Health IT, Startups

Valencell closes $11M Series D round to support research and development for wearable sensor tech

Gulf Islamic Investments led the round, tapping a new fund the United Arab Emirates investment firm set up to invest in technology startups.

PerformTek_FemaleRunner_headsetThis post has been updated from an earlier version.

Valencell, a health tech company that licenses its biometric sensor technology, has closed an $11 million Series D round to support research and development, according to a company statement.

Gulf Islamic Investments led the round, tapping a new fund the United Arab Emirates investment firm set up to invest in technology startups. Existing investors TDF Ventures and WSJ Joshua Fund also participated in the Series D round. It raised $2.64 million last year.

Last year, Gulf Islamic Investments raised a $200 million fund to invest in Silicon Valley technology companies.

Valencell currently has 25 licensees for its PerformTek biosensor tech. But at the end of last year it also launched BioPack, a biometric sensor package that uses its biometric technology in a pre-packaged system for immediate integration in wrist and arm wearables, and other form factors. The goal is to improve the accuracy of fitness tracking devices.

Valencell CEO Michael Dering in the statement: “The market is now recognizing the value of accuracy in biometric wearables that Valencell provides, and the funding led by GII Tech will enable us to fuel our growth with additional investments in R&D, business development and go-to-market resources.”

Update In response to an emailed question on what’s coming up on the product development front, Dering said:

“The most compelling user experiences with biometric wearable devices require high accuracy to generate useful fitness and health assessments. Valencell has developed advancements in optomechanical sensor systems for extracting a myriad of accurate biometrics in wearables, while also shrinking sensor size, lowing cost, and increasing market scalability.”

Dering added that the company would also use the funding to hire 10 more staff.

He declined to discuss collaborations but said:

“[W]e are seeing continued momentum with sports and fitness wearable and hearable devices, as well as a great deal of traction in the personal health space connecting the dots between fitness and health. You’ll see announcements of additional collaborations in those areas later this year.”

The issue of IP and accuracy are particularly sensitive in the world of wearables. Valencell initiated a legal battle with Apple and Fitbit over alleged patent violations. Valencell alleged that Apple stole the technology which powers the heart rate sensor in the Apple Watch. It claims Apple acted as though it wanted to collaborate with the company to license its earphone-based biometrics PerformTek platform, but it never reached an agreement. Its lawsuit against Fitbit claims the company stole four of its patents and it is seeking damages.

Fitbit also faces a class action suit over allegations that its heart rate tech — PurePulse —  is not accurate. Fitbit’s defense has been that it’s not a medical device company.

Photo: Valencell’s PerformTek biometric sensors in action