Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Dr. Jason McKeown of Neurovalens
Dr. Jason McKeown is the CEO & Founder of Neurovalens, a health-tech startup that creates non-invasive tech wearable devices (based on neuroscience research) that help improve the lives of those who suffer from neurological issues, such as obesity and insomnia. Neurovalens was a winner of the 2018 UC Entrepreneur Pitch Competition. Dr. Jason McKeown is a UK trained medical physician with an interest in the neurological aspect of obesity, diabetes
Tell us about yourself
My name is Dr. Jason McKeown, and I'm the CEO of Neurovalens, and I'm also a visiting scholar at UC San Diego. The core work that we do at Neurovalens, and my work with UC San Diego, is based on neurology and neuroscience. We’ve taken older implanted neurological devices that get into the brain and sometimes into the neck, right outside the body and made them entirely non-invasive. This allows us to treat a wide range of diseases through this new non-invasive technology.
Describe your journey as a UC entrepreneur.
My journey as a UC entrepreneur started in 2016 when I was invited out to UC San Diego to be a visiting scholar at the Center for Brain & Cognition, a world-class facility in neurology and neuroscience. That set the foundation that allowed me to grow as an entrepreneur, not only in the science and research side but also in the desire and the growth to build a company and to make something that can impact the lives of billions of people across the world.
What resources within the UC system have been beneficial to you and why?
With our laboratory and startup coming out of UC San Diego, the campus resources have been phenomenal with access to knowledge, access to technology, and access to research facilities. Expanding out into a more extensive UC network has opened up opportunities across all the sectors. We are very excited and looking forward to expanding across the entire UC ecosystem.
What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs?
My advice for any UC entrepreneurs would be to look around the campus for innovative sort of challenges, funds or competitions and try to build a network there. Then when ready, move towards the UC state-wide pitch competition. There are two tracks, we were on the later-stage track, but actually, there are companies even earlier than us. No matter what stage you are, I think you will find something relevant and something worthwhile in attending that competition.
As a winner of the 2018 UC Entrepreneur Pitch Competition, what traction have you received since then?
Winning the pitch competition adds credibility to the company. As soon as I came off the stage, I had quick introductions and follow-ups with potential partners and VCs. I'm still getting introductions to partners and potential VC’s through my email, LinkedIn, and the media that the UC competition has put out. It’s been a fantastic experience.
How do you plan to use the prize money?
We want to put the $15,000 back into the UC system and expand the research that we're doing in the UC San Diego laboratory.
Have you met VC’s from the competition for support?
Yes, we met a wide range of VCs at the event whom we had follow-ups and introductions. Additionally, we’ve had VCs supporting us in our current stage of funding and VCs approaching us about potential later funding stages when the company has grown in size.
Where are you with funding and patents since the Global Corporate Venturing & Innovation Summit?
We're aiming to have prescription status with some of our devices through both the FDA and the NHS in the UK in the next 12 to 18 months. We have patents in place in the US for some of our obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis technology, and actually, we've just started filing new patents for all our disease areas, which we're very excited about.
What type of investments have you received?
As a very early stage company, our initial seed round was based in the UK, for around $2M. Post the competition in Monterey, we closed our series A funding with a London-based VC and a Cambridge based VC and similar VC's in the UK. In total, about a $6M for Series A was allocated. So, we're delighted with that and excited to use that to fund more research and more development into our medical device technology.
Has there been an increase in your publicity since?
Since the conference, we've had a nice increase in our publicity and people contacting us. What we noticed is the actual quality and caliber of the contacts coming in has increased. A lot of what you would say, maybe “significant players” in the medical device field, actually had noticed us at the conference. Perhaps they haven't had a chance to speak to us and had followed us on LinkedIn or had seen some of the media put out by the UC contacts, so we're delighted by some of those early connections that we've made already.
Did you make any new key partners and have you received any other awards?
The strength, credibility, and size of some of the people that I was able to connect and meet with at the conference
What other pitch competitions and events have you attended? Where else have you applied?
Over the last few years, we have attended a few pitch competitions, both in the US and also in the UK. Last year, we were in the Start-Up World Cup in San Francisco, where we were one of the top 10 startups in the world, according to the Start-Up World Cup. This year, we've won several Barclay Awards in the UK. Most recently, I was nominated for the “Digital DNA Entrepreneur of the Year.” So, those awards are in a few weeks, and I'm very excited about that.
What advice have you received from your 2018 UC Entrepreneur Pitch Competition mentor and how has that helped?
We had a great mentor who I had a delightful evening with, just chatting with him and learning about his business and how to scale up a business. Also, we're delighted that he had taken the time to go through the presentation and isolate and point out what seems so obvious now. These little changes that can come across well, not only in the presentation, but actually whenever you're speaking to potential partners, or even potential funders, who expect that higher quality. So, all those little tweaks have just really taken us up to the next level, and we're glad about that.
What impact do you envision achieving?
Neurovalens, as a company, has a desire to have a global impact. Our key focus would be neurological diseases: so, diseases that ultimately start in the brain that we can influence through our technology. Although now, we're working in the early stages of obesity and type 2 diabetes, we very quickly want to move into things like sleep, mental health (such as anxiety and depression) and all things that are massive global epidemics that we can potentially treat with small, inexpensive non-invasive technology.