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General Catalyst-Backed Kernel Will Use $53M Series C To Tap Into The Human Mind

Kernel, a Neuroscience-as-a-Service company developing brain-recording technologies, brought in its first outside investment Thursday–a $53 million Series C round of funding led by General Catalyst.

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The Los Angeles-based company has two technologies that help users observe the human mind in less costly and less invasive ways: Flux detects the magnetic fields generated by collective neural activity in the brain, while Flow detects cortical hemodynamics, such as blood flow. Customers use these technologies to gather, interpolate and correlate neurome data.

“We can objectively measure everything in our known universe, from our steps, to our heart rate, to the stars in the galaxy, but one of the only things we can’t yet quantify is our mind,” Kernel founder and CEO Bryan Johnson told Crunchbase News. “In 2016, I set off to find a way to build technology that would allow us to do high-fidelity imaging of the brain. What we’ve built is an order of magnitude change in cost, accessibility and size.”

Khosla Ventures, Eldridge, Manta Ray Ventures, Tiny Blue Dot and Johnson also participated in the round. Prior to this investment, Johnson had been bootstrapping the company with a $54 million cash infusion since it was founded in 2016. This Series C gives the company a total raise of $107 million.

As part of the investment, General Catalyst’s Quentin Clark joins Kernel’s board of directors.

“The vision fueling Kernel is one of the most audacious imaginable,” Clark said in a written statement. “But more practically speaking, Kernel’s engineering accomplishments have the potential to enable more neuroscience progress in the next few years than has been accomplished in the last few decades.”

The new capital will be used to further technology development, as well as sales, marketing and customer success, Johnson said. In May, the company announced the general commercial availability of its NaaS platform, enabling access to brain-imaging devices and the ability to perform experiments remotely.

Johnson said he used the initial $54 million to figure out if there was even anything they could do; there was. Customers are using Kernel’s tools in different ways, he said. One is trying to improve an image recognition algorithm with brain data, which was not previously possible due to limitations in incumbent brain-recording technology.

Now, Kernel is scaling its technology and looking at how to get it to more people.

“The investment from General Catalyst and Khosla signals that we are ready,” he added. “Kernel will allow for systematic quantification of the thing that makes us, ‘us,’ which is the brain. It’s the last thing that we haven’t been able to measure, and it’s the next major platform to emerge in the world.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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