Baby monitoring sock-maker Owlet picks up $7M, plans to launch this year

By Jonah Comstock
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owletOwlet Baby Care, a tech startup developing smart socks for monitoring infants' vital signs, raised $6 million in venture funding and another $1 million in the form of an NIH Grant.

The venture funding was led by Formation 8 (F8), with participation from Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, who recently started a new fund called Carpe Diem VC. Previous investors Azimuth Ventures, ffvc, Eniac Ventures and Peak Capital also contributed to the round. These two funding sources, the round and the grant, bring Owlet's total funding to $9.2 million. The company raised $1.85 million last April.

"There is no way that we could have raised our funds without pushing the entire company to the sole focus of creating an amazing product for parents," Owlet co-founder Jordan Monroe said in a statement. "Our new investor, Lior [Susan, who heads up F8's new hardware fund], was able to use the Owlet with his baby, as well as all of our competitors' products, and he fell in love with the Owlet Monitor. That was the biggest factor in making this investment happen."

Along with the funding announcement, the company planned to finally make its smart sock device available to the public this fall. Some users do already have the device, since it was crowdfunded in a 2013 campaign that raised $227,000 and those early backers had a first shot at owning the device. The plan is to retail the device for $250.

The “smart sock” is intended to be worn by a sleeping baby, and it tracks heart rate, skin temperature, blood oxygenation, and sleep data. That's  all transmitted to the cloud and accessible through an app on the parent’s phone or via any internet-connected device through a web portal. The wearable is rechargeable and it sends an alert to the parent’s phone when the battery is running low. The smart sock also offers a “roll alert” for parents of newborns concerned that their baby might roll over onto their stomach, which can sometimes obstruct their breathing. As long as the app is running in the background on the parent’s phone, they can get these alerts.

The Owlet is not yet FDA-cleared, though it has indicated in the past that it's seeking clearance. At the moment, the company reiterates on its website that Owlet is not a medical device or a clinical grade oximeter.

Owlet is part of a growing number of startups focused on digital health devices for new parents and their babies. MobiHealthNews has written in the past about British company BlueMaestro’s “smart pacifier”, and Boston-based Rest Devices raised $1.2 million for its own Owlet-like device called Mimo. Croatian company iDerma offered up a health-sensing stuffed animal last year and, of course, there are a few “smart diaper” projects, like Pixie Scientific’s.