An Austin-based competitor to Elon Musk’s Neuralink raised $20 million in seed funding for its brain-computer interface technologies with the help of Dallas-based Westcott Investment Group.
Paradromics Inc., founded in 2015, is a leading developer of the high data rate technology that aims to help people with neurological disorders. The company says its first commercial product, the Connexus Communication Device, will restore communication for those who have lost the ability to speak because of severe paralysis.
The investment will help with further development of Connexus, which uses tiny modules and microwires implanted in the brain and connected to a device in the chest to translate bioelectric signals into digital signals that can be processed by a computer.
“We are combining the best of neural science and medical device engineering to create a robust and reliable platform for new clinical therapies,” said Paradromics CEO Matt Angle. “This funding round is a validation of both our technology and strategic vision in leading this important developing market.”
The latest funding round, led by Prime Movers Lab and supported by Westcott Investment Group, follows $10 million in early-stage private funding and $15 million in public funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. Last year, Paradromics successfully tested its platform on sheep.
Interest in the $200 billion brain-computer interface therapy market has skyrocketed in recent years, with startups raising $132.8 million since January, according to PitchBook.
Investing in Paradromics was a no-brainer for Court Westcott, son of Dallas entrepreneur Carl Westcott and managing partner of Westcott Investment Group. Westcott Investment Group, the private equity company established by the investment office of the Westcott family, has long invested in cutting-edge technologies, specifically ones related to augmented reality.
After successful investments in AR companies like Metaio Co., Westcott looked to the future of how people receive and access information. Then, in 2018, he met Angle and learned more about brain-computer interface technology.
“Eventually, we’ll be using these as consumers — it sounds crazy — in a BCI format to access information,” Westcott said.
His firm quickly invested in Paradromics, even though widespread consumer use likely won’t occur for years. In the meantime, Westcott said, the technology could benefit people severely limited by brain-related illnesses.
“The device itself, we believe, is the ideal investment to help a lot of sick people in this decade,” he said.
Last fall, Angle reached out to Westcott as Paradromics tried to raise its next round of funding. Westcott Investment Group helped fund more than half of a $5 million bridge round that then converted into the $20 million funding round. In total, Westcott Investment Group has invested over $4.2 million in Paradromics since 2018, Westcott said.
“I think [BCI] continues on the pathway that AR set forward in that it democratizes knowledge,” Westcott said. “Just as the internet has given access to more people to have knowledge, this will do it even more so, and really level the playing field and allow us to do things it’s hard to even imagine.”
Prime Movers Lab took over leading the funding round after the bridge round. As part of the investment, Prime Movers Lab partner Amy Kruse will join the Paradromics board of directors.
Other investors from the most recent funding round include Dolby Family Ventures, Synergy Ventures, Pureland Global Venture, IT-Farm and Alpha Edison.