EyeVerify raises $1.4 million from Think Big Ventures, angel groups
EyeVerify has closed a $1.4 million seed round, Toby Rush, the startup's founder and CEO, said Thursday. Think Big Ventures, a Kansas City, Mo.-based venture fund, led the round with an investment of $250,000. The Nebraska Angels and Mid-America Angels also contributed, as did numerous individual investors.
As we reported in February, Lenexa, Kan.-based EyeVerify is bringing to market software that would enable the use of cameras on mobile devices to verify identity through images of the blood veins in the whites of people's eyes. The patented technology behind EyeVerify came out of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of West Virginia.
Rush said EyeVerify plans to use the seed capital to improve the science behind its vein-recognition technology, to accelerate the conversion of that technology to phones and to "really bolster our IP position." He said the funds will also be put toward piloting the technology starting this fall (commercial launch is projected for early 2013) and that EyeVerify has already gotten encouraging feedback from companies interested in pilot arrangements.
"We’re seeing some strong interest," Rush said in a phone interview. "Literally, I came out of a meeting today and they're going to their executive team asking for support to do a pilot this fall."
For now, EyeVerify has a team of 11 people — five full-time employees and a six-person crew from UMKC that will dedicate full-time hours this summer — working on the project. Given that, Rush expects the summer months to be telling for the startup.
"We're going to make a ton of progress the next two or three months, (and) start to get a handle on, 'OK, where are the bottle necks? Where are we getting ahead? What's the right mix of software developer talent?'," Rush said.
"As we get through mid-summer, I think we'll have a better feel for where we want to make additional hires, but there will definitely be additional hires."
EyeVerify is the first investment announced by Think Big Ventures, the fund that was recently introduced by Think Big Partners. Herb Sih, managing partner of Think Big Ventures, said the startup caught his Think Big's eye because it provides a simple solution to a growing problem.
"Toby has assembled an all-star team to address a large and growing pain in the market place," Sih said in a release. "Today's users want to live life on and through their mobile devices. They need a way to do that securely, but also convenient. EyeVerify does that with a simple picture of the eye instead of a burdensome password."
Rush said investment from Nebraska Angels can be attributed, in part, to connections made through Pipeline, a Kansas City-based entrepreneurial fellowship. Rush was part of Pipeline's inaugural class and remains active in the program, which he said helped facilitate introductions to angel investors in Nebraska.
"I met a whole bunch of them while I was up there at the last Pipeline event," Rush said. "So, as designed, there’s some very nice cross-pollonation that allowed that to probably accelerate."
For more on EyeVerify, see our February feature story on the startup: "Kansas City startup EyeVerify sees opportunity in the whites of your eyes". To see rush give a demo of EyeVerify, see the video below.*
Credits: Photo of Rush from linkedin.com. Video from Venturebeat on YouTube.
*Update June 1, 10:10 a.m. – The demo video was added to the post.