Halcyon’s angel group makes its first investments of 2022. There’s more to come.
Halcyon’s angel group, a 2-year-old funding vehicle focused on early-stage startups, just made its first investments of the year.
Halcyon Angels has put a total $135,000 behind two medical device startups: Rockville’s JuneBrain Inc., which received $50,000, and Atlanta’s Insight Optics Inc., which received $85,000, according to the D.C. nonprofit.
Both companies are leaning on artificial intelligence and machine learning to increase access to medical care “while having that crucial combination of impressive founders and scalable solutions — two things we look for at the early stage,” said Dahna Goldstein, chief investment officer for Halcyon. “In both cases, the scale of the markets indicates both room to grow and potential for impact.”
JuneBrain’s wearable imaging device is built to detect eye diseases, including retinal disease and macular degeneration. But the portable headset, which would allow doctors to monitor patients beyond the clinical setting, also has broader applications in the neurological disease space.
That’s where the funding comes in. The company secured the capital from Halcyon Angels as part of a $235,000 pre-seed round ahead of a $500,000 seed round targeting a close this summer. The additional support, according to founder and CEO Samantha Scott, would advance clinical testing and a submission to the Food and Drug Administration for market clearance. And that would allow JuneBrain to start selling its product — already with signups from customers interested in piloting the system.
“Halcyon Angels has an extraordinary track record in the DMV startup community of investing time and capital in impact-driven startups,” Scott told us, noting she was attracted to “the diversity of Halcyon and its portfolio company founders.”
JuneBrain, a 2021 Fire Awards winner, was accepted to AlphaLab Health’s inaugural cohort and D.C. nonprofit 2Gether-International’s program for tech founders with disabilities. In addition to its pre-seed round, the startup had raked in $1.6 million in grant funding to date, including a $1 million award from the National Science Foundation.
Insight Optics Inc. is a telemedicine startup with a platform that allows primary care doctors to record and send retinal screenings to local ophthalmologists. The goal: to help health care providers catch and treat blindness earlier.
The Halcyon Angels investment came as part of the company’s $1.5 million seed round, which is nearing its close, according to co-founder and CEO Aaron Enten. The long-term vision, he said, is to eliminate preventable disease.
Prior to these investments, Halcyon Angels had also backed D.C. student loan startup MPower Financing, Richmond data analytics company MajorClarity and Cambridge, Massachusetts-based renewable energy startup Solstice. And it has another investment “on the immediate horizon and more expected in coming months,” Goldstein said.
Halcyon Angels holds five meetings per year, with the next scheduled for June 16. At those gatherings, its members listen to pitches from two companies — selected from an initial pool of 40 to 50, which a screening committee whittles down to between five and eight before coming up with the finalists. The group counts about 40 active investors, with eyes toward growing and diversifying that pool. That “is a big priority for us, and we’re actively working on recruiting more participants willing to be active, engaged investors participating in at least one deal per year,” said Goldstein, who first joined Halcyon as director of the angel group before spearheading a larger impact investing strategy.
Halcyon’s investment arm also includes the $5 million Halcyon Fund, already with 13 portfolio ventures — including health care startups Hubly Surgical, MemoryWell, OxiWear and Rose Health, as well as others across industries. That funding vehicle will make more “very soon,” Goldstein said. “We’re also focused on follow-on investments in portfolio companies that are growing and raising subsequent rounds.”
The organization is now “actively in conversations” about raising a second, larger fund, she said. Meanwhile, the Halcyon Microloan Fund, which continues to make loans to companies in D.C. opportunity zones, has increased the cap on its loans from $10,000 to $25,000. And Halcyon’s incubator, under new leadership, is preparing for its next startup showcase June 15.