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Startups for Women Is the New Hot Trend. Is That a Good Thing?

Photo-Illustration by Tres Commas: Original photo, Dorito: Bill Hogan—Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images

In February, Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi mentioned that she wanted to make snacks that cater to women—less mess, less crunch, less crinkly bags. Cue a full-blown Internet backlash over “Lady Doritos.” (Doritos tweeted that the chips would not be created.)

But Nooyi wasn’t alone in wanting to tweak a successful model to suit a female audience. The past year has seen a proliferation of women-focused companies. High-end razor service Billie, which has been called the “Dollar Shave Club for women,” launched in December and is on the verge of selling out its inventory. Ellevest, a digital investment platform (similarly nicknamed “Wealthfront for women”), promotes strategies that account for women’s earnings and life expectancy. And WeWork-esque women-only coworking spaces have flourished (see: the Wing, the Riveter, Hera Hub, and more).

The fear? Companies will create comparable products and charge more, exacerbating the “pink tax” already paid by women in many categories. (So far most of these startups are priced competitively.) The promise, though, is more businesses whose primary audience isn’t a tech bro, but the too-often overlooked other half of the population.

A version of this article appears in the March 2018 issue of Fortune with the headline “Forget ‘Uber for X,’ Try ‘X for Women’.”

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