Our start-up of the week is Cortechs, which is focused on using brainwaves and digital tools, such as gameplay, to improve attention in kids, especially those with ADHD.
“At Cortechs, we don’t want people taking pills when they don’t need to; we believe they should always be the last form of intervention for managing social skills, coping strategies and regulating attention,” explained Cortechs founder and CEO Áine Behan.
“We use brainwaves (as metrics) and gameplay to improve attention in kids, particularly those with ADHD.
‘With investment, we can have revenues of €2.7m by 2018 and expect Cortechs games to reach over 20,000 customers in the EU and US’
– ÁINE BEHAN, CORTECHS
“Our current game Zip and the Misty Mountain, released on iOS, uses brain-powered play to teach a child with attention difficulties to improve their focus – parents receive digestible and actionable feedback on what their child has learned and the improved attention behaviours observed.”
The digital health consumer market is to exceed €233bn by 2020 and Cortechs’ customers lie within this market.
“Cortechs’ opportunity is selling to the half million UK/Ireland market with attention deficit issues worth around €60m that can scale to €600m when pushed out to the European and US markets and to a further €1.2bn if we move both vertically into the adult market.
“This is the first market within ADHD and early sales demonstrate the opportunity outside of this market for children and adults alike and for using our brainwave-sensing platform for applications outside of attention,” Behan said.
Behan graduated with a BSc in Neuroscience from UCC and a PhD in Neuropathology and she is a former research lecturer of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland who still lectures occasionally.
‘Feel the fear and do it anyway – there is always the critic – usually inner one is the worst – that feels you need to know everything but you don’t and you can’t so make peace and go build your empire’
– ÁINE BEHAN, CORTECHS
“With 10 years’ postdoctoral experience in preclinical research and proteomic investigation of therapeutic compounds for neurodegenerative disorders, my research expertise lies in the effects of stresses like drugs on mental health and neurodegenerative disease.
“I felt that there were many areas of science and technology that had not yet made a commercial leap. one being brainwave-sensing technology, on which the concept for Cortechs is based.”
Cortechs has created a platform that uses a brainwave-sensing headset that reads brainwaves with advanced algorithms and uses gameplay to regulate your focus levels. Cortechs uses this platform to create games, dashboards and collect brainwave data so children can improve their behaviour and build a more resilient mind.
“[Our first game] Zip and the Misty Mountain… uses brain-powered play to improve focus in 6-to-12-year-olds.
“Brainwaves are detected by Bluetooth using the headset and sent into the backend of our Zip game.
“Our Zip game motivates the child to be attentive and the child responds in real-time, to reward the child for focus, filling the focus meter means they get special soaring powers.
“To finish each level, Zip must fill his focus meter and clear the mist to wake the sleeping monks. Long-term outcomes can be permanent because the child is learning to regulate their attention. Parents receive digestible and actionable feedback on what their child has learned and the improved attention behaviours observed.”
As Behan explains it, how people are addressing their own health is changing and becoming more consumer-oriented and patient-centric.
“Cortechs’ platform is revolutionising how serious scientific solutions can be delivered to improve attention deficit behaviours. Our vision is to have our platform used to address cognitive decline and other brain conditions outside of distracted behaviours.”
In terms of progress, Behan says there is no better indicator than already seeing the improvement in children who play Cortechs’ games.
“Customers are happy with our product and we are currently rolling out Zip and the Misty Mountain game on iOS this month in the UK and Ireland. The next few months will see us ramping this up.
The investment game
Behan explained that early investors in Cortechs include Enterprise Ireland and the NDRC, as well as EU funding from the FIC3 European Commission.
“This has brought us to where we are now – we have built our first Zip game, have a product market fit with sales from early adopters and we will expand our suite of games and validation beyond rolling out a suite of kids games and on into the adult market.
“With investment, we can have revenues of €2.7m by 2018 and expect Cortechs games to reach over 20,000 customers in the EU and US. We are currently fundraising for seed investment to achieve this.”
Behan says that the biggest challenge along the way has been hiring the right people. “Finding the best fit takes time, especially when you are bootstrapped, and you will never truly appreciate what it is and how to get it right until you are experiencing it for yourself.”
Behan says the start-up scene in Ireland has great opportunities for people with ideas and dreams and that it is a great time to test them financially and in terms of team building.
“There is a great pool of camaraderie in the start-up scene at the moment and as long as I have been in it – the support has definitely surpassed any other area I have worked in ever.”
Her advice to other potential entrepreneurs is to have courage.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway – there is always the critic – usually the inner one is the worst – that feels you need to know everything, but you don’t, and you can’t, so make peace and go build your empire.”