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Venture Capitalists Love Crowdfunded Health Tech Startups


Posted in Medical Device Business by Chris Wiltz on August 13, 2014

If you're a startup developing a medical device or technology, a new report suggests a crowdfunding campaign could be a great way of attracting venture capital.


A new report by data analytics firm CB Insights has shown that crowdfunding platforms–specifically Kickstarter and Indiegogo–have proven to be a source of some attractive funding targets for venture capitalists (VCs). CB Insights analyzed financing data for 443 hardware projects that raised more that $100K on Kickstarter or Indiegogo to identify trends among those that raised venture capital. In their findings a good number of the hardware projects to attract VCs either dealt directly in the mobile health or fitness market or had some sort of health or fitness-related application.

After a successful Indiegogo campaign for its smart smock fitness tracker, Sensoria was able to secure Series A funding. [image via Sensoria Inc.]
Among the top 10 most well-funded crowdfunded hardware startups are several names that will be familiar for anyone who tracks the digital health space: Misfit, makers of the Shine and recently-announced Beddit sleep monitor; Formlabs, makers of 3-D printers used by a number of medical device startups; SmartThings, the smart home, Internet of Things company; Pebble, makers of the popular smartwatch; exercise bike manufacturer Peloton; and Scanadu, makers of the Star-Trek tricorder-style health scanner, all made the list.
 
Health and fitness as well as the larger digital health market are proving attractive for VCs with CB Insights reporting that the health IT market has seen $2.65B in VC funding over the last four quarters.
 
According to the report, Scanadu, Misfit, and Formlabs raised over $150M in aggregate funding. The largest funding round of 2013 went to Irvine,CA-based Oculus VR whose Oculus Rift virtual reality headset has found use in patient treatments and therapies. Oculus VR raised $75M in Series B last year and was purchased by Facebook for $2BN this year, making it, technically, the most profitable crowdfunded project to date.
 
In 2013, venture funding for crowdfunded hardware startups reached over $200M across 23 deals, according to CB Insights. The firm expects 2014 to be an even better year with 19 deals in place so far. Among them the aforementioned Peloton has raised $10.5M in Series B funding and wearable fitness “smart garment” company Sensoria has raised $5M in Series A.
 
Sensoria's CEO Davide Vigano says a successful crowdfunding campaign was absolutely important in helping them secure VC funding. “For us at Sensoria the crowdfunding campaign proved that there is a need out there for smart garments that provide virtual coaching capabilities in real-time,” Vigano says via email. “It also provided us with a price sensitivity analysis that was important during Series A due diligence. Beyond that, the campaign provided us with great input on product design and proved the point that there is a need for smart garments with biometric sensing capabilities.” 
 
If funding continues at its current rate, CB Insights expects over 30 deals by year's end. Though the lion's share of deals came from Kickstarter projects (five times more than Indiegogo) CB Insights found no clear correlation between the amount a crowdfunding campaign raises and the amount raised from VCs. Still, Vigano would encourage other health startups to explore crowdfunding as an option. “We think that most crowdfunders are the best testing group for innovative technology. Their appetite to support novel and unproven technology is unmatched. We would also encourage a startup to prepare very, very well for crowdfunding. You have one shot!”  
 
-Chris Wiltz, Associate Editor, MD+DI
Christopher.Wiltz@ubm.com

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