By Harpreet Singh Rai, CEO of Oura
Just a year ago, we were bracing for the worst.
As a society, we were bound to our homes, living with uncertainty, and trying to comprehend the consequences of a global pandemic. COVID-19 exposed the vulnerabilities of health and the fragility of human life. Doctors, scientists, first-responders, and nurses searched for answers while providing much needed care. At Oura, we asked ourselves how we can help as a company during this time of need.
What we needed to do became clear, and was what we’ve always done best — provide the best technology and platform to help us understand our health in this critical time. We partnered with our community and started working with leading research institutions to make our data available so we all could learn more. We donated rings to frontline healthcare workers who were likely to be affected by the virus as part of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) TemPredict study. We also invited the Oura community to join the TemPredict study, which resulted in more than 70,000 Oura Ring users sharing their data and contributed to a growing body of research on illness detection, symptom profiles, and recovery. The TemPredict study out of UCSF recently published peer-reviewed results and we are excited for more research to be done in this area.
In separate studies conducted by West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, and the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), along with Phillips and Texas A&M, rings were deployed to the national guard and soldiers to research and analyze data associated with COVID-19. Our goal has been, and will always remain, to empower people with information to help them understand their bodies so they can live better, healthier lives.
A Renewed Focus on Health
While COVID-19 put a sudden strain and spotlight on our health care system, we’ve noticed an underlying trend that has been developing for quite some time. Despite higher levels of spend, our society is still experiencing greater negative health outcomes. Diabetes and obesity are on the rise, incidents of cancer are greater than ever, mental health and depression have skyrocketed (especially as of late), and Alzheimer’s is increasing at an alarming rate. This pain being experienced by people is reflected in the growth of spending in our global healthcare economy with the US healthcare system representing nearly 18% of GDP — that’s a $3.6 trillion dollar industry.
As we face the declining state of health, people are looking for answers, igniting the demand for consumer wellness products. Everything from home fitness to supplements and more, has caused the industry to increase to about $4.5 trillion dollars annually. People are signaling the need for a different kind of health care experience—one where the individual has more insight, understanding, and control of their wellbeing.
Wearables on the Rise
In the expanding need for better health, wearable devices — historically a market for early tech adopters and fitness enthusiasts — are evolving as a valuable solution to enable a healthy life. Nearly 200 million “smartwatches” and “fitness bands” were sold last year, and we see more people recognizing the value of having agency and understanding over their health information, signifying that societal needs are evolving and the true age of health ownership is now.
But when we say wearable device — we don’t just mean tracking your steps. People want more and need to know what to do with their data and how to take action toward understanding their health and improving it.
Studies have shown that some of the most devastating long-term health conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, and dementia can be prevented or managed by lifestyle changes earlier in life and are deeply rooted in deficiencies with sleep. If we empower people with the right information and supportive, personalized guidance to encourage healthier behaviors, we have the opportunity to shift toward a preventive approach where health is owned and led by the individual, ultimately changing the course for how health is practiced in the future.
Our Mission at Oura: Health as a Daily Practice
That’s where we come in. At Oura, our mission is to empower every person to own their potential and control the course of their health. Health is a personal journey; we are all different in our bodies and our needs. Through the Oura Ring and Oura app, individuals have access to personalized health data, insights, and daily guidance in the form of a ring. By the very nature of a ring form factor, the Oura Ring is designed to fit within an individual’s life, not disrupt it.
Oura focused first on sleep, because it’s a daily habit. Each morning, we all rise and ask ourselves how we feel. It also turns out that sleep is perhaps the most impactful daily practice on our overall health. The Oura Ring was designed to measure at the highest fidelity throughout the night to get the most accurate data in a convenient manner. The ring form factor was chosen because the finger results in a stronger signal. It’s the only wearable that directly measures from the arteries in your fingers (just like doctors do), where the pulse is about 100x stronger than the wrist. Additionally, Oura is one of the only wearables that measures continuous temperature directly from the skin 24/7. With this rich information, Oura delivers easy to understand scores across Readiness, Sleep, and Activity. This provides people with a new way to access constant and accurate health data in order to make decisions and improve their mental and physical wellbeing.
Because we believe that health is something practiced every day, we are investing in new use cases for Oura across sleep, recovery, activity, illness, mental health, and women’s health (as seen in Qcycle and the UCSD pregnancy study). Wearable technology also shows promise for helping manage sleep apnea and high blood pressure conditions, ultimately shifting the way people receive care for common, but serious, illnesses.
Eventually, we believe wearable technology will change the way health is practiced by consumers and the healthcare industry alike. Just as we witnessed businesses, regulators, and the healthcare industry moving collectively to adapt and recover from COVID-19, working together is the path forward. We see a future where consumers and the healthcare ecosystem embrace change to shift the focus from short-term sickcare to prioritizing preventative longer-term health care.
We remain unwavering in our pledge to empower every person to own and understand their health and potential, and our community is growing: we have surpassed 500,000 rings sold with industry-leading engagement and retention. We’ve also partnered with sports and gaming organizations like the NBA, WNBA, UFC, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, NASCAR and the Las Vegas Sands casino group — proof of Oura’s data and advantage even for the athletic elite.
Our Series C and the Future
In order to advance this work, we’ve raised $100 million Series C, led by new investors who have diverse backgrounds, including consumer and sports investors The Chernin Group and Elysian Park, the investment arm of the LA Dodgers; health investors Temasek, JAZZ Venture Partners, and Eisai Co., Ltd.; growth investors Bedford Ridge and One Capital. Existing investors who participated in the round include Forerunner Ventures, Square, MSD Capital, Marc Benioff, Lifeline Ventures, Metaplanet Holdings, and Next Ventures.
These funds provide Oura with substantial runway for important future opportunities. We aim to invest in all areas of the business including software and hardware development, people, R&D, as well as marketing and customer experience.
Most notably, we’re excited to announce the hire of Shyamal Patel as Head of Science, and Tommi Heinonen as Site Leader in Oulu, as well as the promotion of Daniel Welch to Chief Financial Officer. And for our Oura community, we’re enhancing the Oura app experience to further prioritize guidance in order to help people better understand what to do with the information they are given. We have a lot of work to do here, but it is embedded in our DNA to not only provide the most accurate health data but also support people on their journey with health through insights and guidance.
These past 14 months have changed the way we work, live, commute, interact, and manage our mental and physical health. It also exposed our needs as individuals and provided the blueprint for how new technology can improve all of our lives and accelerate the way we as people, corporations, and the healthcare industry will practice health in the future.
We’re grateful for the growth that our community and our team has helped us achieve, and we’re excited to collectively reach more people on their health journey. To our investors, we thank you for seeing our vision as clearly as we do and advancing Oura’s own potential to support and guide the community we exist to serve.
We at Oura look forward to meeting you where you are — as you are — on your path to better health.