Swedish startup Optolexia raises $5.6M to take eye-tracking software for dyslexia screening to US

By Heather Mack
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Swedish startup Optolexia, which makes a digital test to screen for dyslexia in children, has raised $5.6 million (5.2 million euros) in a round led by Gabriel Urwitz, CEO of private equity group Segulah. The Pomona Group also contributed to the round, and the funding will be used to launch Optolexia’s service in the United States.

The company’s digital tool consists of eye-tracking software that uses AI to screen for dyslexia, a common condition with significant variation from person to person that essentially makes it difficult for the brain to decode language structure. It does not indicate intellectual capacity or memory issues, but can take the form of many challenges in converting written words to speech. Using the Optolexia tool, children are given short pieces of text to read on a screen while a small camera records their eye movements, which are then analyzed using Microsoft Azure based on eye movement patterns of children without the condition.
In Sweden, Optolexia is sold directly to schools and municipalities, and last year the company screened 1,500 children.

“We see great potential in Optolexia,” Urwitz said to Swedish tech publication DI Digital. “This is a Swedish company that combines science and technology in a unique way to create social benefit and, most importantly, improves the prospects for all young people who are struggling with reading and writing.”

The company, which was founded in 2015 by Mattias Nilsson Benfatto and Gustaf Oqvist Seimy, is currently conducting pilots in four US states in preparation of their launch later this year. 

“The US is a large market with a growing awareness of the problem of dyslexia. Many players seem to have realized that they can both help students and save money by setting up early intervention to prevent reading and writing problems, and we have noticed that many are interested in our service,” Optolexia’s CEO Fredrik Wetterhal said in a statement.

Benfatto and Seimy developed the method at Stockholm’s medical university, the Karolinska Institutet, based on research that shows dyslexia causes abnormal eye movements during reading. The movements themselves do not cause dyslexia, but deviations during reading may indicate a risk in the first few years of school. 

Eye-tracking software that uses AI to form an assessment – but not necessarily a diagnosis – is becoming more common. Palo Alto-based Cognoa, which is using a similar approach to screen for autism, just announced funding of $11.6 million earlier this week. French startup Tilak Healthcare is developing a series of medical games, starting with one that tracks eye movement and macular parameters to check for eye diseases.