Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek’s preventive healthcare startup just received a very strong vote of confidence from venture capitalists. Earlier today, Neko Health announced it had raised €60mn in a round led by Lakestar and backed by Atomico and General Catalyst.
The funds will be put towards expanding the concept outside of the company’s native Sweden, where it currently operates a private body-scan clinic.
Neko Health, named after the Japanese word for cat, was founded in 2018 by Ek and Hjalmar Nilsonne. After much secrecy, its first clinic opened in February this year in Stockholm. Within two hours, it was fully booked out and 5,000 people were placed on a waiting list.
“I’ve spent more than 10 years exploring the untapped potential of healthcare innovation,” Ek said in a statement. “We are dedicated to building a healthcare system that focuses on prevention and patient care, aiming to serve not just our generation, but those that follow.”
3D body scans
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At the clinic, people go through a 3D full-body scan in a minimalist booth that would not look out of place in an episode of Star Trek, fitted with dozens of sensors and powered by, you guessed it, artificial intelligence. In particular, algorithms can immediately detect potential skin conditions and risk of cardiovascular disease.
Patients (are they still called that in preventative care?) also go through laser scans and an ECG, which, altogether, takes between 10 and 20 minutes. They may not be met by Bones himself after the examinations, but their results are looked over and explained by an actual, human, doctor.
“We have our own nurses, doctors and specialists,” Nilsonne told Bloomberg. “We have dermatologists employed just to review the skin images. There is a doctor on site who can make qualified medical judgments for anything that comes up.”
The price for a Neko Health assessment is €250, and the company has performed over 1,000 scans since launch. Close to 80% of customers have reportedly prepaid for follow-up scans after a year.
AI does indeed hold great potential for disease prevention and early detection — but only if the results are interpretable. It is unclear how much insight Neko Health physicians have into how the algorithm makes its predictions (as in, which factor contributes to the risk of cardiovascular disease so the patient/client can be better informed about what measures to take).
Purpose and ambition
One of the company’s backers is Skype co-founder and founder of Atomico, Niklas Zennström, who will also be taking a seat on the board. He sees enormous potential in the new venture from the man who essentially changed how we consume music.
“Neko Health is exactly the type of mission that gets us excited at Atomico. It’s that rare combination of a firm with a purpose and outsized ambition, and founders with a world class track record,” Zennström said. “They’re solving a problem we can all relate to, with the potential to fundamentally transform global healthcare forever.”