Skin Analytics raises £4M Series A to use AI for skin cancer screening

Skin Analytics, a U.K.-based startup that has developed a skin cancer screening service that uses artificial intelligence, has raised £4 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Hoxton Ventures, with participation from Nesta and Mustard Seed Ventures.

Skin Analytics says it will use the injection of cash to expand its focus to the U.S. after it was awarded the “Breakthrough Device Designation” by the FDA as part of a programme designed to fast-track new technologies that can have significant impact on the nation’s health.

It also will continue forging partnerships within the U.K.’s national health service, following the launch of what it claims was the world’s first “AI-powered” clinical pathway in conjunction with University Hospital Birmingham.

Skin Analytics offers a CE marked medical device that studies suggests is able to identify skin cancers, pre-cancerous and benign lesions “to the same level as a dermatologist.” The idea is to enable health systems and insurers to increase dermatology capacity by reducing the burden of diagnosis for dermatologists.

“At its most simple, skin cancer is the world’s most common cancer and incidence is increasing around the world,” says Skin Analytics founder Neil Daly. “Overlay that with the fact there is a global shortage of dermatologists and we have a real challenge already with how we identify and deal with skin cancer.”

Daly says that Skin Analytics has developed a clinically validated AI system that can identify not only the important skin cancers, but the pre-cancerous lesions which can be treated by GPs and a range of benign lesions. “We can do that using a low-cost attachment and a smartphone, allowing us to put this into innovative patient pathways either at GP practices or in hospitals,” he says.

“By using our service, we can reduce the number of patients who end up in hospital by 40-60%, depending on where our technology is used. That [means]… we can reduce the demand on our scarce dermatology resources, freeing them up to focus on other patients such as the inflammatory skin disease patients who often wait months for appointments. We can also reduce the cost of skin cancer, freeing up that money to be reassigned to improving care elsewhere.”

Because skin cancer is such a large problem, coupled with advances in AI, Daly notes that there were initially many companies working in this space, seeing an explosion of competitors in 2014 with around 50 companies in the field. “All but three or four are gone now as the reality of how complex the technology is and how challenging operating as a clinical company hits home,” he says, before adding that there appears to be another wave of competitors surfacing.

“In reality, we’ve spent so much time learning from our mistakes in developing our AI, this is one of our main points of difference,” cautions the Skin Analytics founder. “It is too easy to get started and think you’ve made a great algorithm, but when you test it in the real world — and you can only do this with a prospective clinical study — the performance just isn’t there. Not only have we done that, but we use our research strategy to ask questions that give us the data to continue to improve our algorithms. There is no shortcut for this, you need to test, improve and repeat.”

Another key differentiator is that you can’t ‘fake it until you make it’ in a highly regulated industry and the processes that come with that. “You have to build them into the fabric of your company and it’s slow and painful,” adds Daly. “Medical device companies have to find a way to innovate quickly within a safety critical environment and I’m very proud of the way our team has built that ability, and continues to do so.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Mashroom raises £4M for its ‘end-to-end’ lettings and property management service

Mashroom, the London proptech that offers an “end-to-end” lettings and property management service, has raised £4 million in new funding.

Backing comes from existing unnamed private investors and matched funding from the U.K. taxpayer-funded Future Fund. It brings total funding to date for the company to £7 million.

Pitching itself as going “beyond the tenant-finding service” to include the entire rental journey — from property advertising, arranging viewings, credit history checks and maintenance to end of tenancy and dispute resolution — the self-service platform lets landlords list their property, which tenants can then rent easily.

This includes digital credit and reference checks and the signing of rental agreements and tenancy renewals. In addition, open banking is employed to collect rental payments and provide real-time payment information to landlords.

“Letting and renting is, for the most part, still a fragmented, bricks-and-mortar industry,” says Mashroom founder and ex-venture capitalist Stepan Dobrovolskiy. “The experience as a landlord or tenant normally still involves a traditional estate agent who acts as intermediary and charges a hefty fee. While plenty of new players have come along with tech to solve certain points in the experience, we are the first to look at the entire process from end to end.”

Over on Extra Crunch, learn more about the opportunities within property tech with A/O PropTech, the European VC disrupting the €230 trillion real estate industry.

Dobrovolskiy says this sees Mashroom digitise about “98%” of the rental journey, although he maintains that some human interaction is, and perhaps always will be, necessary. “Unlike most traditional agents, we are also still there to help after tenants move in — things like maintenance requests, insuring contents, moving out or extending contracts at the end of the tenancy. We fundamentally believe that automation and tech should augment rather than replace human interactions in this market, and a big part of our brand is to create better relationships between landlords and tenants,” he says.

As an example, Mashroom incentivises tenants to help landlords with viewings at the end of their tenancy by offering a week’s worth of rent as a reward. “No one knows a property better than people who actually live in it, and it removes a lot of friction to have current tenants schedule and host viewings at times that suit them,” explains Dobrovolskiy. “This costs less than 2% of annual rent for landlords, compared to paying 10%+ to an estate agent for finding a new tenant. So we are unlocking financial benefits for landlords and tenants at the same time as giving them more flexibility.”

Mashroom has also developed a “Deposit Replacement Product” as an alternative to the traditional deposit. In partnership with insurer Arch Capital, it lets tenants pay one week’s rent while offering landlords more protection than a regular deposit — up to 12 weeks compared to the typical five weeks.

Noteworthy, the basic Mashroom service is free for tenants and landlords, with the proptech startup generating revenue via its financial products offering, which, along with deposit replacement, includes rent guarantee and other insurance products. The startup also operates its own in-house mortgage brokerage for buy-to-let mortgages and refinancing for landlords.

Startups – TechCrunch

Thriva raises £4M from Target in an era when at-home blood testing is more crucial than ever

Thriva emerged in 2016 as an at-home blood-testing startup allowing people to check, for instance, cholesterol levels. In the era of a pandemic, however, at-home blood testing is about to become quite a big deal, alongside the general trend toward people proactively taking control of their health.

It has secured a £4 million extension to its Series A funding round from Berlin-based VC Target Global . The investment takes Thriva’s total funding to £11 million. The investment comes from Target Global’s new Early Stage Fund II and will top up the £6 million Series A raised in 2019. Existing investors include Guinness Asset Management and Pembroke VCT.

Thriva has processed more than 115,000 at-home blood tests since 2016. Interestingly, these customers actually use the information to improve their health, with 76% of Thriva users achieving an improvement in at least one of their biomarkers between tests.

The startup has also launched personalized health plans and high-quality supplements, scaling up its partnerships with hospitals and other healthcare providers.

Founded by Hamish Grierson, Eliot Brooks and Tom Livesey, it claims to be growing 100% year-on-year and has expanded its team to 50 members in the company’s London headquarters.

In a statement Grierson said: “As the world faces unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis, we have all been forced to view our health, and our mortality, in a new light.”

Speaking to TechCrunch he added: “While there are other at-home testing companies, we don’t see them as directly competitive. Thriva isn’t a testing company. Our at-home blood tests are an important data point but they’re just the beginning of the long-term relationships we’re creating with our customers. To deliver on our mission of putting better health in your hands, we not only help people to keep track of what’s really happening inside their bodies, we actually help them to make positive changes that they can see the effects of over time.”

Dr. Ricardo Schäfer, partner at Target Global said: “When we first met the team behind Thriva, we were immediately hooked by their mission to allow people to take health into their own hands.”

Startups – TechCrunch