These startups have seen investment from NEA, Andreessen Horowitz, and DARPA, among many others.
As the digital health sector matures from basic tracking apps into highly regulated medical devices, we are seeing bleeding edge technologies being developed that blur the lines between computers and biology. And a growing share of these startups are beginning to target the brain.
The burgeoning field of neurotechnology involves brain-machine interfaces, neuroprosthetics, neurostimulation, neuro-monitoring, and implantable devices intended to not only augment nervous system activity, but enhance its capabilities. One such project is Elon Musk’s Neuralink which is developing, “high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.” And even Facebook has announced plans to create brain-machine interfaces that allow users to type using their thoughts alone.
Below, we used CB Insights data to identify 10 early-stage neurotech companies working across brain-machine interfaces, neuroprosthetics, and neurostimulatory devices. All companies listed have raised since 2016.
Kernel is an early-stage brain-machine interface company formed by Bryan Johnson, founder of the online payments company Braintree and the OS Fund. While originally intending to build memory prostheses which would allow for the external storage and subsequent upload of human memories into the hippocampus, the company has since pivoted and is now working on a way to measure and stimulate the electrical impulses of many neurons at once. The technology will be used clinically for diseases such as depression or Alzheimer’s.
Select Investors: Bryan Johnson (founder, Braintree)
Total Disclosed Funding: $100M
G-Therapeutics, based in Switzerland, is developing an implantable neurostimulation device that delivers specific bursts of electrical stimulation in order to facilitate the activation of leg muscles. The device is initially intended for patients suffering from spinal injuries resulting in varying degrees of lower-limb paralysis. The complete therapy combines electrical spinal cord stimulation with gravity-assisted physical training in order to promote remodeling of the neural circuits required for mobility.
Select Investors: INKEF Capital, Life Sciences Partners, Wellington Partners, Gimv
Total Disclosed Funding: $40.8M
Rythm, founded in France and now based in San Francisco, is a neurotechnology startup that has developed a sleep-monitoring head-mounted, wearable called the Dreem. The device uses EEG electrodes to monitor and analyze brain activity during the course of sleep. It then uses “bone conduction technology” to modulate brain activity via emitting subtle sounds at precise moments that enhance the overall quality of deep sleep. The device is linked to an app that displays sleep metrics and personalized tips based on the user’s sleep habits.
Select Investors: Innovation Commission 2030, Laurent Alexandre, MAIF Avenir, Xavier Niel
Total Disclosed Funding: $22.5M
Thync has developed a small, wearable “pod” that attaches to the back of the neck and uses neurostimulation to combat stress and promote better sleep. Their lead product, the Thync Relax Pro, uses low levels of electrical stimulation to activate nerve pathways in the head and neck. According to the company, these pathways communicate with areas of the brain to help control stress levels and sleep quality. The product is intended specifically for consumers who frequently suffer from stress and consequently struggle to sleep.
Select Investors: Khosla Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Noosphere Ventures
Total Disclosed Funding: $13M
5. halo neuroscience
Halo Neuroscience, based in San Francisco, has developed a brain-stimulating device called the Halo Sport. The device sends weak electrical pulses into the consumer’s brain in order to enhance the efficiency of physical training. The product is based on the concept of neuropriming, i.e. using electrical stimulation to increase plasticity in the brain prior to an activity. As per the company, when paired with physical training, this results in increased strength, endurance, and muscle memory.
Select Investors: Andreessen Horowitz, Lux Venture Capital, SoftTech VC, Jazz Venture Partners, Kima Ventures, Xfund
Total Disclosed Funding: $10.7M
Synchron is developing an implantable device called the Stentrode system that will provide a safe way for paralyzed patients to achieve direct brain control of mobility-assistive devices. The system involves a small and flexible device that can pass through cerebral blood vessels to implant in the brain where it will be able to interpret electrical data emitted by neurons. The company is currently preparing for early-stage clinical trials in order to evaluate the safety and feasibility of the device to enable patient-directed brain control.
Select Investors: DARPA, U.S. Department of Defense, Neurotechnology Investors
Total Disclosed Funding: $10M
7. brainco inc.
BrainCo, a product of the Harvard Innovation Lab, specializes in brain-machine interface wearables. The company currently develops two products, the Focus Series and the Lucy Series. The Focus is a wearable headband that monitors brainwaves to provide real-time classroom attention feedback to teachers. The Lucy, another headband, is intended to allow the user to directly interact with electronic devices such as toys or robotic appliances using only brain signals.
Select Investors: Boston Angel Club, Hantan Capital, Wandai Capital
Total Disclosed Funding: $5.55M
Neurable is developing brain-computer interfaces that allow people to control software and devices using only their brain activity. The software makes use of machine learning methods in order to reduce the lag time between analysis of neural activity and output, potentially reducing it down to real-time. While the company eventually intends to allow patients unable to communicate to have greater control over their environment, it is initially targeting the AR/VR gaming industry.
Select Investors: Loup Ventures, NXT Ventures, PJC, BOSS Syndicate.
Total Disclosed Funding: $2.33M
Neuralink, the secretive brain child of electric car, solar power, and space pioneer Elon Musk, is working on building brain implants to directly link human minds to computers. The company has hired a diverse team of engineers ranging from the young brain-machine interface expert Max Hodak to leading neurosurgeon and electrical engineering PhD Ben Rapoport. While information regarding their specific approach is limited, it is understood that the company’s goal is to make AI an extension of the human brain, essentially creating a symbiotic human-AI relationship.
Select Investors: Elon Musk
Total Disclosed Funding: N/A
10. flow neuroscience
Flow Neuroscience uses brain stimulation to treat depression. The company has developed a headset that delivers transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to the forehead which, according to the company, reverses the neural activity imbalance in the frontal lobe that is observed in people with depression. The device pairs with a smartphone app that guides the user through a 6-week wellness program.
Select Investors: SOSV, HAX
Total Disclosed Funding: N/A