Healthtech/News/

Dementia prevention app Five Lives raises €3.7m

The direct-to-consumer startup is one of the first digital therapeutics for dementia startups in Europe

By Kai Nicol-Schwarz

The Five Lives team

France and UK-based startup Five Lives has raised €3.7m for its dementia and Alzheimer’s prevention app, in a round led by US VC Headline and Austria’s Speedinvest. 

The company is one of the first startups working on digital therapeutics for dementia in Europe, and will look to spend the cash on clinically validating its product and finding more customers in the UK and Australia. It also plans to expand into France — where some of its employees are based but the product hasn’t launched — and Germany.

What does Five Lives do?

Founded in 2019, Five Lives’ app is a direct-to-consumer content and brain game platform designed to detect and reduce the chances of getting dementia by managing five lifestyle areas linked to the disease: diet, mental stimulation, physical activity, sleep and mood. The app currently has 25k users and has been publicly available since last month, after launching in beta in October 2021. 

Users initially complete a risk assessment on their chances of developing dementia based on a machine learning algorithm trained on a database of 10k people — if a user is very high risk, the app will advise them to see a doctor to get assessed for the condition. Others are recommended content to help reduce their chances of getting dementia, like music therapy, breathing exercises and brain games. 

Currently, users start with a seven-day free trial and then pay £49 a year for all the app’s features, but founder and CEO Xavier Louis says the startup will experiment with the makeup of its freemium model over the next year.

Who invested in Five Lives?

  • The round was led by US VC Headline and Austria’s Speedinvest 
  • French VC Kima Ventures, healthtech community and fund Voyagers.io, London’s Tiny VC, early-stage investor Proxy Ventures and US-based Snow Capital also participated.

What’s next?

Louis says about 20% of the round will go towards collecting research to clinically prove that the app does what it says on the tin: prevent dementia. The startup will work with the University of Oxford and research organisation Dementias Platform UK on validating the product.

It’s also hoping to grow its user base four-fold to 100k by the end of the year, and has plans to expand into Germany by the end of this year and France by the beginning of 2023. 

The startup also plans to launch a virtual clinic to connect users with real-life clinicians and coaches by the end of next year.

What’s the market like?

Startups offering digital therapy for dementia are a rare thing in Europe and the US, and have picked up nowhere near the amount of funding as healthtech sectors managing things like chronic pain and at-home care. 

The best funded are US-based Neurotrack, which has been going for a decade and raised more than $60m, and compatriot Altoida, which has picked up $22m from investors. 

In Europe there’s also:

Sifted’s take

The dementia prevention market alone is a huge one, with 49% of people in the UK saying it’s the condition they fear the most. There’s currently no treatment for the disease. 

But for digital health startups like Five Lives to really hit scale in Europe — where only 15.5% of healthcare is paid for by patients — the key will be signing partnerships with major state healthcare providers like the UK’s NHS or health insurers in countries like France and Germany. 

These organisations are notoriously hard for digital health startups to work with, and even Germany’s DiGA regulation — which provides a pathway for startups to be reimbursed by the state — has come in for criticism for having too little impact.

Despite that, we’re beginning to see a real rise in startups looking to shift healthcare from managing sickness to preventing it by catching signs of illness early. From blood and hormone diagnostics to vaginal microbiome screening and neurological testing and therapy, investors have been increasingly putting money behind these solutions in 2022. 

Kai Nicol-Schwarz is a reporter at Sifted. He covers healthtech and community reporting, and tweets from @NicolSchwarzK.

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