I’ll confess, I’ve recently become hooked on so-called brain training games, which claim to be able to help you improve your cognitive ability, while also cleverly tapping into the casual mobile gaming phenomena. There’s nothing quite like wasting away time playing games on your iPhone all in the name of better health.
Enter brain training and “cognitive science” startup Memorado, which today is disclosing a $1.3 million seed round it actually closed back in March (it appears that the brain-fit company forgot to tell anybody!). Backing comes from Sunstone Capital and a number of angels, including the founders of Zalando, StylistPick, Wimdu, Fyber, and Hitfox — all Berlin-based investors. The Wimdu connection is also fitting; Memorado’s founders, Marius Jeuck and Marius Luther are also co-founders of the Rocket Internet-founded company.
Like other others in the brain training space, Memorado produces a suite of mini-games, delivered via its website and app for iOS, that it says can help you improve your cognitive abilities. The idea is to offer a “gym for the brain,” encouraging you to visit Memorado often, like you would a gym, including a business model that features various subscription tiers and personalised programs for those that want to work-out their cognitive muscles more regularly.
“Your brain is your most important asset in today’s world,” Memorado co-founder, Marius Luther, who was also previously a healthcare consultant at McKinsey, tells me. “Yet there is no good way to work it out and improve cognitive functions.” In addition, he says that 47 per percent of humans develop a form of dementia at some point in their lives and the best known prevention is mental activity. “By building the ‘gym for the brain’, we want to provide a structured, engaging and fun program to trigger mental activity and improve cognitive abilities,” he says.
To that end, six months since launch, Memorado has already garnered over a million members, though it does’t say how many of these are paying customers. Its iOS app, which debuted launched with an early version, has also attained the top position in the Education category of Apple’s iOS App Store in 22 countries, including the United States, UK, Germany and France. As I said, these type of brain training mini-games, which first became popular on the Nintendo DS, if my rapidly improving memory serves me correctly, are addictive.
However, despite early success, Luther candidly describes the concept of a “gym for the brain” as only ten percent there, both for Memorado and competitors, such as U.S.-based Lumosity, which he says helped to establish the category. Problems he and his ten person-strong engineering team are tackling include personalisation so that a training program will train a user’s weakest areas hardest, ensuring brain training translates to progress in daily life, and creating an experience that is still fun after years of training.
“Since my days as a healthcare consultant at McKinsey, I wanted to find a project that would marry up healthcare and tech. Narrowing down, we were looking for something that could positively affect the health millions of people but would not need years of drug development and would not be dependent on external parties such as health insurance,” explains Luther, when I ask him why he and co-founder Jeuck decided to focus on brain training mini-games.
Furthermore, the brain training space “stuck out” because it is a tech-first solution to a healthcare problem, and is truly mass market, appealing to people of all ages and from anywhere in the world. “We could really identify with our mission ‘make people smarter’,” he adds.