iBeat raises $1.5 million to build a heart monitor that people will actually want to wear

A San Francisco startup called iBeat has raised $1.5 million in seed funding to make a smartwatch that constantly monitors a wearer’s heart and, in the event of cardiac arrest, checks in on them, and notifies loved ones and emergency responders.

Ryan Howard, who previously founded and was CEO of the electronic health records venture Practice Fusion, said he started iBeat after losing a friend who was only about 40 years old to cardiac arrest.

The CEO said iBeat was developed to measure more than typical smartwatches and cardio fitness apps do, and to be comfortable to wear all day and overnight, unlike fitness bands.

The iBeat measures “heart activity” twice a second, including pulse oximetry, heart-rate intervals and other variables. It also operates independently of a smartphone.

The iBeat will also display a list of the patient’s relevant health data, and transmit that data to a 911 dispatcher and paramedics, or other emergency responders, en route to help.

Details displayed and transmitted through the iBeat watch would be the kind of thing often displayed on a metal, medical bracelet, like whether the wearer has any allergies, takes any prescription meds or has been diagnosed with any serious conditions or diseases.

Wearers of the iBeat can also notify loved ones and doctors with the swipe of the screen if they find themselves injured or in another life-threatening situation.

The iBeat, Howard said, could challenge or replace personal emergency response systems (PERS) like the Life Alert, Philips’ Lifeline and Comfort Keepers’ SafetyChoice.

Many PERS devices look and feel like something you’d see in the hospital, not a sleek wearable. “We wanted to bring something to the market where people didn’t lose their humanity if they wore it,” he said.

The startup’s user experience researchers found that people who are supposed to be wearing a PERS won’t do so if it makes them feel or look sick.

So, iBeat is working with Ammunition Group in San Francisco, the design firm behind the Beats headphones among other things, on industrial design for their watches. Ammunition Group also holds equity stakes in iBeat.

Maveron, Subtraction Capital and Correlation Ventures led iBeat’s seed round. Other investors included Ali and Hadi Partovi, NFL offensive tackle Russell Okung, KKR founding partner Henry Kravis and Band of Angels.

The CEO said the funding will go toward research and development, and to manufacture and market the first run of the iBeat smartwatch. The company, which employs 12 full-time today, also intends to launch a crowdfunding campaign in the fall to get word out about the iBeat and raise additional capital for operations.