Toyota’s $14 million bet on Intuition Robotics’ social companion robot (JP/IL/US)

Social companion robots for older adults and the disabled are hot again. Tel Aviv and now San Francisco-based Intuition Robotics is enjoying a $14 million second Series A investment from Toyota Research Institute (TRI) for the ElliQ ‘active aging companion’. The ElliQ desktop robot is tethered to a proprietary tablet to connect an older adult with the outside world via video chat, using machine learning about the person to recommend activities, and assist with appointments, medication reminders, music, wellness, and environmental monitoring. ElliQ is still in pre-release. The $14 million is being put to immediate use in initial testing with users in the Bay Area, and Intuition is ramping up with a team there. 

TRI is based in Los Altos CA and is wholly owned by Toyota North America. Earlier seed and Series A investments totaling $8 million were made by iRobot, Terra Venture Partners, Bloomberg Beta and ManivMobility. This is the second older adult-targeted robotics news in as many weeks, with the more fully-featured and ‘humanoid’ KOMPAÏ in France going the crowdfunding route (as Intuition did early on) for €250,000 to fund the next generation [TTA 5 July]. After viewing the video below, it seems to this Editor that a lot of the interactive voice command technology has been overtaken by assistants already in market like Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Home. TechCrunch, Home Health Care News

 

StartUp Health’s midyear report: digital health investment breaks record

The StartUp Health accelerator/investment organization continues with its quarterly analyses of health tech funding. (Rock Health may be at ‘last call’: TTA 11 May) Key points:

  • International investment reached $3.9 bn, a record.
  • There are 7,600 global startups in digital health.

But some things remain the same:

  • Most funding deals go to Series A companies, with seed rounds equal in number but not amount (33 and 32 percent, under $100 million and $400 million respectively).
  • Later stage companies still don’t have ‘legs’. Subsequent rounds after Series B (18 percent) continue to be weak (apparent since the beginning of these tracking reports). Series B now accounts for 18 percent of deals, $600 million in funding. Series C through E drop off precipitously from $400 to well below $100 million.
  • Median on rounds haven’t moved much: $3.9 million Series A and seed, $17 million in B/C, $21 million D and after.
    • Given the regulatory environment and the wisdom of going slow in health tech (poster child–Theranos), this also points to a disconnect between the Silicon Valley mentality of ‘make it quick and exit’ and reality.
  • IPOs have been a mixed picture, with most fluctuating in price and market cap, few making it to their IPO price.
  • International deals range from League in Toronto, Early Sense in Tel Aviv and Ping An Good Doctor in Shanghai, the last of which at $500 million beat the $400 million funding of payer Oscar for top funding honors.

And there are new darlings: patient/consumer experience, wellness, personalized health/Quantified Self (!), big data, workflow and clinical decision support.

An interesting addendum to the report is the 50+Market, which includes companies which are relevant to 50+ needs and those which focus on it. Interestingly, half of investment is residing here and skews heavily towards Series B and later stage companies. StartUp Health page (download). The report for viewing only is on Slideshare.

Audax Health raises $20 million

Breaking News

One very substantial bet was placed today on consumer engagement, with CE/mobile/social media-for-wellness developer Audax Health announcing a $20 million Series B funding this afternoon. Navigy Holdings, Inc. a wholly-owned subsidiary of Florida Blue (Blue Cross Blue Shield, Florida’s largest health plan) led the round, which included current board member Jack Rowe (former CEO and chairman of Aetna) and Dan Rose, VP of partnerships at Facebook. Audax’s main product is Zensey, a mobile-based platform for personalized health content, connection with like minds via online communities, challenges, health assessments and games. The funds reportedly will be used for product development, build out the company’s mobile and engineering teams and expand partnerships with health plans, employers and providers. Previous funding has exceeded $35 million since its 2010 founding ($21 million this past January alone). Corporate partners include Cigna and Cardinal Health, with New Leaf Ventures their leading VC.  Press release via Yahoo Finance; Gigaom; Washington Business Journal.  Hat tip to reader David E. Albert, MD of AliveCor via Twitter (@DrDave01)