Kinsa, the thermometer that connects with your smartphone and the cloud, appears well on its way to illustrating how big data, smartphones and the Internet can help remake America’s health-care system.
The start-up announced Thursday that it’s received $9.6 million in Series A funding from investors including the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. Last month the thermometer started appearing on the shelves of all Apple Stores in the United States, which comes on the heels of being featured in an Apple commercial. That’s impressive for a company that was only formed in March 2012, but easy to understand when you learn about Kinsa and its future plans.
The thermometer is paired with an app so that a parent can easily track a child’s temperature over the course of an illness. Additional symptoms can also be manually entered, and photos can be taken. The idea is that when a physician asks about a child’s illness, a parent can easily share accurate information, which will help the physician provide better treatment.
But the especially exciting part of Kinsa is the company’s vision for big data and the cloud. It’s rolling out a group feature this month and next. Provided parents use the thermometer en masse, it will allow parents in a given school to monitor the collective health of the school. Data that parents input about their children will be anonymously uploaded to the cloud and aggregated to identify trends.
Kinsa currently makes money from selling the thermometers, but that’s just the beginning. Inder Singh, founder and chief executive of Kinsa, envisions making money off services and products that are tied to the app. Services could be built in to book doctor’s appointments, and Kinsa could receive a finder’s fee. Or after informing a parent that their child has a 101-degree fever, the app could connect parents with a business that might want to sell or deliver medicine.
Down the road Singh also envisions monetizing the data that Kinsa collects. Brands that sell cold and flu medicine have an interest in knowing when the flu system is peaking, so they can best time their advertising. Governments also want to know when the flu spreads, not to mention anyone who would like to stay healthy.
“When you have millions of thermometers all speaking to the cloud saying, ‘There’s illness going around here,’ now a population of people who are not ill really care,” Singh said.
The Kinsa founder, who formerly served as executive vice president of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, plans to use the fresh funding to invest in marketing and brand awareness to scale the company. Its target audience is parents of children under 12. Singh says there are at least 15,000 of the thermometers already in use.
Tuesday at LeWeb, famed investor Fred Wilson said how interesting the health-care space has become.
“If I could only invest in one thing, which fortunately I don’t have to, it might be health and wellness over the next five years,” said Wilson, who made early investments in hits such as Kickstarter, Twitter and Tumblr. “I just think the change is going to be so dramatic, and the dollars, it’s the largest industry in the United States.”
He pointed to several factors coming together: consumers instrumenting themselves with wearables, health-care costs under pressure and a younger generation of health-care providers embracing technology.
Kinsa is one app that appears to fit Wilson’s thesis.
“We’re creating the health weather,” Singh said. “And wouldn’t that be cool for news agencies to put on the air or in print. Not only the weather, but the health weather. What’s your leave of risk? What’s going around?”