Press Release — Wispr AI Secures $4.6M from NEA and 8VC to Build Thought-Powered Neural Interface
Wearable Device Will Decode Deliberate Thought for Seamless Interactions with Immersive Technology
San Francisco — November 30, 2021 — Wispr AI, the neurotechnology company aimed at developing the next generation of human-computer interfaces, today announced it has closed $4.6 million in seed funding co-led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and 8VC. Additional participants in the financing include Josh Duyan (CTRL-Labs CSO & Co-founder), Jose Carmena (iota Biosciences co-CEO and former Berkeley Neuroscience Professor), Dave Gilboa (Warby Parker CEO), Chris Manning (Stanford ML & Linguistics Professor), Richard Socher (Salesforce Chief Scientist) and Vivek Sharma (Nesos CTO). Wispr AI plans to use the funding to accelerate development of the first functional thought-powered digital interface. The company is bringing together a formidable team of world-class neuroscientists, hardware engineers, ML engineers and product engineers who are passionate about changing the world.
Wispr AI is building a wearable that can convert deliberate thought into action and high-bandwidth digital input. By combining the latest advancements in deep learning, electrical interfaces and neuroscience, the company will allow users to interface with our increasingly immersive digital world in truly seamless fashion.
Wispr AI was co-founded by Tanay Kothari and his Stanford roommate, Sahaj Garg. Kothari, CEO of Wispr AI, previously led engineering and product at Cerebra Technologies after founding FeatherX, which Cerebra acquired. Kothari, an International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) medalist, has been building personal assistants for the last twelve years. He studied computer science at Stanford where he published research with Andrew Ng at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL).
“Our mission is to bring these interfaces to every single person in the world.”
“The technologies we use are evolving at an unprecedented pace,” said Kothari. “We have moved from phones to smartwatches, VR headsets and immersive augmented experiences. How we interact with this technology will be one of the biggest questions to shape this decade. As we move away from keyboards and voice, the next generation of interfaces are going to be more natural, seamless, and private. Our mission is to bring these interfaces to every single person in the world.”
Wispr AI’s CTO, Sahaj Garg, previously led the AI team at Luminous Computing, a deep-tech startup building photonic computer hardware. Garg graduated at the top of his Stanford engineering class as a Henry Ford II Scholar and is a published researcher with SAIL, Google Research, and Harvard Medical School.
“Most people think that interpreting thoughts requires a direct interface with the brain. But it’s possible to capture these deliberate intentions by looking at the rest of your body.”
“Most people think that interpreting thoughts requires a direct interface with the brain,” said Sahaj Garg. “But it’s possible to capture these deliberate intentions by looking at the rest of your body. For example, even when you think about lifting your leg without actually moving it, your brain still sends electrical signals to the muscles in your leg. One way to detect these signals is with electromyography, or EMG sensors, similar to the EKG in your Apple watch.”
“What this means is that Wispr’s technology would be akin to wearable devices people are already used to and would inconspicuously fit into their lives,” said Alex Kolicich, Founding Partner at 8VC. “It’s brilliant how Sahaj and Tanay are looking at solving this problem. It’s rare to find a combination of founders who are deeply technical and at the same time so focused on developing a product that is consumer-centric.”
Wispr’s advisory team includes neurotechnology veterans like Ben Jones, the former COO of CTRL-Labs (acquired by Meta, formerly known as Facebook). Jones said, “The work we did at CTRL-Labs was the first step toward an emerging ecosystem of neurotechnology that will inspire new ways for people to communicate, create, learn, work and play. Wispr’s unique approach to decoding the brain and the body is going to expand and enrich that ecosystem in exciting ways.”
“What Wispr AI has already accomplished in the development of its thought-powered digital interface is nothing short of mind-blowing,”
— Greg Papadopoulos, Venture Partner at NEA
Also on the advisory team is David Eagleman, a Stanford neuroscientist, founder of several companies, and CEO at Neosensory. Eagleman added, “Wispr AI is tackling an idea that is straightforward to describe, requires deep skills to build, and will change the landscape of our interactions with machines. That’s the sweet spot for a neurotech company to live in.”
Sergey Stavisky, co-director of the UC Davis Neuroprosthetics Lab and an advisor to Wispr AI, said, “Wispr’s approach in the situation where the user can make (at least some) muscle movements is a promising alternative to more invasive approaches, like those that require surgical implants. Recent advancements in EMG sensors, signal processing, and machine learning approaches to deciphering these signals make it an exciting time to bring this neurotechnology to market.”
“What Wispr AI has already accomplished in the development of its thought-powered digital interface is nothing short of mind-blowing,” said Greg Papadopoulos, Venture Partner at NEA. “Tanay and Sahaj’s talent, vision and groundbreaking application of neurotechnology have the potential to not only change the way people interface with technology, but to set future technologies on a new course — with everything controlled from the mind.”
About Wispr AI
Founded in 2020, Wispr AI is innovating to bring the next generation of wearable neural interfaces to every human on the planet. Its vision is to replace existing interfaces of communication with one powered directly by thought, erasing the final dividing line between people and the technologies they interact with. Wispr AI is a scientifically-grounded, product-focused company headquartered in San Francisco. For more, visit https://wispr.ai.
New Enterprise Associates, Inc. (NEA) is a global venture capital firm focused on helping entrepreneurs build transformational businesses across multiple stages, sectors and geographies. With nearly $24 billion in cumulative committed capital since the firm’s founding in 1977, NEA invests in technology and healthcare companies at all stages in a company’s lifecycle, from seed stage through IPO. The firm’s long track record of successful investing includes more than 250 portfolio company IPOs and more than 425 mergers and acquisitions. www.nea.com.
8VC is a leading technology investment firm backing visionary teams and industry-transforming companies. The partners have a proven track-record as founders, engineers, and operators of successful companies including Palantir, Resilience Bio, Epirus, Addepar, Affinity, and OpenGov, among others. The firm was founded in 2016 and manages $5B+ in committed capital. 8VC invests in smart enterprise platforms across industries including financial services, healthcare, defense, logistics and others as well as in Bio-IT. For more information, please visit https://8vc.com.