Valkee has raised a huge €7.4 million round for its bright-light headsets marketed to treat Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (S.A.D.). An unnamed “international fund” joined the round, with the current investors participating.
A few of our readers are skeptical of Valkee’s claims, but it’s tough to say its not a good business. The devices seem to be put together nicely, but they basically boil down to a bright-light LED attached to a battery pack, something that can be built for basically nothing at volume and is currently sold for €186. Valkee claims its user base has already grown to tens of thousands of people in 20+ countries, and of those users, 87% recommend Valkee to their friends.
Valkee is looking to expand their device’s market from only the “winter blues” niche. For example they are pursuing research on it’s effects on jet lag, cognitive performance and different depression types.
Looking at the €7.4 million round, you have to weigh that against its risks such as if their €186 price point could be easily cut by competitors, and the linkage between SAD and brain photosensitivity may not be as strong as they claim.
The placebo-controlled study used a fMRI to show that light does have a biological response in the brain, which does suggest something interesting. But the linkage between ear-light and effective treatment of S.A.D. is weaker. They write on their website “92% of winter blues sufferers experienced total symptom relief with 8-12 minutes of Valkee daily” citing their pilot study that used only 13 test subjects, and was published a journal with a colorful history.
They do have a double-blind placebo-controlled study, but the independent group looked at motoric reaction speed to visual and audio stimulus of ice hockey players in the Oulun Kärpät National League team (which it affected positively). I hate to keep pushing to goal post further and further back, but it would be fantastic to see a double-blind placebo-controlled study evaluating the S.A.D. claims.
“We have discovered a new mechanism for the way light positively impacts mood and performance. As a science-driven consumer electronics company, we aim at further deepening our understanding of how bright light affects humans, and turning this science into easily usable healthcare and wellness products,” says Timo Ahopelto, Partner at Lifeline Ventures and Valkee Chairman.
With the funding, Valkee will expand its market areas, reseller network, and use cases.