Healthcare is one of the most complex industries out there, creating frustration on the consumer side but also the opportunity for huge improvements from, in a way, rather simple methods. Halo Diagnostics (or Dx for short) has raised a $ 19M series A to improve diagnosis of several serious illnesses by crossing the streams from multiple tests and making the improved process easily available to providers. They’ve also taken the unusual step of taking out an eight-figure line of credit to buy outright the medical facilities they’ll need to do it.
As anyone who’s had to deal with major health concerns can attest, the care you get differs widely from one provider to another depending on many factors, not least of which are what your insurance covers and what methods are already in use by the provider.
For men going in to get a prostate cancer screening, for instance, the common bloodwork and rectal exam haven’t changed in years, and really aren’t that great at predicting problems, leading to uncertainty and unnecessary procedures like biopsies.
Of course, if you’re lucky, your provider might offer multiparametric MRIs, which are much better at finding problems —and if you combine that MRI with a urine test that checks for genetic markers, the detection accuracy rises to practically foolproof levels.
But these tests are more expensive, take special facilities and personnel, and may otherwise not fit into the provider’s existing infrastructure. Halo aims to provide that infrastructure by revamping the medical data stream to allow for this kind of multi-factor diagnosis.
“Basically doctors and imaging centers aren’t offering latest level of care. If you’re lucky you might get it, but in community medicine you’re not going to,” said Brian Axe, co-founder and chief product officer at Halo Dx. “As perverse as it sounds, what the healthcare industry needs is financial alignment, not just outcomes. The challenge is the integrated diagnostic solution — how do you get these orders, go to market and talk with primary care providers?”
An added obstacle is that multi-modal testing isn’t really the kind of thing medical imaging or testing providers just decide to get into. An imaging center isn’t going to hear that a urine test improves reliability and think “well let’s buy the building next door and start doing that too!” It’s costly and complex to build out testing facilities, and getting the expertise to run them and combine the results is another hurdle.
So Halo Dx is parachuting in with tens of millions of dollars and purchasing the imaging and testing centers themselves (four so far), taking over their operations and combining them with other tests.
Assuming that much liability as a young company may seem like folly, but it helps that these imaging centers are strong businesses already — not derelict, half-paid-off MRI machines being operated at a loss.
“The imaging orders are coming in already; the centers are profitable. They’re coming on board because they see how technology is coming to disrupt them, and they want to help,” said Axe.
Prostate and breast cancers are the first target, but more and better data produce similarly improved diagnosis and treatment planning for more conditions, potentially (these are still being proven out) Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
With one company running multiple intake, imaging, and testing facilities and integrating the results, it’s much more likely that providers will sign up. And Halo Dx is trying to bring some of the enterprise-grade software expertise to bear on the historically neglected field of medical data storage and communication.
Axe deferred to the company’s chief medical officer, Dr John Feller, on the perils of that aspect of the field.
“Dr Feller describes this so well: ‘I have this state of the art MRI machine that can see inside your body, but because of the fragmented solutions that are out there, from intake to the storage centers, I feel like I’m living with pre-dot-com era tech and it’s crippling,’ ” Axe recalled. “If you want to look at records or recommend additional tests, software vendors don’t talk to each other or integrate. You have three providers that need to talk to each other and there’s a dozen systems between them.”
Axe compared the company’s approach here to One Medical’s — increasing efficiency and using that to make the relationship with the consumer lighter and easier, leading to more interactions.
In some ways it seems like a risky move, taking on nearly a hundred million in obligations and jumping into a hugely complex and highly regulated space. But the team is accomplished, the backers are notable, the potential for growth is there, and the success of the likes of One Medical have likely emboldened all involved.
Zola Global Investors led the round, and a who’s-who in medical and tech participated: Anne Wojcicki, Fred Moll, Stephen Pomeranz, Bob Reed, Robert Ciardi, Jim Pallotta, and believe it or not Ronnie Lott of 49ers fame.
These and others involved make for a strong statement of confidence in both the model and the specific approach Halo Dx is taking to expanding and advancing care. Here’s hoping, however, that you won’t have to make use of their services.
Airbyte, an open-source data integration platform, today announced that it has raised a $ 5.2 million seed funding round led by Accel. Other investors include Y Combinator, 8VC, Segment co-founder Calvin French-Owen, former Cloudera GM Charles Zedlewski, LiveRamp and Safegraph CEO Auren Hoffman, Datavant CEO Travis May and Alain Rossmann, the president of Machinify.
The company was co-founded by Michel Tricot, the former director of engineering and head of integrations at LiverRamp and RideOS, and John Lafleur, a serial entrepreneur who focuses on developer tools and B2B services. The last startup he co-founded was Anaxi.
In its early days, the team was actually working on a slightly different project that focused on data connectivity for marketing companies. The founders were accepted into Y Combinator and built out their application, but once the COVID pandemic hit, a lot of the companies that had placed early bets on Airbyte’s original project faced budget freezes and layoffs.
“At that point, we decided to go into deeper data integration and that’s how we started the Airbyte project and product as we know it today,” Tricot explained.
Today’s Airbyte is geared toward data engineering, without the specific industry focus of its early incarnation, but it offers both a graphical UI for building connectors, as well as APIs for developers to hook into.
As Tricot noted, a lot of companies start out by building their own data connectors — and that tends to work alright at first. But the real complexity is in maintaining them. “You have zero control over how they behave,” he noted. “So either they’re going to fail, or they’re going to change something. The cost of data integration is in the maintenance.”
Even for a company that specializes in building these connectors, the complexity will quickly outpace its ability to keep up, so the team decided on building Airbyte as an open-source company. The team also argues that while there are companies like Fivetran that focus on data integration, a lot of customers end up with use cases that aren’t supported by Airbyte’s closed-source competitors and that they had to build themselves from the ground up.
“Our mission with Airbyte is really to become the standard to replicate data,” Lafleur said. “To do that, we will open source every feature that addresses the need of the individual contributor, so all the connectors.” He also noted that Airbyte will exclusively focus on its open-source tools until it raises a Series A round — likely early next year.
To monetize its service, Airbyte plans to use an open-core model, where all of the features that address the needs of a company (think enterprise features like data quality, privacy, user management, etc.) will be licensed. The team is also looking at white-labeling its containerized connectors to others.
Currently, about 600 companies use Airbyte’s connectors — up from 250 just a month ago. Its users include the likes of Safegraph, Dribbble, Mercato, GraniteRock, Agridigital and Cart.com.
The company plans to use the new funding to double its team from about 12 people to 25 by the end of the year. Right now, the company’s focus is on establishing its user base, and then it plans to start monetizing that — and raise more funding — next year.
Early Stage is the premier “how-to” event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear first-hand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, legal, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in – there’s ample time included in each for audience questions and discussion.
It’s not yet fire season thankfully, which affords some breathing room for firefighters and emergency responders to begin planning out how to confront the increasingly complex and unwieldy task of preventing and responding to fires in the American West. Wildfires in the region have been particularly acute in recent years in states like California, mostly due to hotter conditions driven by climate change, decaying grid infrastructure that can lead to sparks, and a tinderbox of trees and foliage ripe for conflagration.
After years of bruising firefighting, some startups are exploring how to improve fire response. One of them is Cornea, a sort of spin-up by public sector-focused venture studio Hangar, which raised $ 15 million last year to build new startups targeting the government.
One of Hangar’s first companies was Cornea back a couple of years ago, and it remains one of the most interesting for its potential. The idea is to meld geographical, weather and historical fire data into a machine learning model that can augment frontline firefighters with better guidance on where to push forward and when to retreat in the midst of a blaze.
The startup has two main products it is looking to launch this year. The first is focused around delivering better situational awareness around a subject known among firefighters as the “Suppression Difficulty Index.” These are essentially maps that inform firefighters of the dangers of fighting fire in a very specific geographical location. For instance, a particular location could have wind or water conditions that might accelerate a fire and endanger responders if they are not careful.
The other product is focused on “Potential Control Lines” — locations where a fire break or other action could potentially push back a fire. Using typography, vegetation and a myriad of other data, Cornea can locate positions with a higher likelihood of success in battling a fire.
Cornea’s Chief Fire Officer is Tom Harbour, who formerly served a decade as head of fire response for the U.S. Forest Service. He said that “50 years ago, I was raised in a culture where you never knew ‘why’ — you just obeyed orders” when it came to firefighting decisions out in the field. “Your head was on the proverbial swivel.” With Cornea and the products the company is creating, we are “Getting aligned on the ‘why’ and beginning to have [firefighters] sense the information that they are looking at.”
Harbour noted that the most common tools in the field today remain paper maps and markers, simply because “you know it doesn’t break right at the time when you can’t have things break.” Cornea’s products may help firefighters in the field, but they are far more likely to have an impact in the fire operations centers where strategic decisions get made about where to invest firefighting resources.
Josh Mendelsohn, the founder and managing partner of Hangar, said that the company is straight down the center of the studio’s investment thesis. “Cornea is focused on taking these large datasets, processing them effectively … and then giving [firefighters] as much analytical impact in an output as simple as possible,” he said, noting that “it turns out that in this market the best user experience is a PDF.”
Indeed, one of the major challenges for building in this market is simply the unique dynamic of disaster response compared to, say, enterprise SaaS. “Cornea has had to go through a customer-discovery process,” Mendelsohn said. “It all feels necessary, but what are the right things that require the least amount of behavior change to have impact immediately?” One challenge particularly around firefighting is simply the feedback loop from the field to the team. “Fire is seasonal so we have had to be a bit incremental,” Mendelsohn said.
The team is currently three full-time people plus consultants with Hangar augmenting them with its own studio staff. The company built out its product partially using federal research grants to deepen the science of firefighting, and this year, hopes to work with the Forest Service and state firefighting agencies to get its models out to the frontlines. “There is a human bandwidth problem,” Mendelsohn said. “How do you take limited resources to help [firefighters] go further by using them effectively?”
Early Stage is the premier ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear first-hand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, product market fit, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in – there’s ample time included for audience questions and discussion.