The reality of the corona crisis for startup companies – and really any business – is that they need to stay as relevant as possible in this new, uncharted environment. Many of the long term trends that were evident before the crisis such as distance learning, working from home, or e-commerce, are now reaching an inflection point.
These trends have been accelerated beyond belief in the last few weeks and a snap back to the prior status quo seems unlikely once this crisis is over. It is doubtful that brick and mortar stores will regain much of the market share they’ve lost to online e-commerce before the crisis began. There are going to be long term systematic changes as a result of the change in behavior, from telehealth and medtech to vaccines and early warning, OurCrowd portfolio companies are helping combat the corona crisis and are already gearing up to fight the next pandemic.
Technologies for fighting pandemics are not just trendy hype.
The reality is, pandemics are here to stay, and the global community needs to be ready for the next one. Unfortunately, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, this whole area of pandemic-related technology did not garner enough investor interest and now is the time for investors to take responsibility. Technologies for vaccines, epidemiological software, and the prediction of outbreak software were largely ignored, and we’re finding now how many tools are missing. The corona crisis has now convinced us all of how great the danger is, and real technology solutions are being touted.
Here at OurCrowd, we’re going to go work with our investor base and our portfolio companies, as well as outside entrepreneurs, to find these opportunities and bring them to our community. Many OurCrowd companies are already serving the remote access automation, social distancing markets and you’d be surprised how many of our companies are already crisis relevant. Although the environment for funding is more challenging, investments are indeed getting done especially for companies with proven business models, strong track records, and those that are relevant to the crisis.
Let’s take a look at some portfolio companies that are actually leading the fight by supporting medical professionals and patients, enabling working and learning remotely, and helping people stay fit while everyone is in stay-at-home mode.
Sight Diagnostics, which has been called the anti-Theranos, is providing the company that managed to provide affordable, scalable, and accurate lab-quality blood analysis at the point– of- care with two drops of blood from a pinprick. The company is collaborating with Israel’s Sheba Tel Hashomer Hospital to perform routine testing of Sheba’s positive coronavirus patients to mitigate the risk of contamination by separating COVID-19 blood patient testing from the rest of the hospital. Therefore having the ability to put an OLO machine, which is the Sight machine under quarantine in the COVID wing is huge.
“OLO’s compact design makes it easy to set up quickly in a setting reserved for testing only contagious blood samples. Eliminating the risks of processing these samples alongside regular lab samples is uniquely advantageous in managing outbreaks of highly infectious diseases.”
-Dr. Ram Doolman, Director of Tel Aviv’s Sheba Hospital’s Laboratories Division and Automated Mega-Laboratory.
Tyto Care is a very strong company in the remote health monitoring area which has developed a rather remarkable set of home diagnostic tools. Their device allows patients to carry out self-examinations of heart, lungs, throat, ears, skin, abdomen, heart rate, and body temperature; and send the data remotely to medics. This allows doctors to gain the vital clinical data they require to monitor the situation from a safe distance, minimizing physical contact and reducing the heavy load on ERs and clinics. Most hospitals in Israel, including the renowned Sheba Medical Center, are currently working with Tyto Care to examine patients in their quarantined wards, as well as to monitor patients in isolation at home.
Watch this video of a Sheba Medical Center physician conduct an actual Tyto Care visit with a home-quarantined patient:
Kryon is a company in the robotic process automation (RPA) area. The company enables enterprises to automate critical processes and reduce the amount of time to perform them by as much as 95%, which is a critical technology in the banking and insurance industries, among others. This is important in general, but it’s now become even more critical when people are not working physically in the office because traditional RPA deployments require a lot of on site consulting time. What makes Kryon’s RPA platform so powerful is their remote, AI driven, automatic discovery and methodology deployment so that onsite consultants are unnecessary.
Kryon was approached by Israeli HMO Maccabi Health Care Services to automate the process of transferring coronavirus lab test results from the Ministry of Health into their proprietary system; a solution was provided in 48 hours.
Sweetch is a clinically-validated smartphone platform that utilizes AI to monitor disease prevention and disease management in patients. The company’s initial focus was the diabetes area and they’ve now morphed into managing a whole variety of diseases, including Oncology (Breast and Prostate Cancers); and Autoimmune diseases (Rheumatoid Arthritis and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases). Of course now they’re focusing on managing coronavirus COVID-19 and getting a lot of interest in their application.
SaNOtize is a company using the antimicrobial and immunomodulating properties of Nitric Oxide to treat skin and respiratory system diseases. The company has developed a whole variety of applications including hand cleaners, nasal sprays, sinus rinses, lotions, and gels that go beyond Alco gel, killing the virus upon entry through the respiratory system. In the face of today’s crisis, SaNOtize is now engaged in a series of discussions about ramping up their production and bringing this remarkable product to market.
MeMed can detect infections before the appearance of symptoms, which could significantly slow down the spread of the virus. It can also distinguish between bacterial and viral infections in as little as two hours. The company is now focusing on an application for early warning and early detection of coronavirus.
Kemtai is an AI driven exercise platform that creates a personalized home fitness experience, allowing users to train with a virtual AI coach that can actually see them, as if a trainer were right there in the room. With the introduction of social distancing rules and millions of people being forced to shelter in place, gyms and fitness centers have been shuttered worldwide. Everybody now realizes how important it is to stay fit and healthy while we weather this crisis, and Kemtai’s interactive solution allows people to stay fit and healthy from home. Since launching their beta platform in mid-March, over 1000 users, from more than 20 different countries have tried Kemtai, performing more than 7,000 exercises.
Sense Education has developed a platform for remote learning, in particular allowing people to test in a complex way for unstructured data, whether it’s an essay question or a piece of computer code. This is a real breakthrough and given the fact that there are now one billion students out of school because of the coronavirus, the whole distance learning business is blowing up. Now everybody understands how important it is and Sense is at the forefront of this trend.
PulmOne is a company developing pulmonary function testing, or lung testing, at the point of care. This is a critical activity today when lungs are being compromised by the coronavirus crisis. This technology could be used as a pre screen to determine prioritization and utilization of ventilators for patients when in short supply. The company’s product is portable, faster, cheaper, easily-operated, and provides instant and automatic results onsite.
VocalZoom is a contactless sensor company that is now working with a major airport that wants them to integrate not only their incredible laser-based vibration sensor, but additional contactless sensors that measure temperature, heart rate, and breath rate. This will enable them to manage the sensing of many passengers from afar, without making contact, so that we can prevent the spread of similar viruses.
OurCrowd’s next steps
Despite the corona crisis and the challenges it presents, OurCrowd plans to continue making new investments. It’s true that many investors will focus on their core portfolio, and we too are focused intently on our portfolio companies. Although there is a lot of uncertainty, some of the best opportunities are going to surface during this crisis.
Looking ahead, companies with a corona thesis will likely rise to the top, not just in the medical sphere, but also those engaged in improving remote access, distance work/learning, exercising at home, home related activities, enhancement of communication infrastructure, etc. Here in Israel the government announced last week that it will grant Israeli companies an initial amount of NIS 50 million (about $13 million) for the R&D and demos of systems, products or technological solutions designed to cope with the challenges of the coronavirus, and other governments are taking similar action.
Smart investors are going to be seeking relevant opportunities, and OurCrowd is no exception.