VICIS has closed its Series B on $28.5 million, with participation from NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers via Rx3 Ventures. Rodgers joins a list of other pro footballers to back the helmet startup, including Roger Staubach, Jerry Rice, Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin.
VICIS is known for its $950 Zero1 football helmet designed for adult players. The company spent $20 million over the course of three years collaborating with athletes, engineers and neuroscientists to design and fine tune the high-tech head shield, which protects against impact forces and mitigates the effects of collisions through a soft outer shell and several underlying protective layers.
With the fresh funding, which brings total investment in the company to $84 million, VICIS is bringing its youth helmet to market. Founded in 2013, the Seattle-based company says its mission from the get-go was to protect kids and teens playing football.
“There are 2 million kids in the U.S. playing youth football and they deserve the best possible protection,” VICIS co-founder and chief executive officer Dave Marver told TechCrunch. “To be able to offer this technology to kids; it’s our mission fully realized.”
The youth helmet, which retails at $495, is the first-ever to be designed for kids. Most youth helmets are miniaturized versions of adult helmets and fail to take into account the specific needs of a youth player.
VICIS’ youth helmet is tuned for the impact velocities expected in youth play, it’s the lightest helmet available for kids at under 4 pounds and it has the widest field of view of any kids’ helmet currently available.
“We feel like we have the opportunity to catalyze innovation in the youth space,” Marver said.
According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics, sports are the cause of 21 percent of traumatic brain injuries per year. Football, in particular, is responsible for the majority of the between 1.6 million and 3.8 million sports-related concussions found annually.
Research linking football to CTE, a degenerative brain disease, has proven that the sport can, in fact, be deadly, yet millions flock to the field every year. VICIS’ smart, tech-enabled helmets could help usher in a new era for safety in the popular sport.
VICIS plans to bring its technology to other sports in the future. It’s also recently inked a contract with the U.S. Army, with plans to provide the Army and Marine Corps a version of its helmet, tailored specifically for combat.