In a world where we count every step and measure every heartbeat, hopping on the scale once per week to keep half an eye on what your body is doing just won’t do. Even if you stand around on the glass oracle of mass a few times per day, the truth is that your body weight is a trailing indicator — it shows what has already happened, rather than what’s about to. One leading indicator is your blood sugar level — and weight-loss startup Signos is betting that you’re curious enough about the difference between our respective metabolisms to sign up for real-time glucose monitoring and alerts to keep you in shape. It turns out that GV believes that, too, to the tune of leading the company’s $13 million Series A round.
The basic science is this: If I eat a bowl of oatmeal, my blood sugar is going to spike. If I go for a walk or a run when it does, the glucose level in my blood will go down, which nips weight gain in the bud. My body might react differently to different kinds of foods on different days, at different times, and depending on a whole raft of unpredictable features about my body, what I eat, and how I’m doing that day. Crucially, it’s no good to use my body as an example; yours is going to be different. Signos believes that by continuously measuring, you can get the data you need to make healthier — or at least better informed — choices about what you’re putting in your body, and how often you shift your carcass around to shake off some of that weight again.
The company today revealed that it has raised a total of $17 million in funding, including a $4 million seed funding led by Courtside Ventures, 1984 Ventures and Tau Ventures back in January. In the current round, Signos raised a $13 million Series A led by GV.
The company’s founder told me he has a pretty close personal connection with the challenge of weight loss, and outlines how he got started.
“I was a fairly overweight/obese kid growing up, and I was like that up into my early teen years. I got into sports, lost weight, and actually became decently athletic. I eventually went to college to play hockey and ended up having a couple offers to play in the NHL,” said Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, CEO of Signos. After his brush with top-tier sports, his body changed again, and he gained a lot of weight. “A few years ago, I was pretty overweight again. I started looking for some guidance. The standard advice is 2,500 calories per day for an adult male, but we all have friends that eat 4,000 or 5,000 calories and they never put on a pound. And then there’s those who eat 1,500 calories and they never lose weight. A member of my family was diagnosed as diabetic and I saw his continuous glucose monitor (CGM). He was explaining how it worked, and I found myself wishing we could take the CGM and figure out how the metabolism actually interjects itself with weight loss.”
Long story short, Fouladgar-Mercer founded a company and started building.
“We provide visibility into every body’s unique metabolic needs. Before, we were stuck with calorie reduction or counting macros or removing carbs altogether; now, we can work with people to turn diets that don’t work into plans that do,” said Fouladgar-Mercer, “We help them discover this in a matter of days or weeks and refine it over time for best weight management and overall health. Elite athletes or conscientious dieters often take an extraordinary amount of trial and error to come to the same conclusion we are able to deliver in a fraction of the time.”
The Signos platform will help develop personalized answers to basic questions like what to eat, when to eat and what exercises help encourage weight loss. At the heart of the system is Dexcom‘s G6 continuous glucose monitoring devices, which are typically used for diabetes patients. Dexcom became an investor in Signos’ most recent investment round as well, as a strategic investor.
On top of the hardware component, which measures the glucose levels in the user’s blood every few minutes, Signos created an AI-enhanced app to offer real-time data and recommendations designed to drive sustained weight loss. At the beginning of their Signos experience, users log what they eat, enabling the Signos platform to learn their body’s reaction to specific foods. Once calibrated, Signos uses that data to provide personalized nutrition suggestions, including which foods are best for each user, when to eat and when to exercise to bring glucose levels back within their optimal weight loss range.
“You wear the device for 10 days, full-time. You shower, go for a run, you sleep and the device keeps measuring. At the end of the period, it beeps to let you know that it’s time to peel it off and replace it with a new one,” explains Fouladgar-Mercer, and admits that, due to the nature of the device, it isn’t exactly the greenest tech we’ve seen in a while — it isn’t recyclable or reusable. “It’s a medical device, so it needs to be disposed of.”
To wear a continuous blood measuring device, you can’t just pop to your local pharmacy to let the tiny electronic vampires loose on your innards; a doctor needs to prescribe one of the devices for you.
“In the United States, you need a doctor’s prescription to get a CGM, and then you need a pharmacy to fulfill that order, as well. We put all those operations behind the scenes; you come to the site, and we walk you through the whole process,” says Fouladgar-Mercer. “And then when that’s done, it goes to the pharmacy licensed in the appropriate state and they send you the box that has everything in it. In addition, you’ll need our software, which is available to download.”
The magic in the system is in the near-real-time monitoring and alert system; it doesn’t help to know that your blood sugar spiked at 1:35 PM when you check your phone before bed at night. The right time to take action, the company claims, is as the glucose level is on the upswing.
“Having this immediate continuous feedback loop over a longer period of time yields better results for our members to achieve the sort of health outcomes that they’re trying to achieve,” claims Fouladgar-Mercer.
The company says it has more than 100,000 potential customers waiting for the product to become available, and it says that the new funding round means that the product will be available across the U.S. at some point in 2022.