Atlanta-based clinical trial platform Aces Health has been acquired by a West Coast venture development firm. As of last week, First Foundry controls a majority share of the company and will serve as the only board member.
The amount of the transaction was undisclosed, but co-founder David Heenan says it’s an “uptick” from their last seven-figure funding round.
Aces, which was founded in 2014, automates patient engagement and data collection during clinical research trials. The mobile platform connects to medical and tracking devices ranging from connected blood pressure cuffs to fitness wearables, collects all the patient data to deliver to researchers and providers, and uses AI to improve engagement and expand insight gleaned from the trials.
It not only enables more efficiency in trials for the provider, but allows the patient to access trials on a remote, virtual basis. Heenan points to an Alzheimer’s patient they worked with who lives in a remote area, has little access to health systems, and can’t travel well.
“Without our ability to collect data and remotely engage with the patient, that guy would not be able to participate in this medical device trial that’s showing significant results in mitigating some of the symptoms and slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s.”
According to Heenan, the company has been partnering with First Foundry on app development and technology. “They specialize in user engagement, retention, data science, AI, for globally-scalable systems. So it was a natural fit to use their experience and their resources to help build out the Aces platform for what we wanted to do.”
The firm has a unique model — part venture capital firm, research incubator, and software development agency, they often will help high-potential startup companies in exchange for equity.
In spring of this year, when another Aces investor wanted to cash out, First Foundry had the opportunity to take their stake in the company for the controlling share, adding Aces to their portfolio of companies.
Currently, that portfolio largely consists of companies and projects in the gaming space — the firm’s founder, Brett Seyler, has a long history in the space at GarageGames, Unity and more. They just began adding to their healthcare vertical with Aces and a few other initial projects.
Heenan, who will now lead the firm’s entire healthcare vertical, says the expansion makes a lot of sense.
“When you think about video games, really there’s two core capabilities. One is that user engagement side, which needs to be compelling and retain your attention, whether it’s Candy Crush or World of Warcraft. And simultaneously, you’re also dealing with massive amounts of data, in real-time, from disparate players around the world.”
“The data science and artificial intelligence and scalability necessary to facilitate those games are also what’s missing in the infrastructure in a lot of healthcare technology,” he explains.
To better reflect the new entity, Aces is rebranding to Dedo, a word that means “data” in Greek. The team is also changing, as Heenan steps up at First Foundry (though retaining his title of President) and co-founder Jordan Spivak steps out to focus on his next startup.
Co-founder Brad Schweizer will remain on as COO. A few other members of the executive team will stay with Dado as well, while, moving forward, First Foundry will provide the technology and product workforce for new iterations of the product.
“One of the most expensive parts of being a technology company is just the engineering. So it really made sense since that that’s now intrinsic in our owning company,” says Heenan.
Following the rebrand and a soft relaunch with more capabilities, the team will look towards merging or acquiring tools that compliment their offering. The ultimate goal, says Heenan, is to “create an ecosystem that can enable virtual and remote clinical trials.”
“With the advent of at-home genetic testing or at-home pill delivering, pharmaceuticals coming straight to your house and other platforms Uber-izing home health care, we want to create an infrastructure that allows people to participate from clinical trials form the comfort of their own home.”