NYC Startup Neuroscout: Think of It As the Context Layer for Wearables



Neuroscout will offer customers a context-specific brain profile. Here’s what it means, and how it’ll make a difference: these profiles will be made for sports, law enforcement, and other pursuits where fast-paced decision-making is imperative. The use of this profile will revolutionize the assessment, training and recruitment of people performing in these contexts by integrating brain imaging and big data algorithms with a comprehensive understanding of relevant situational awareness.

Neuroscout provides actionable information based on data collected from wearable devices, and the profile can be made without brain imaging for free via a mobile app. Or a more thorough profile can be made with brain imaging at a Neuroscout distribution center or through an enterprise team solution. Founders Jason Sherwin (‘14SEAS) and Jordan Muraskin (‘14SEAS) tell us more.

Tell us about the product.

We are making a software + hardware solution that analyzes users’ high-speed decisions in various contexts. This analysis is shown to the user in the Neuroscout Context Profile. We have found in our neuroscience research that the brains of experts in certain contexts of high-speed decision-making, such as baseball hitting, law enforcement, etc., have developed particularly to augment their performance in such contexts. But the neural structures that have developed this way produce a spectrum of capabilities, rather than a binary determination of “good” or “bad” at making fast decisions. We can measure that context-specific spectrum and suggest ways for the user to get better.  

How is it different?

Our product sits at the intersection between wearable technology and digital brain health. Wearable technology has minimal coverage in brain imaging because of the compound difficulty of a) recording high fidelity brain signals, and b) interpreting those signals. However, wearable technology solutions, such as the Jawbone fitness or sleep monitor, have begun to gain popularity in the consumer market because they provide real-time feedback on biometrics relevant to the user. Therefore, if brain imaging is going to be relevant to a user, then it has to provide actionable information. We provide such information.

The second market that overlaps with our Neuroscout Context Profile is the digital brain health market. This market is concerned with digital solutions to brain training, such as Lumosity. Instead of offering general cognitive benefits (which have not clearly been shown, by the way), we offer specific cognitive assessment and training in the user’s context of interest. For example, if a baseball hitter wants to see where his “eye sees the ball” then we can show him when, where and how his brain sees the pitch – colloquial expressions like this and many other ones in sports, and other high-speed decision-making contexts can now be quantified with the right Context Profile.

What market are you attacking and how big is it?

The wearable tech market is expected to be $12B by 2018 and the digital brain health market is expected to be $6B by 2020. I can give you references on these if you like. We see these projections though as highly conservative because neither market is fulfilling the capabilities we have demonstrated and published in peer-reviewed neuroscience publications. So while these numbers are sizable, we anticipate more areas of application than those accounted for in these numerical estimates of market size.

What can brain imaging tell us and how is useful?

This is a BIG question so I will constrain my response by what we are designing the Neuroscout Context Profile to tell us and how it may be useful. Let’s consider the example of a baseball hitter and the scenario of providing him/her a Neuroscout Baseball Profile on his/her hitting. We call this the “Baseball Profile” for short. If you “Neuroscout” a baseball hitter – i.e., image his brain activity while he decides to hit or take pitches – then you can tell him/her exactly where in the trajectory of each pitch his/her brain decided to hit or take that pitch. Alternatively, you could tell him/her when he/she decided the pitch was a fastball or a breaking ball, a ball or a strike, etc. Any kind of decision, especially between binary choices, can be broken down into an accumulation of observations leading to such a decision. We have demonstrated this with baseball hitting and we believe this will be crucial to improving hitting in many ways.

But hitting a baseball is only one context of many possible ones in which quick decisions happen. Think of law enforcement officers, other athletes, or even everyday decisions when driving. We are establishing this market by providing valuable performance insight to individuals who make their profession out of their excellence at quick decisions. And they will have a greater incentive to augment their capabilities than someone who does not have such a utility function (e.g., a general consumer). But there is a large consumer market that aspires to this level of excellence, and an even larger consumer market that is interested in engaging with such information on how their brains work. The rate at which this occurs is the only variable.

What is the business model?

I got a little into this in the previous answer, but basically we are starting by offering the Neuroscout Context Profile to professional and collegiate individuals and organizations. Through strategic distribution partnerships, we will make the Profile available to youth and non-professional (i.e., amateur) athletes. The validation offered by utility to professional and college users should lead the way for consumer interest. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it will help tremendously, i.e., it will accelerate the rate of market permeation mentioned above.

What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?

Our plan for the next six months is to transition our Neuroscout Baseball Profile, which is currently on an easy-to-use PC interface, to a mobile interface (e.g., iOS and/or Android). Depending on funding, this process may take 12 months or more. We also plan to start getting professional and collegiate users on the current prototype PC interface.

In parallel, we will also be performing initial experiments to develop the platform of the Baseball Profile to other sports. We are partnering with the Columbia University Athletics Department in this study. The aim of this parallel effort is to expand the Neuroscout Context Profile to other athletic contexts. We are focusing on contexts that provide a balance between high market share and ease of transfer from the current mechanic used in the Baseball Profile.

Tell us about your experience with the Columbia Startup Lab thus far and your decision to apply.

The experience with CSL has been great so far. I’ll quote for you what Columbia took from an interview with me: ‘“While we have been in the Startup Lab for only a few weeks, the step up in our capability as a company has been clear,” says Sherwin. “This is how innovation happens—it needs to be left alone in the right sandbox with access to the right toys. Columbia is doing that.”’

Our decision to apply was a ‘no brainer,’ so to speak. We needed a place to start doing this work and we lucked out in terms of the CSL application opening up at the same time. This is a hot time for technology in NYC. There is a lot of demand and it’s up to us, the inventors and the business drivers, to meet that demand with exciting products borne from interesting ideas.

If you could be put in touch with one investor in the New York community who would it be and why?

Michael Bloomberg, 100%. It’s his vision of civic organization following the 2008 economic meltdown that shifted NYC’s focus to include technology, not just finance. He implemented what many people had realized: to make wealth, one must make capability and not just the perception of capability (i.e., more wealth). And this is a focus of Neuroscout: we are interested in making capability; wealth then follows and can be reinvested into more capability. Bloomberg understood this cycle very well and demonstrated it in his news service and computer terminals.

Why are you launching your business in New York?

We launched Neuroscout in NYC for various reasons, many of which are coincidental, all of which in good ways. For starters, Jordan Muraskin and I met across our lab desks at Columbia. He’s a lifetime New Yorker and I’m technically a 6th generation New Yorker, although I grew up in Chicago and went to grad school in the South. Having that breadth of experience living in the US, I thought the combination of enthusiasm and capability that describes New York was a perfect place for a startup of this nature. Combining this assessment with the vision of Bloomberg discussed above, NYC is the place to embark on such a project, initially as a place to perform the work and, while the business develops, as a base for bringing this technology to the country and the world.

Yankees or Mets?

Cubs. I’ve inherited my mother’s disdain for the Mets due to the 1969 season (the Mets came from behind the Cubs to win the Pennant). I’ve developed one for the Yanks because of my NY family’s insistence on reminding me of 1908 (the last time the Cubs won a World Series). 

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