Quanttus Dives Into Personal Health With $22M From Khosla, Matrix

2/24/14Follow @gthuang

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He gave Khosla an elevator pitch (actually a hallway pitch) and then met up with him over coffee. Within a month, Azim had a term sheet; the seed money was in the bank by February, he says.

Since then, Quanttus has been running validation studies at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The upshot so far: the company’s wrist-worn device is able to measure signals similar to those you’d get from about five bulky devices in a hospital, Azim says. That fits a broader theme of healthcare moving out of hospitals and into homes—and consumers taking more control to stay healthy, rather than seeking care only when they get sick.

When you ask Azim about the company’s product strategy, though, things get fuzzy. Quanttus is not a strictly consumer-focused tech company or a medical-device company, he says. It’s both. “We want to be defined by the questions we ask,” Azim says. “Some things we measure are in the domain of the consumer, and some are in healthcare applications.”

So how will Quanttus make money? “That’s a question we don’t usually ask around the company,” Azim says. “We’re focused on solving real problems and doing impactful work. We want to see what we can learn before we try to sell into [a particular] channel. At some point, we’ll think about getting a product into the real world in ways that don’t box us [in] too much.”

Azim resists being compared to other wearables companies or smartwatch makers. And for good reason: wrist-worn health trackers seem to be a dime a dozen these days. (One apparent competitor would be Basis, a San Francisco company with a smartwatch that monitors heart rate, movement, sleep, and stress.)

“We’re not in it to put out another wearable for the sake of it,” Azim says. “We are not in the business of putting a computer or mobile phone on your wrist. We want to solve for pretty big questions around human health.”

Nevertheless the company faces some of the same challenges as anyone making a wearable device—things like battery life, comfort, fit, and design aesthetic. “Wearable computing means the wearable part is far more important than the computing part,” says Robert Goldberg, the CEO of Boston health-monitoring firm Neumitra. “If it’s not worn, no amount of computing intelligence will matter.”

On the software side, Quanttus will operate on health data in the cloud, and people will be able to interact with their data (and device) via their smartphone, tablet, or laptop. But how the product will actually look and work remains vague, behind the cliché of “awesome user experience.” Azim adds that “the technology is not limited to the wrist,” meaning there could be other types of devices in store.

Leave it to an investor, then, to articulate the commercial vision around wearables.

“This is going to change from a fashion game to a technology game,” says Stan Reiss, the startup’s lead VC from Matrix Partners. As big players ramp up their efforts in personal health and devices, “you’re going to have to be good,” he says. Up to this point, most health-tracking devices have been glorified step counters, he says.

Not surprisingly, Reiss is bullish on Boston’s potential to lead the world in wearables and healthtech. From the Matrix office in Cambridge, he can see both MIT and Mass. General Hospital, separated by the Charles River—a clear visual reminder of the opportunity to blend first-class brains and technical know-how with clinical expertise and patient populations. (If only the Longfellow Bridge weren’t under construction for the next two years.)

Khosla helped bring Matrix into the Series A deal, Azim says. Coincidentally, Azim’s previous company, Lantos Technologies, occupied the same floor of a Kendall Square building as Matrix. So he was well aware of the VC firm, but hadn’t worked with them before.

Several local companies have areas of overlap with Quanttus. … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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