News 8/1/14


Has anybody heard of Xiaomi? I hadn’t until last week. Since then I’ve seen tons of news about the Chinese smartphone maker with a knack for copying competitor products and offering dirt cheap alternatives. Xiaomi is the fifth largest smartphone maker in the world and it achieved that status in only four years of existence. That’s impressive. Last week it announced a fitness band, similar to a Fitbit or a Jawbone band, for $13. It’s called the Mi Band. That’s quite the steal. It scales nicely for an employer, direct primary care practice, health system, or insurer that wants to provide fitness hardware to a group. It tracks movement and sleep and can also unlock Xiaomi phones. I like using Knock on my phone to unlock my computer, so I imagine I’d like the wristband to unlock phone feature. The band also has a 30-day battery life.


Another fitness band product launched this week, this one from mobile fitness app maker Runtastic. The band, called Orbit, costs $120 and works with Runtastic apps. I can’t imagine this being a success since the product is largely undifferentiated from established players like Fitbit and Jawbone and it’s getting easier and easier to connect devices and data from different vendors. If this was Apple, it would be a different story.


Rock Health company Kurbo Health raises $5.8 million. Kurbo offers an interactive weight loss program for kids aged 8-18. Childhood obesity and the associated problem of childhood diabetes are massive problems that need a targeted solution. If you can encourage better habits early, you can have an impact on adult health as well. I see this similarly to the approach Omada is taking in targeting pre-diabetes.


There’s been a lot of interest over the last several years in curating mobile health apps and services. Happtique was the first example, but it hit some major speed bumps along the way. A new service called Quantified Care wants to do the same thing. It’s based on the website Smartphone Physical. The idea is to offer a curated list of apps and services for both providers and patients. It makes a lot of sense conceptually, but I suspect that white-labeled mobile health formularies will win out over general sites.


EyeNetras raises $4 million. Its smartphone device  enables users to perform their own eye exam and then share the results with remote providers. It’s a cool concept with tons of potential across the globe.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (NYP) opens an innovation center at health accelerator and co-working space Blueprint Health. It’s cool to see systems like this (and MedStar in DC with its sponsorship of 1776) engaging with health startups more closely.


Lots of funding news. PumpUp, the social network for fitness, raises $2.4 million. It’s pretty much what it sounds like, a site/app for sharing photos and fitness tracking data. It has 1.7 million users.

More data that telemedicine works, based on 1,000 remote pediatric consultations and interventions delivered by UPMC docs to patients in Colombia and Mexico.

PhysIQ, formerly VGBio, raises $4.6 million in Series A funding. The company is building an analytics platform for wearable device data and has a pilot with the VA. The technology is based on an analytics engine used in machines. The company launched in 2012 and received a $2 million VA grant.

Athena acquired Epocrates almost two years ago and the performance of Epocrates hasn’t exactly been stellar. Epocrates revenue was down 23 percent last quarter from the year previous. There was a lot of speculation when Athena acquired Epocrates as to the reasons for the acquisition. My gut feeling was that Athena was going to try to leverage the 300,000 physicians users of Epocrates to sell more Athena products. That may very well be the case and hopefully, if it is, it makes up for the impressively poor performance of Epocrates itself.

Here’s a list of startups hacking healthcare. A lot of them aren’t really startups (once you IPO you’re not a startup) but it’s certainly good coverage of startups that are top of mind for investors when they think about digital health.


Travis Good, MD/MBA, is co-founder of Catalyze. More about me.

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