Dublin start-up FoodMarble’s £1.3m funding round is easy to digest

11 Oct 2017

FoodMarble CEO Aonghus Shortt and COO Lisa Ruttledge. Image: Alan Rowlette

Hardware company FoodMarble is tackling a problem that affects 1bn people worldwide.

FoodMarble, a Dublin start-up that has developed what it claims is the world’s first personal digestive tracker, has raised £1.3m in a new funding round led by Breed Reply, with additional funding from SOSV.

Aire is a pocket-sized device that helps people who struggle with digestive problems to figure out which foods are the problem.

‘Real-time, personal diagnostic tools and technology are a huge trend in empowering people around their own health’

FoodMarble will use the funding to build out its team and support product development.

The company was founded in Dublin in 2016 by CEO Aonghus Shortt and co-founders Lisa Ruttledge, Peter Harte and James Brief.

Shortt wanted to build a device to help his girlfriend find which foods were compatible with her digestive system, but he soon realised that it could also help a lot more people around the world.

To date, around 5,000 pre-orders have been received online for Aire, with the first deliveries of the €129 device scheduled for the end of this year.

A global platform

Aire is designed to help people who struggle with digestive problems such as bloating, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhoea. These symptoms can be triggered by the body’s response to particular foods.

“Almost a billion people globally are affected by persistent and highly disruptive digestive problems. This new funding enables us to build a really powerful platform around Aire,” said Shortt.

“We hope this will not only make a profoundly positive impact on those faced with these issues, but could yield huge cost savings for overburdened health systems worldwide.”

The device works by analysing a user’s breath to identify how well they digest different foods. When food isn’t digested fully, it ferments in the gut, releasing biomarkers that can be detected on the breath. It uses an array of sensors to measure the levels of these biomarkers to indicate how well the food has been absorbed. The accompanying app gives users a searchable list of foods, showing whether they are likely to be digested successfully, based on the breath readings provided.

Currently, similar tests are conducted in hospitals on large, bulky machines. FoodMarble said this is the first time the technology has been placed in the hands of the consumer in an easy-to-use and cost-effective way without the need for a hospital appointment.

“The support of Breed Reply and SOSV, with their experience and long-term commitment, will be instrumental to us in achieving this mission,” Shortt said.

Breed Reply is a leading operational investor in early-stage internet of things (IoT) businesses.

Emanuele Angelidis, CEO of Breed Reply, said: “Health is one of the most exciting opportunities for IoT technology. FoodMarble has identified a real need as more and more people become aware of how specific foods cause digestive problems, and Aire is revolutionary because it puts control into the hands of the user. We are really excited about working with Aonghus, Lisa, Peter, James and the rest of the FoodMarble team.”

FoodMarble is a graduate of SOSV’s HAX hardware accelerator. HAX consists of a number of accelerators run by tech entrepreneur Sean O’Sullivan’s SOSV investment firm, including IndieBio, RebelBio, China Accelerator and Food-X.

“Real-time, personal diagnostic tools and technology are a huge trend in empowering people around their own health,” said SOSV investment partner Bill Liao.

“We are excited to see this difficult area being tackled in such an easy-to-use way.”

Disclosure: SOSV is an investor in Silicon Republic

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years