Riva Health, a new digital cardiology platform, has come out of stealth mode to announce a $15.5 million funding round led by Menlo Ventures.
Other backers included UCHealth, the University of Colorado Innovation Fund, as well as angel investors Brandon Cruz of GoHealth and Larry Gies of Madison Industries.
In addition to the raise, the company added Dr. Rich Zane from UCHealth and Greg Yap from Menlo Ventures to its board of directors.
WHAT IT DOES
Riva is led by veterans of the tech and health spaces. Dag Kittlaus, the former cofounder of the virtual assistants Siri and Viv, serves as the company’s CEO and Tuhin Sinha, Ph.D., a cofounder of the University of California, San Francisco’s Health eHeart Study, is the company’s president.
While the company is still keeping the details of its technology under wraps, the idea is that users will be able to measure and track their blood pressure using only their smartphone. The app directs users to place their index finger over the phone’s camera so it can use the flashlight to detect a reading.
The platform is designed to give patients a comprehensive, equitable and accessible way to manage hypertension and heart disease, the company said.
“There is no health challenge more pervasive, complex and preventable than heart disease. This is a disease that impacts millions. Yet many feel entirely alone and unequipped to handle it. That’s what makes it such a worthy challenge,” Sinha said.
“We are creating a technology that not only empowers individuals in better managing their health, but also expands access to health monitoring at a scale we’ve never had before.”
A beta version of the Riva app is set to launch later this summer, the company said. With it, users will also be given access to a licensed healthcare provider who is informed by the platform’s readings.
WHAT IT’S FOR
The company didn’t specifically share what the funds would be used for, however, Riva is currently in the process of validating its technology for Food and Drug Administration marketing clearance.
Almost half of adults in the United States have hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This condition can lead to heart disease and stroke, and as many as 500,000 deaths in 2018 had hypertension as a primary or contributing cause.
During the pandemic, more people experienced high blood pressure than before, according to a study conducted by chronic care management company Livongo.
As a dually common yet dangerous condition, there is no shortage of heart monitoring devices on the market. And more and more, these monitoring devices are moving away from traditional arm cuffs into remote continuous monitoring devices and wearables.
Arm cuff readers can sometimes generate incorrect readings due to ill-fitting bands, improper arm positioning or heightened patient stress from being in a medical setting, according to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Swiss startup Aktiia recently received a CE mark for its continuous blood pressure monitor wrist-wearable. The device automatically measures blood pressure over the course of hours, days and weeks and does not have to interrupt the user's day and sleep time to take a measurement. The data is then visualized in a free companion application and can be shared with a physician or family member to detect concerning blood pressure changes.
Earlier this year, Samsung got the go-ahead to roll out its blood pressure and ECG monitoring features for its smartwatches in 31 new countries. Both features are accessed through the Samsung Health Monitor app. Blood pressure is measured using heart rate monitoring sensors to conduct pulse wave analysis, although users must calibrate their device every four weeks using a traditional cuff.
More in line with Riva’s technology, a 2019 study found that a smartphone-based blood pressure measurement that employs transdermal optical-imaging technology was able to predict systolic and diastolic blood pressure with high accuracy.
ON THE RECORD
“I’ve long known that smartphone and wearable technologies open entirely new paradigms of interaction and enablement, especially in healthcare,” Kittlaus said. “We’ve been limited in taking advantage of health management opportunities though because diagnostic science has needed to catch up.
"With Riva, we are introducing an entirely new way to manage disease, fulfilling the promise of a doctor on your phone anywhere in the world. We’re focused on blood pressure to start, but you can infer much more from an individual’s BPW. The possibilities are vast and exciting. Now anyone, anywhere, can take care of their heart health.”