Women’s sexual health startup Pique raises $4M

Pique, a virtual sexual health clinic focused on enjoyment rather than reproduction, has nailed $4 million in seed funding, CEO Leslie Busick tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Riding a wave of investor interest in women’s digital health, (mostly female) entrepreneurs are beginning to move beyond fertility into sexual health as well as primary care and behavioral health, among others.

  • “We feel like we’re hitting this at the right time,” says Busick. “People are starting to recognize sexual wellness as a key part of health.”
  • Unlike a number of startups that focus on sex in the interest of starting a family, Pique wants to help women enjoy intimacy, specifically those experiencing menopause.

Details: Maveron led the round and was joined by Bread and Butter Ventures, Halogen, Progression Fund, Pitbull Ventures and the founders of Tend.

How it works: Via Pique’s website, users sign up for free consult with a nurse practitioner trained in women’s sexual health who asks about their life and relationship status.

  • The practitioner then designs a care plan that may include different types of vaginal estrogen, sex and relationship therapy and suggested lifestyle changes.
  • Pique charges $15 a month for vaginal estrogen, which clinicians say is often safely used to treat symptoms of menopause including vaginal dryness, itching and burning, and $120 per hour for therapy.
  • Users track their progress using the Female Sexual Function Index, a standardized sexual health questionnaire designed to asses sexual wellness.

Yes, but: Like many other digital pharmacies such as Ro and Hims, Pique does not accept insurance, which often won’t cover hormone-based treatments anyway.

The intrigue: Virtual care businesses that use direct-to-consumer models face a steeper road to success than those who employ business-to-business arrangements, which give them ready access to large potential customer groups, industry observers tell Axios.

  • So far, the company is leaning heavily on word of mouth and referrals, but it will “use some of the [seed round] funds from to experiment with creative paid growth channels,” Busick says.

What they’re saying: Because women’s sexual health has been treated as taboo for decades, tools like Pique fill a critical void in care, experts tell Axios.

  • “Many women don’t feel comfortable talking to their doctors about sex and many doctors don’t feel comfortable asking about it,” says Engle.
  • Pique chief medical officer and urologist Ashley Winter says that’s partially because of an erroneous but widespread conception that it is ultra-complex, but “for many issues, it’s not complicated,” she adds.
  • “Just because something is an expected physiological change doesn’t mean you have to live with it,” Winter adds. “I wear glasses. I guess I was genetically programmed to walk into walls. I don’t want to live that way.”

State of play: The recent swell of women’s digital health entrants includes Evernow, a digital pharmacy for menopause, Awesome Woman, a home diagnostics and telehealth company and Lorals, a startup making FDA-cleared underwear designed to protect against infections spread through oral sex.

  • Still, few of those function as a “safe place where women can tackle their sexual health concerns from both a medical and psychological framework,” says Gigi Engle, a certified sex educator and author.

What’s next: Los Angeles-based Pique is developing a network of community-based providers so it can refer patients with needs that go beyond the limitations of a digital platform.

  • Further on the horizon: Catering to additional groups, such as postpartum women and younger women.
  • “This is about so much more than having great sex,” Busick says. “It’s health and human connection.”

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