Helping Spare People From Gluten (and other Allergens)

by Brad Feld

Our investment in Fitbit was our first effort to invest in the notion of human instrumentation. As the quantified self became a broad meme around 2010, we decided that over the next 20 years there would be an increasing integration of technology into the human body to help measure, test, and regulate our health and overall organic functions.

We’ve looked at many companies that are doing things in this area, but almost all trigger the need for either FDA approval or engagement in some sort of regulatory or invasive process. While the body hacking movement is fascinating, the side effect of implanting physical devices in one’s body creates issues that we aren’t ready to contend with.

So – we’ve continued to look. At the Upfront Summit earlier this year, we were introduced to Shireen Yates, the CEO of Nima. Shireen and her co-founder Scott Sundvor are MIT grads with major food allergies. They had a vision for creating a consumer device that could be used to test foods in real time for various allergens, such as gluten, peanut, dairy, and soy. The product would be non-invasive, but have proprietary chemistry that would create a huge moat around the business, since making the tests simple, fast, and accurate is incredibly difficult.

They had a phenomenal response to a pre-order campaign for their product with its first test, which was for gluten. The chemistry and the device are separate, so in addition to being able to do various types of tests with the same physical hardware, the chemistry comes in disposable units for each test, allowing people to use the Nima product for many tests across different allergens.

In addition to the recurring revenue from the disposable chemistry models around gluten, the product roadmap includes new chemistry models for tests around dairy, peanut, and other allergens. Further, as the chemistry evolves, there is the possibility of combining multiple tests into one chemistry package, as well as evolving the threshold of the sensors.

Finally, given that the sensor is a separate device connected to your smartphone, the software side of the business has very similar characteristics to Fitbit in terms of creating regular, continuous measurements around data for an individual, as well as around composition of food, and consumer access to this data.

We are excited to be joining our friends at SoftTech VC, Upfront Ventures and, SK Ventures on this journey with Shireen, Scott, and the team they’ve built.