Zeit secures $2M in seed funding for its stroke-detecting wearable

Zeit Medical, which makes an early warning system for strokes during sleep, has raised $2 million in a seed round just after leaving Y Combinator’s Summer 2021 cohort. The company’s work suggests the brain-monitoring headband could save lives by alerting people to possible strokes hours before they might otherwise be noticed, and the new funding will help propel them toward commercial availability.

The company’s device is a soft headband with a lightweight electroencephalogram (EEG) in it. It works with a smartphone app to analyze brain activity and, using a machine learning model trained by human experts, watch for signs of an impending stroke.

I wrote up Zeit’s system in detail in August, and little has changed since then, though co-founder and CEO (and now Ferolyn fellow) Orestis Vardoulis noted that a usage study found that people wore the headband on 90% of nights, including people using CPAP machines, and there were few complaints about fit or comfort. Consistent usage is important if the goal of mitigating the effect of strokes is to be achieved, and an uncomfortable or bulky headband would certainly affect that negatively.

“Besides pushing hard on getting the product finalized and ready to be tested in our upcoming studies, we have also been experimenting with different applications of our AI in the inpatient setting. Many intensive care unit patients require close ischemia monitoring,” Vardoulis said. Various conditions can potentially be warned of by the model Zeit has created that would otherwise need an expert or a dedicated system to diagnose. “We have approached several large national academic centers that monitor their subarachnoid hemorrhage patients with EEG to understand if this would be an acceptable application for our technology.”

Vardoulis said the stroke survivor community has been very interested in the device, and even on our coverage people in the comments noted how useful the device might be to them. For anyone wondering how they can get hold of a device, it may be a while — Zeit is charging toward FDA clearance and has received “Breakthrough designation,” a sort of fast track, but it may still be a year or two before it’s widely available.

That’s still a remarkably short lead time for a medical device, and investors clearly thought this was an opportunity for both impact and ROI.

The $2 million round was co-led by SeedtoB and Digilife, with participation from Y Combinator, Gaingels, Northsouth Ventures, Tamar Capital, Axial, Citta Capital, as well as angels Greg Badros, Theodore Rekatsinas and a few others in the medical world.

The money will be used, as you might expect, to continue and expand operations, building the team and funding the studies prerequisite to FDA consideration and approval. With luck, Zeit’s device could be standard issue as early as 2023 to anyone at risk of a stroke.