Behavior monitoring and analytics startup Ginger.io has raised $6.5 million dollars in its first round of funding, led by increasingly frequent digital health investor Khosla Ventures. Existing investors from the company's $1.7 million seed round in October 2011, True Ventures and Romulus Capital, also contributed.
Ginger.io, which absorbed mobile health startup Pipette earlier this year, offers a mobile-based software platform that passively monitors a person's mobile phone use: How much they're texting, calling, answering calls, etc. Although the initial use case the company touted was for clinical research, the focus now is population health management. Ginger.io provides an alert system for behavior changes in individuals with chronic or mental health conditions like diabetes or depression. The software sends data about the trends (though not the monitoring data itself) to doctors and gives them the equivalent of a "check engine light" if, for instance, a patient becomes withdrawn and stops making calls.
"The number of people who realize the value of this data but haven’t had access to it," CEO and co-founder Anmol Madan told MobiHealthNews, is compelling. "There’s a bit of a difference between how researchers want to use the system and how providers want to use the system for population health management."
Madan said the investment came at a time when the company has more interest from potential customers than resources to meet the demand. (The company is currently hiring various types of engineers and product managers.)
"We have about a dozen or so institutions that are using our systems today," Madan said. "We probably have 40 or 50 qualified leads but we don’t have the resources to support them. We’re realizing there’s a lot of interest and a lot of need, but not having the resources to scale up to meet that need."
In order to develop the analytics platform for use across different diseases, the company needs to do research to develop behavior baselines, which Madan described as "signatures" for each of the conditions it wants to address. Identifying those signatures is one initiative this funding will support.
Ginger.io also depends on patients having smartphones, but Madan said that hasn't been a problem so far.
"We haven’t had a single customer come back and say 'I can’t use your system because my patients don’t have smartphones,' " he said.
Khosla Investors' portfolio includes appointment booking app ZocDoc, iPhone ECG developer AliveCor, medical peripheral device maker CellScope, and wearable device makers Misfit Wearables and Jawbone. Founder Vinod Khosla made headlines in August when he proclaimed at the Health Innovation Summit in San Francisco when he said that machines will eventually replace 80 percent of doctors. Madan said that, while they appreciate the disruptive attitude, he doesn't necessarily agree with that remark.
"It mainly reflects the mindset that Khosla Ventures and other firms across the space have. Their key goal is to manage costs," Madan said. "Our mindset is not to erase doctors. Our mindset is to work with the doctor, with the nurse, make their job more efficient."