycles – period onset, contraceptive methods, vaginal discharge, water intake, pain, mood swings, and sexual activity. In just three recorded cycles (~3 months on the app), the app will have accumulated sufficient data on the user to offer substantively accurate reproductive health predictions and insights. For instance, on average, by the third month, the app would predict future cycles within a 1.26 day error window, based on a large-scale research study conducted on its user data.
Creating & Capturing Value from that Data Asset
Of course, the value creation and capture of this data asset goes beyond just accurately predicting a single user’s menstrual cycle window. The bigger picture is that over its 7 years as a company, Flo has built a longitudinal health data asset on nearly 100M users. In other words, Flo Health has a proprietary data asset that follows 100M historical users for 7 years linking key discrete health data points to concrete health outcomes.
With such a rich database, Flo has positioned itself as the premier data-enabled health companion for women throughout their entire reproductive health journeys – from the moment they start menstruation through potential pregnancies and even post-partum motherhood experiences. Leveraging this data asset and layering AI-based product modules on top generates for users critical health insights across disease onset, symptoms, lifestyle, beauty, and mental health. Some critical services that Flo offers its users in its ~$10/month premium subscription include the following:
Health 360. Flo offers its Health 360 insights module – indexing users against evidence-based and medically-reviewed predictive algorithms on top of its database of 100M users – to provide personalized health insights . As a user inputs attributes of their menstrual cycles, the app analyzes these data points using gold-standard diagnostic algorithms developed alongside physicians and compares against its database to assess select disease risk scores. For example, the app may stratify users with irregular cycles, loss of period (from 2 weeks to 2-3 months), and high BMI into a high-risk category for PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome – prompting users to seek formal diagnosis and treatment from a physician.
Fertility and Pregnancy. Tailored for those are or wanting to be pregnant, Flo also offers insights across the pregnancy journey. From notifying insights on peak ovulation windows to increase users’ chances of conception to being a health education and support companion for users throughout their pregnancy, Flo’s value proposition extends the entire spectrum of menstrual and reproductive health for its users.
Post-Partum Health. These health insights interestingly become more critical in the period following pregnancy. For instance, this period is characterized by increased risk of post-partum depression and other post-pregnancy health complications. For these users, Flo offers community forums with millions of other mothers. With additional mental health insights, personalized digital support material, and tailored educational articles, Flo helps mothers achieve their new normal. In fact, these unique insights mined from its data assets has opened a second monetization strategy – via B2B employee benefits through corporate contracts. Larger employers have contracted with Flo to both offer its female employees unique maternal benefits as well as ensure their safe recovery back to work following maternity leave.
The Future: Challenges & Opportunities
Progress thus far. Throughout Flo’s growth, the biggest challenge its faced has been on data security and privacy. In February 2019, the Wall Street Journal exposed that Flo overly monetized its data asset by disclosing to Facebook which users were experiencing their period or were intending to get pregnant. This disclosure had originally given Flo access to new advertising opportunities using its users’ health data, without their consent. This sparked investigations by the FTC on private data misuse – leading to a settlement of an undisclosed amount in January 2021.
The future. While a larger data asset has enabled Flo to access new opportunities – such as offering products for corporate clients as maternal employee benefits that ensure and accelerate a safe return to work – data privacy remains a tremendous challenge. For instance, a new privacy challenge emerges with its new monetization strategy; employers with inappropriate access or storage of employee health data could expose mothers to pregnancy discrimination. Additionally, with its past mishandling of data, the media and US regulators have increased scrutiny on the firm. As for its growth plans, Flo now faces a new challenge winning back the trust of its customers after having its past transgressions exposed.