UM student venture fund invests in brain-computer interface developer

ANN ARBOR — The Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund (ZLCF) – one of five student-led funds at the University of Michigan’s Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies – announced that it has participated in the Series A round of the brain-computer interface (BCI) technology startup and University of Michigan spinout, Neurable.

The ZLCF’s investment will support Neurable’s continued growth in the virtual reality and augmented reality market.

Co-founded by University of Michigan alumni Ramses Alcaide, PhD neuroscience ’16, and Michael Thompson, MBA ’17, Neurable’s brain-computer interface enables hands-free control in virtual reality, with applications ranging from entertainment and gaming, to health and wellness, to work and productivity.

Working through a VR headset and electrode sensors, the company’s platform combines machine learning with proprietary algorithms to measure and classify brain activity in real time and translate it to control real and virtual world interactions.

Said Scott Collins, MBA ’18, VP of portfolio management at the ZLCF: “In the due diligence process, our team was impressed by Neurable’s breakthrough BCI technology, and we believe that the company is well-positioned to lead in the emerging neurotechnology market.”

As one of five student-led funds under the management of the Zell Lurie Institute, the ZLCF allows students to get real, hands-on experience in venture capital by investing real capital into real companies both in and outside of the University community. Fellows who manage the day-to-day operations of the fund are graduate students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines who share a passion for working with startups. Other fellows joining Scott Collins on Neurable’s due diligence team included Parker Cardwell (MBA ’18), Charles Lu (MD/PhD candidate), Leah Josephson (MBA ’18) and Taylor Mattson (MBA ’19).

Since its founding in 2015, Neurable has benefited from the support and resources of the Zell Lurie Institute, including mentoring from Zell Lurie entrepreneurs-in-residence and faculty. In 2017, Neurable received an investment from the Zell Founders Fund as part of a broader $2 million seed round, and was a semi-finalist in the 2016 Michigan Business Challenge.

This is also not the first time Neurable has come to the attention of the ZLCF: Co-founder and VP of Business Development Michael Thompson was a ZLCF fellow himself during his time at the University of Michigan.

“My prior role with the ZLCF was a unique learning experience into the technical and material aspects of building early-stage businesses, especially those that develop future-forward technologies such as ours,” said Thompson. “Now on the company side, it’s been a great experience to work with the ZLCF fellows and win their support. This investment will help propel us forward to meet key goals at Neurable.”

Added Michael Johnson, faculty director of ZLCF and entrepreneur-in-residence at the Zell Lurie Institute: “The Neurable team and technology came out of the outstanding innovation ecosystem at the University of Michigan. The ZLCF students are looking forward to working with the team as they build a great company.”

For more information on the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund, visit www.zli.umich.edu/zell-lurie-commercialization-fund.

Neurable’s patent-pending technology interprets intention based on brain activity, providing users with reliable real-time control of software and software-controlled devices using only their minds. As a platform for human-computer interaction, Neurable’s software development kit enables content developers to create new immersive experiences. For more information, visit www.neurable.com.

The Zell Lurie Institute has five student-led investment funds with $8.5 million under management, giving students deep experience in entrepreneurial assessment and investment process. Founding Zell Lurie advisory board members include billionaire investor Samuel Zell, and Eugene Applebaum, founder of Arbor Drugs Inc. For more information, visit www.zli.bus.umich.edu.

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