Why We Invested in CalmWave - Managing Hospitals Better Using AI

2 min read

Excited to announce our investment alongside Bonfire Ventures, Insight Partners and the Allen Institute for AI in the $4M seed for CalmWave, which helps hospitals systems to manage and reduce alarm fatigue experienced by healthcare workers working in critical care. Tau Ventures is an AI-first fund in Silicon Valley investing primarily in mature seed, typically when there is a pipeline of customers. CalmWave fits right into our thesis and as we followed their progress, what we found especially compelling was their (1) opportunistic product in a ripe SaaS market (2) an execution-focused team, and (3) strong traction.

1) The Need

Even before the COVID pandemic added stress and strain to hospital critical care units, ICUs were overwhelmed by alarms creating sensory experiences that nurses likened to professional football stadiums, casinos, and carnivals — not somewhere that you want to care for a critically-ill patient or recover from a life-saving surgery. ICUs have recorded decibel peaks above 85 dB and can have a critical alarm every 90 seconds. This might be acceptable if those alarms were all actionable, but instead, 85–99% of those alarms are false positives, amounting to what one nurse described as “little more than anxiety-inducing wild goose chases”. This cacophony of alarms, leads to alarm fatigue — a desensitization to alarms which leads to unsafe patient environments (e.g. clinicians miss or delay response to alarms) and clinician burnout.

Alarm fatigue in healthcare settings has been well documented academically and came to the forefront of institutions in the past decade. As SaaS companies become more and more prominent, especially within the healthcare industry, hospital systems have become more accepting and accustomed to such products, making the market ripe.

2) The Team

The cofounders knew each other from their previous startup PagerDuty. CEO Ophir Ronen is a serial entrepreneur currently in residence at the Allen Institute. He previously started Internap Network Services as well as EE HQ, which was acquired by PagerDuty in 2015. The principal data scientist, Justin Kearns, holds 22 patents and has significant experience in AI and signals processing. Keith Boudreau is the chief engineer in charge of the fullstack development. Christian Bauer is the principal UX Architect and has been recognized by several national awards for his AI-powered healthcare and fintech UX architectures.

3) The Product

CalmWave is building an AI-powered, enterprise-grade operations management platform for hospitals. They’re beginning with an alarm operations, which will allow users to get a continuous window into two key indicators that are otherwise lost in a sea of false alarms. First is a patient acuity score and unified view of patient alarm patterns, the second is the resulting workload on a provider. Potential customers can use these metrics to drive better, more efficient staffing, informed decisions about level of care and discharging patients, and adjustments to alarm thresholds to decrease false positives.

We are honored and excited to be part of CalmWave’s journey, using technology to solve a big healthcare problem.

Primary author of this article is Sharon Huang. Originally published on “Data Driven Investor,” am happy to syndicate on other platforms. I am the Managing Partner and Cofounder of Tau Ventures with 20 years in Silicon Valley across corporates, own startup, and VC funds. These are purposely short articles focused on practical insights (I call it gl;dr — good length; did read). Many of my writings are at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amgarg/detail/recent-activity/posts and I would be stoked if they get people interested enough in a topic to explore in further depth. If this article had useful insights for you, comment away and/or give a like on the article and on the Tau Ventures’ LinkedIn page, with due thanks for supporting our work. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Amit Garg I have been in Silicon Valley for 20 years -- at Samsung NEXT Ventures, running my own startup (as of May 2019 a series D that has raised $120M and valued at $450M), at Norwest Ventures, and doing product and analytics at Google. My academic training is BS in computer science and MS in biomedical informatics, both from Stanford, and MBA from Harvard. I speak natively 3 languages, live carbon-neutral, am a 70.3 Ironman finisher, and have built a hospital in rural India serving 100,000 people.

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