Startups Venture

Last Week In Venture: Better ER Software, Synthetic Video, Voice Ordering, And Churning Out Of Stealth

Hello and welcome back to Last Week In Venture, the weekly roundup of startup deals that may have flown under your radar.

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But before we get into those, allow the following detour: the Crunchbase News team was hard at work covering all manner of big stories. Slack and Uber (and DouYu and Luckin Coffee) continued their high-flying arcs out the IPO window, which may prove to be less deleterious to San Francisco than some fear. Mary Meeker reportedly closed $1.25 billion for her new fund, named Bond. Sneaker market and fleet management startups joined the three comma club. We looked at a startup scene surging in New Jersey. And, sampling from hundreds of thousands of visa application records disclosed by the U.S. Department of Labor, we showed just how much of a premium top-funded unicorns pay their tech talent.

Of course, these are just highlights of one newsroom’s coverage. So much else is happening out there with plenty of startups operating outside the public-market and unicorn spotlights. Their stories are valuable too.

So, without further ado, let’s see what happened during the week that was in ventureland!

The Bad Hospital Software Status Quo Is An Emergency In The Making

Most of us, for one reason or another, will find ourselves in a hospital emergency room at some point. Doctors and nurses are trained to diagnose and treat; that’s their job. The software they use in the course of their work shouldn’t get in the way, but it does.

Founded by Mint.com entrepreneur Aaron Patzer and his brother in-law, Dr. Justin Schrager, Vital is a company developing emergency department information system software (EDIS). The hope is to bring user-centric simplicity (like what Mint did for personal finance) to the ER. This week, Vital announced it raised $5.2 million in a seed round co-led by First Round Capital and Threshold Ventures (formerly known as DFJ Venture). Many others invested as participating members in the round.

The company’s software uses AI to help triage incoming patients, presents information from various sources (medical charts, test results, etc.) in a unified interface, and integrates with legacy medical records systems. The company’s business headquarters is in Atlanta, and its engineering and product office is in Auckland, New Zealand.

Breaking the fourth wall for a second: I recently took someone to the hospital (they’re gonna be OK!) for a heart-related emergency, and after the doctors on staff brought them back to something resembling stable equilibrium, the waiting game began.

Sitting there, after staring into the pulsing fluorescent lights and counting beeps from machines, I noticed something: hospital software is awful. How any human could parse that visual gobbledegook is beyond me. If medical error is the third leading cause of death in America, what fraction of that mortality rate is attributable to terrible software UI?

It’s a question that’s as serious as a heart attack. You may not be a doctor or software professional, but the fate of someone you love will be at the interface of those two fields eventually. Horror is watching trained professionals straining to read important details rendered in tiny fonts on dim, low-res screens in under-lit hospital rooms.

There’s an astonishing amount of room to improve, and I hope more design and product folks turn their attention to making this and other types of critical software more usable.

Other Interesting Rounds

  • A new tech trend enabled by the proliferation of fast, (relatively) cheap graphics processing units (GPUs) and improved motion capture is the ability to interlace multiple sources of media, computationally extracting and subsequently applying features from one source onto another. Among the most infamous examples to date are Deepfakes or Jordan Peele’s imitation of Barack Obama. Based in London, Synthesia is one of the companies trying to commercialize video synthesis technology. Its angle: helping to break down the language barrier in brand and media communications. The tech remaps facial movements and voice of a person speaking one language onto the face of another person. It’s hard to explain with words. The company released a demo video featuring David Beckham delivering a brief message about malaria research in nine different languages and eight other voices (besides his own). Synthesia raised $3.1 million in a seed round led by LDV Capital. Investor Mark Cuban and TransferWise CEO Taavet Hinrikus were among other participants in the round.
  • Who among us hasn’t gotten some fast food at a drive-through, or called in an order for takeout? Novo Labs is wagering its “conversational commerce service” will help large restaurant chains operate more efficiently if they bypass the human tasked with listening to your order and punching it into the point-of-sale (POS) and kitchen ticketing system. On its website, the company says its service features direct menu and POS integration, scalable infrastructure, and the ability to connect to a human if needed. Thus far in 2019, the company says its service “has taken over 25,000 live conversational restaurant orders over the phone without any human intervention.” This week, the Dallas, Texas-based company announced it raised $2 million in seed funding from Silverton Partners and customer loyalty program pioneer Hal Brierley.
  • Brightback launched out of stealth this week. It’s developed a software platform to assist subscription businesses with retaining customers. Longtime readers of Crunchbase News might recognize the name; we covered an SEC filing from the company, all the way back in September 2018. That regulatory disclosure stated the company raised over $8 million. This week, however, Brightback revealed it’s raised a total of $11 million in Series A funding from Index Ventures, Matrix Partners, Point Nine Capital, and Rembrandt Venture Partners. Filings from nine months ago show there are dozens of other entities invested in the company, though their identities haven’t been disclosed.

And with that we’re done for the week! Weather-wise, springtime is out in full force, which, depending on where you’re at in the country, could bring anything between cold spitting rain to fierce sunshine. Go out and do something fun! We’ll be right back here on Monday.

Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles. Photo by Alex Shutin, via Unsplash.