Fitbit took a wearable activity tracker and built a $6 billion dollar company — Sano, a stealthy startup out of San Francisco, wants to do better. Since physical activity is only one element of health, Sano is building a wearable sensor that measures metabolic activity.
Powering Sano is $10.25 million in seed funding from Fitbit backer True Ventures and Intel Capital. First Round, Felicis Ventures (also a Fitbit investor), Elevation Capital, Floodgate, and Rock Health participated in the oversubscribed round.
Founder Ashwin Pushpala, who has a background in biomedical engineering, has been working on Sano for three years since he graduated from Rock Health’s second accelerator class in June 2012.
Since then, Sano has kept the majority of its progress under wraps. Pushpala says that Sano’s first product, slated for launch early next year, is a wearable device that continuously monitors blood glucose level in a completely painless manner.
Glucose monitoring is not a new concept. Diabetics have to test blood glucose levels many times per day, which means pricking a finger for a drop of blood to push against a test strip. The strip is inserted into a meter, providing the patient with a digital read-out.
How exactly a non-invasive blood glucose sensor would work is unclear, and Pushpala isn’t disclosing any specifics about Sano’s first product.
What is clear, though, is that tracking glucose levels can benefit all people, not only those with medical conditions.
“Glucose is your body’s fuel, and blood glucose level, or the concentration of the glucose molecule, is an indicator of a lot of things — when is the right time to eat, which foods affect you positively, and how much to eat,” says Pushpala.
For instance, if you eat a huge lunch and your blood sugar spikes, you’ll have difficulty concentrating and feel a bit sluggish. This probably isn’t much of a surprise, but if you were able to quantify the amount of glucose (and which foods) make you feel this way, you could make more informed choices about what you put into your body.
“Our take on the matter is that calories might not be the right metric. At the end of the day, calories can come from a bunch of different things — proteins and fats are good for you in certain scenarios, but they do have a lot of calories — but the most important measure is the concentration of those things in your body,” says Pushpala.
The way your body metabolizes food is dependent on a variety of factors, including demographic, age, gender, and weight. As a result, data collected from a bunch of individual responses could theoretically be extrapolated to determine the way certain foods or eating habits will affect similar groups of people.
“We’ll figure it out as we have people using the product, but if we have a large enough dataset it potentially could be used as a predict measure. You walk into Chipotle and see what’s on the menu, and you can look at how other people of your body type responded to those types of foods before you even make a decision,” Pushpala says.
Pushpala had no comment on the price point of Sano’s initial product, aside from saying, “it’s a consumer product, meant to be for everyone.” The funding will go toward aggressively growing its team of 20 to prepare for next year’s launch.