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Tim Draper leads $6M Series A in pee-testing wellness tracker, Vivoo

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Billionaire VC Tim Draper (via Draper Associates) has led a $6 million Series A in wellness tracking startup, Vivoo. Also participating in the funding round is ONCE Ventures, Revo Capital, 500 Startups (which backed its pre-seed), Global Ventures, and (the female-led consumer tech startup focused) Halogen Ventures.

The personalized nutrition and lifestyle startup sells subscription-based at-home urine test kits that work in conjunction with an app. Its machine learning technology remotely analyzes a user’s peed-on test strip to serve up custom ‘wellness’ insights, then and there, offering recommendations across a range of areas such as nutrition and biological function.

The startup’s founding team is led by CEO and co-founder Miray Tayfun, a serial founder and bioengineer by background who graduated from Stanford’s postgraduate programs. Other co-founders for the 2017-founded startup are George Radman, CFO; and Gozde Buyukacaroglu, COO.

Vivoo launched its subscription service in July 2020 and has amassed more than 50,000 users from over 100 different countries in a little over a year.

It’s says it’s expecting its revenue to grow 10x in 2021 — and points to predictions that the mobile health app market will be worth $236BN by 2026.

It does currently offer a one-time pack (of 4 “wellness” tests for $34.99) — but otherwise it’s selling a 3-month subscription offering ($15.99pm) or a 12-month subscription which works out to $7.99pm.

While Vivoo is shipping its kits around the world, its biggest markets are the US and Canada — followed by the UK and Australia. (The Anglo bias is down to content currently only being available for English, and “tailored for Western cuisine”, which puts some obvious limits on global appeal.)

Typical users to-date are “health conscious individuals” looking for “actionable insights to improve their diet, health, energy, sleep and overall longevity”, per Tayfun.

“The Keto diet audience were the early adopters for our product but we’re seeing interest from a wide age and geography at the moment,” she tells TechCrunch. “Our biggest audience is 25-45 year old women users followed by the same age group male users. “Around 80% of our users also use other trackers such as wearable devices and who did or would like to do tests like genetic and microbiome at-home tests.”

Vivoo says the Series A funding will mostly go on expanding its team to further scale the business — with a focus on the US, where it has already inked partnerships with retail outlets including Amazon and Walmart to distribute the product.

Funding will also go on expanding the product, with additional test kits planned and a new premium offering incoming that will expand what can be tracked and offer integration with wearable data from products like the Apple Watch to further boost utility.

The quantified health trend has been evolving for several years now, beyond basics like step counting and sleep tracking — and getting, well, a whole lot more interesting and intimate. But the challenge for this new wave of ‘personalized wellness/health’ startups is not just gathering accurate data and avoiding privacy pitfalls, it’s making good sense of the data they gather.

Whatever the chosen biomarker, such startups have to be able to extract genuinely useful signal from biological noise (remotely in Vivoo’s case); and, if applying AI (as it is; and most startups in this new wave are), they also need to begin with enough training data to build algorithms that can robustly identify patterns across a diverse user-base and transform a snapshot of individual data into genuinely beneficial lifestyle nudges for the individual in question. Aka: Eat this, drink that, exercise now — as one such startup (January AI) does it.

Startups in this space are targeting a variety of biomarkers to sell the promise of custom nutrition/lifestyle advice that claims to offer a superior spin on the basic tenets of eat fresh, exercise often.

Some — like Ultrahuman and Zoe — are tracking blood glucose and/or getting users to collect and send in stool samples for analysis of their microbiome. And here the focus may be on diet/tackling obesity or pro-fitness/elite sports (or both).

While, for a female fertility use case, the biomarker in question can involve tracking vaginal mucus or body temperature, as with Kegg and Natural Cycles respectively. Or using saliva to track hormones (Inne).

Certain approaches to personalized wellness/health require more invasive interventions than others to acquire the necessary biological data to perform the tracking. But it’s fair to say that all ask users to get pretty up close and personal with their own bodies.

Collecting stool samples is obviously a fairly messy business. And gathering real-time blood glucose measurements — at very least — means being okay with pricking your finger, for example.

One game-changing technology — continuous blood glucose monitors (CGMs) — yields a steady flow of pretty fascinating diet and lifestyle data but you’ll need to be comfortable wearing a sensor that contains a semi-invasive filament embedded in your interstitial fluid in order to play. (And putting that kind of ‘wearable’ in place typically means applying a spring-loaded hollow needle that fires the filament into your flesh… so it’s definitely not the Apple Watch and isn’t going to be for everyone. Although researchers are trying to come up with truly non-invasive CGMs — such as GraphWear’s years-long push to build a skin-surface-level wearable for glucose monitoring; so if they pull that off it will be a major breakthrough for scaling personalized health.)

Vivoo — by contrast — is using a fairly simple, low mess, non-invasive avenue to get snapshots of biological data: Pee sticks.

“We chose urine rather than saliva or blood to start because it’s easy to collect and analyze and can be used to measure a high number of the body’s performance variables. 4,000 metabolites can be seen in the urine,” says Tayfun, suggesting it plans to branch out in the future. She adds that the startup sees CGM as a “complementary technology” — envisaging a partnership with a device maker down the line (“since the data is complementary to Vivoo data sets, and our users are always seeking more information”).

“Our biggest criteria when we’re looking for other tests or tracking devices is it should be at-home, not sending to a lab and waiting for your results for weeks. We believe that the process is frustrating and old-fashioned for ‘at-home’ lab tests,” she adds.

Vivoo’s approach is simple: It ships a pack of individual urine test strips to subscribers. (And for anyone who’s used an at-home pregnancy test the basic process will be familiar.)

Each Vivoo test strip contains a series of colored boxes. After the user has peed on these they just have to wait a couple of minutes and then take a scan of the strip using the camera in the app — which uploads the image data for analysis. (So the app is examining the pre- and post-pee colors to compare changes — and using that to determine urine test results.)

Vivoo says it’s using machine learning technology to perform this remote urine analysis — including what it bills as “advanced image and color processes for calibration, validation, and verification” (i.e. given how much variation there is across smartphone camera hardware). Once the user’s data has been crunched, the app then returns them custom wellness advice based on the machine learning tech’s remote read of their urine test.

Advice dished out may include suggestions on how to could tweak your diet to boost a certain nutrient if the urine analysis suggests it’s low (e.g. calcium or vitamin C) — such as ‘eat more calcium-rich arugula’ or ‘have a bowl of vitamin C-boosting strawberries for breakfast’ — or it might give an alert about a possible infection.

Hydration is another tracked measure. And, here again, Vivoo’s tech is using a color change analysis to determine whether a…

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