The brain is relatively uncharted territory for tech. Harvard University geneticist George Church has written about impending technologies that “extend our brain both biologically and electronically,” while AFP describes the brain as “the next frontier for the tech sector.”
We used the CB Insights database to identify 17 startups targeting the brain with their products and tech-enabled therapies. In just the past year, companies like Halo Neuroscience, InteraXon, Headspace, Nootrobox, and Israel-based BrainsGate have raised VC funds for supplements, apps, wearables and other brain-boosting technologies.
Some companies hope to “hack the brain” to improve cognitive performance and reduce stress, while others are looking to treat mental illnesses and nervous system disorders. They use a range of methods, including nootropics, gamified brain training, app-led meditation, acoustics, non-invasive therapies, and wearable devices.
The most well-funded startup on the list, Neuronetics, raised a $34.3M Series F round last year and is backed by a range of investors including corporates GE Ventures and Pfizer Venture Investments. Neuronetics developed a therapy that uses magnetic fields to stimulate brain regions in patients who have not responded to anti-depressants.
Nootrobox, which develops and sells nootropics — supplements believed to be cognitive enhancers — direct to consumers, raised a $2.3M seed round in November 2015 from Andreessen Horowitz and angel investors.
Thync, also backed by Andreessen Horowitz as well as Khosla Ventures, has developed a mood-enhancing wearable device that uses electric pulses to stimulate different brain regions. Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported on the startup’s financial struggles, before it raised a new, undisclosed Series B round led by Noosphere Ventures.
Among brain training apps, Elevate Labs, a game-based cognitive training tool which was selected as the app of the year by Apple in 2014, claims to have more than 10 million app downloads. A similar company, Lumosity, which settled with the FTC over its former claims to “reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions,” now says its games “challenge core cognitive abilities.”
See the table below for the complete list of startups:
|Company||Description||Disclosed funding||Select Investors|
|Neuronetics||Non-invasive therapy to treat major depressive disorder in patients not responding to anti-depressants||$158.5M||GE Ventures, InterWest Partners, New Leaf Venture Partners, ONSET Ventures, Investor Growth Capital, Pfizer Venture Investments, Polaris Partners, Quaker BioVentures, Three Arch Partners, KBL Healthcare Ventures, Accuitive Medical Ventures, Partisan Management Group, Innovation Factory|
|BrainsGate||Medical device company developing technology to treat diseases of the central nervous system||$79.5M||Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Agate Medical Investments, Pitango Venture Capital, Infinity Fund, MB Venture Partners|
|Lumosity||Brain training games to improve cognitive skills||$67.4M||Discovery Communications, FirstMark Capital, Harrison Metal, Menlo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners|
|Headspace||Mindful meditation techniques to relieve stress, improvce focus and creativity||$39.7M||Advancit Capital, Breyer Capital, Broadway Video Ventures, Deerfield Management, Freelands Ventures, WME Ventures|
|Lantern||Cognitive behavioral therapy and personalized strategies for emotional well being||$21.4M||Mayfield Fund, SoftTech VC, Stanford University, The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center|
|Muse||Meditation app that analyzes brain signals and uses sound technology to guide the mind||$16.7M||Build Ventures, Horizons Ventures, New Ground Ventures, OMERS Ventures, Bridge Builders Collaborative, ff Venture Capital|
|Thync||Wearables that deliver low-level electric signals to netves to energize or calm the mind||$13M||Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures|
|NeuroSky||Users can busild custom apps using data collected from the biosensors||$11.8M||Softbank Corp., Taiwan Global BioFund, TUVC and WR Hambrecht|
|Halo Neuroscience||Wearables based on transcranial stimulation||$10.7M||Andreessen Horowitz, Lux Capital, Jazz Venture Partners, Xfund, SoftTech VC|
|Peak||Mobile-based brain training platform||$10M||Creandum, DN Capital, London Venture Partners, Qualcomm Ventures, Initial Capital, Jaina Capital, Lifeline Ventures, LVP|
|Happify||App with activities that engage users and help them overcome negative thoughts and stress||$9.83||Bridge Builders Collaborative, Mangrove Capital Partners,
|Elevate Labs||Game-based cognitive skills training||$7.7M||Sequoia Capital, 500 Startups,Collaborative Fund, ENIAC Ventures|
|Ybrain||Diagnostic and theraprutic techniques for patients with neuropsychiatric disorders||$4.14||Stonebridge Capital|
|Nootrobox||Nootropic pills to enhance brain activity and cognitive skills||$2.82M||Andreessen Horowitz|
|TruBrain||Products include nootropic drinks, capsules and coffee with perfomance enhancers||$1.66M||Brightstone Venture Capital, Sherpa Capital|
|Intendu||Intendu’s Fuctional Brain Trainer Platform uses video games to improve patients’ congitive funcitons||NA||Impact First Inevstments|
|NeuroNation||Subscription-based personalized brain training activities||NA||Spiegel Online, XLHEALTH|
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