The average woman is expected to use 16,000+ tampons in her lifetime. Aside from menstruation, tampons were also used as a form of contraception in the 18th century. However, since the advent of the modern tampon, use outside of menstruation has been very limited. Daye, a gynaecological health startup, is on a mission to change that. The company’s signature product is the first of its kind CBD-infused tampon that adds scientifically supported relief for women during that time of the month. Daye is now launching its Microbiome Screen Service, a tampon-based screening kit that allows women to better understand what’s happening in their bodies. The service will link customers to pharmacists to provide treatment options for any conditions detected. The company plans to expand the screening to include STIs and HPV. There has been little innovation in tampons in the last 150 years and Daye is breaking ground by providing a convenient option for women to monitor their gynaecological and vaginal health without the hassle of going to a lab or physician without even changing their monthly behaviour.
London TechWatch caught up with Daye Founder Valentina Milanova to learn more about the business, the company’s strategic plans, latest round of funding, which brings the total funding raised to £14.8M and much, much more…
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised £10M in a Series A round. Investors include Hambro Perks, MassMutual Ventures, Simplyhealth, Cross Border Impact Ventures, Dr. Michelle Tempest, and Dr. Fiona Pathiraja.
Tell us about your product or service.
Daye is a female-founded gynaecological health startup that is focusing on creating products that empower women with knowledge about their vaginal health. Daye is known for having invented the CBD tampon that is now used by over 60,000 women in the UK.
This week, Daye is launching a tampon-based at-home gynae screening kit to enable women to better understand the health of their vaginal microbiome. As part of the Vaginal Microbiome Screen service, we provide access to pharmacists, who can prescribe treatments for all the conditions we detect. We can also connect our customers with vetted, empathetic physicians, who can provide personalised support.
This is the next step in tampon innovation, a journey that will culminate in a range of at-home diagnostic tampon products aimed at the detection of infections, and later STIs and HPV.
What inspired the start of Daye?
I was inspired to found Daye by my personal negative experiences with gynaecological health. I started my first painful period at the age of nine, which, at the time, was treated with hormonal contraception. As a result of taking the pill so early, I developed a complicated case of PCOS, and at age 12, I had my first cyst removed from one of my ovaries, which was a very painful and invasive procedure.
My experience with gynaecological health is not unique – the majority of women and AFAB individuals struggle with maintaining ownership over their reproductive health and frequently report feeling disempowered when seeking medical help and attention. I want to be an agent for change and raise the standards of care in gynaecological health.
How is it different?
The tampon industry has been dominated by a few players and has seen little innovation for years. All the big brands and newer direct-to-consumer brands are manufactured by the same people, and as a result the tampons are all the same.
At Daye, we have focused on reinventing the tampon to solve the problems that women experience with their use. This includes making a fully sustainable tampon that is organic and plastic-free with a smooth sugarcane applicator and flushable wrapper.
The Daye CBD tampon is the first of its kind, delivering 100mg of medical-grade, organic CBD oil directly to where it’s needed. Described by users as ‘game-changing’ and ‘like little gifts from the mensuration Gods’, they have been used safely by over 60,000 individuals.
Similarly, the Vaginal Microbiome Screen is the first of its kind that uses a tampon to take a vaginal sample. Traditionally, a woman would need to go to a clinic where she would meet with a speculum and a pokey swab. Daye’s screen means a woman can take the sample at home with a product she is familiar with and has used for years.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
At Daye, we are innovating across multiple pain points in the gynaecological journey. Solving pain and diagnostics are just two of the many markets we are addressing. The pain market alone is £6.3Bn and detecting infections is over £130Bn.
- 90% of women experience menstrual cramps.
- 10% of women report that they experience extreme pain on 1-3 days of their cycle every month which renders them unable to carry out regular daily activities.
- 52% of women report a negative impact of period pain on their work.
- 90% of women report having period pain at some point.
- 43% of women have to make significant changes to their schedule to accommodate their period.
What’s your business model?
We currently sell our products directly to consumers on our website and are expanding into retail. As we roll out our Vaginal Microbiome Screen, we will offer the product via key retail partnerships, some workplaces, and gynaecological and IVF clinics.
How are you preparing for a potential economic slowdown??
Like most businesses, we are constantly looking at our cost base to be sure we are managing it as tightly and efficiently as possible.
Luckily, Daye’s products serve real utility for our users meaning that there is an ongoing need for them.
What was the funding process like?
The process involved 100s of meetings with investors, many of whom did not necessarily understand the size of the problem and thus the size of the opportunity. Given the gender imbalance in the investment field, there was often a level of education that was required. In addition, fundraising always takes slightly longer than you expect.
We are so excited to have found the investors we ultimately found. They are incredible partners and truly believe in Daye’s mission and the importance of improving gynaecological health.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
We have experienced the challenges of raising funding for gynaecological health first hand. Less than 0.004% of private capital goes to gynae health, and less than 2.5% of public funding is dedicated to women’s health despite 1 in 3 women suffering from chronic reproductive health conditions.
This backdrop coupled with difficult economic times added to the traditional challenges associated with raising funds. Whether there was bias due to the fact that Daye’s CEO and I are both women, we will never know. Now that it is complete, we are focused on delivering real value for women and our shareholders.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
All of our investors were excited by the comprehensive health platform we are developing for gynaecological health starting with the vaginal microbiome screen. They understood how bringing together the digital and physical tools to deliver a platform that covers menstrual, vaginal, and hormonal health provides true value for patients.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
First, we are rolling out Daye’s at-home Vaginal Microbiome Screen, quickly followed by that we will introduce Daye’s digital health platform which provides women with a dashboard for their gynae health. Early in 2023, Daye will be launching the platform in the US.
What advice can you offer companies in London that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
There are many avenues to funding and I would look at all the options available, including angels, VCs, strategics and crowdfunding. Revenue-based financing and venture debt can also be a way forward to bridge immediate gaps.
What’s your favourite outdoor activity in London?
I am a theatre lover of all kinds. Therefore, I would say outdoor theatre such as Regent’s Park theatre and Arcola Theatre’s tent.