Denver Startup Cipher Skin is Gaining Traction with Data-Enabled Wearables

A Denver data tech company is looking to take wearable wellness devices into a broad sphere of applications like physical therapy, telehealth and elder care.

Cipher Skin is developing a smart compression device called BioSleeve, which can collect data on oxygen saturation, range of mobility and other biometrics. Medical providers, physical therapists and trainers can see that data through an accompanying app in real time.

The company has now gotten investment from Tribe Capital, a venture capital firm based in San Francisco. Tribe Capital's founding partners have investing in companies like Slack, Snapchat and Gusto. Although the company could not disclose how much funding it received, Cipher Skin CEO Phillip Bogdanovich said the company had raised $2.8 million prior to this investment. The Tribe Capital investment will be part of a Series A financing round the company plans to close in October. Cipher Skin also recently received $1.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Bogdanovich said having established backers is essential for future growth of Cipher Skin.

“When we go into a Series B round or acquisition sale, if we need to scale or buy another company, there are people invested in us that help bring credibility to us,” he said. “They can invest in a follow-on round and open doors to other people.”

Cipher Skin is looking to grow quickly, because it sees immediate application opportunities for its technology, especially as Covid-19 created an urgent need for telehealth options.

Covid-19 is creating an immediate use case for Cipher Skin, but the company sees broad opportunity in telehealth far after the pandemic is over. Physical therapists, for example, can use the BioSleeve to remotely monitor patients are going through their rehabilitation exercises and analyze their progress. Assisted living or home health nurses can use it for elder care to measure mobility or track vitals. That includes the ability to measure pulmonary and respiratory vital signs, which is another potential use case related to Covid-19.

Entire remote consultations, physical therapy and home exercise can all enabled by one device, which can provide an array of measurements, instead of using many for the same purpose.

Cipher Skin is building out marketing, business development and product teams to start scaling up rapidly. A year ago, the company had four employees. Now it’s up to 14 and plans to enter 2021 with about 20. Recently, the company brought on James Heathers to serve as chief science officer to manage product development.

The company isn’t marketing its products to consumers. They’re geared toward health care providers and insurance companies.

Cipher Skin plans to create not just one device, but a platform of devices: ones for arms, legs, knees, etc. They also want to be able to retrofit third-party orthotic or medical devices with their technology.

The BioSleeves are made with mesh-like material that contains the monitoring devices, so hardware can flexibly be wrapped around an arm or a leg. But five years from now, Cipher Skin sees potential for its technology to be used not just in a health or wellness setting, but broadly. It can be added into concrete and used for monitoring infrastructure, for example. For that reason, Cipher Skin considers itself a data company and not a medical device company.

In the immediate future, though, Cipher Skin is sticking to using its technology to help people, which means it’s sticking to wellness and health care for now.

“In some point in your life, someone as walked into a room and you’ve thought ‘they don’t look well.’ Before your brain registers why that’s a thing, there’s some combination of sweating, their pupils, their body position that your brain takes in and coalesces into that determination. We’re digitizing that experience,” Bogdanovich explained. “That’s the way the sensors are hardwired. And we’re not trying later on to mash it all together. We’re creating the digital version of someone walking into a room and knowing they’re not well.”

 

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