Kernel raises $53M to expand access to its Neuroscience as a Service platform

Steven Loeb · July 9, 2020 · Short URL:

The company was founded by Braintree's Bryan Johnson

Kernel is a company pioneering a new space: Neuroscience as a Service (NaaS), in which it noninvasively records brain activity, allowing its customers to measure and quantify cognition on-demand. 

It's a fairly new technology, and it's caught the interest of investors, who just poured $53 million into the company, it was announced on Thursday. The round was led by General Catalyst, with participation from Khosla Ventures, Eldridge, Manta Ray Ventures, Tiny Blue Dot and Bryan Johnson, founder and CEO of Kernel.

While this is being called a Series C round, it's actually the first outside funding the company has taken; until now, it had raised $54 million, all from Johnson's own pocket, bringing its total funding to $107 million. Johnson was previously the founder, chairman and CEO of payment company Braintree, which was acquired by eBay for $800 million in 2013.  

Founded in 2016, Kernel's platform is powered by two brain recording technologies: one is called "Flux," which is short for "magnetic flux." It detects the magnetic fields generated by collective neural activity in the brain. The other is called "Flow," short for "blood flow," and it detects cortical hemodynamics, which is representative of neural activity.

Kernel's customers can use the technology to do things such as explore biomarkers, but the company is also getting a lot of interest from customers trying to use it for improving machine learning algorithms for such applications as image recognition and voice recognition.

One group that Kernel is working with, for example, is trying to quantify a neural assessment, instead of relying on qualitative questions and self-reporting. Another company is using the neural data to improve image recognition algorithms; Kernal is able to provide vast amounts of brain data that can be fed to a deep neural network for a much higher representation of an image.

Kernel unveiled its technology earlier this year, and now it wants to increase access; the company says the new capital will be used for "further technology development and customer success."

Along with the funding, it was revealed that Quentin Clark, Managing Director at General Catalyst, has joined the Board of Directors at Kernel.

"The vision fueling Kernel is one of the most audacious imaginable." Clark said in a statement. "But that ambition has a passionate and committed founder and team, and pragmatic engineering work to back it up. Kernel's engineering accomplishments have the potential to enable more neuroscience progress in the next few years than has been accomplished in the last few decades."

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