Company moves to 12.5M€ in total private funding and appoints new board members with US industry expertise for latest growth phase
Oura Health, the Finnish health technology company behind the Oura ring, has moved its total private funding to 12.5M€ after the closure of a round led by US-based Bold Capital Partners and Finland’s Tesi. The funding will be used to scale US market operations and push the Oura platform forward.
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The Oura ring and app guides wearers towards better sleep, recovery and readiness to perform by analyzing the body’s sleep, activity levels, daily rhythms and physiological responses.
Former Oura Health CEO Petteri Lahtela will focus on developing new products and services in his new roles as Oura Health President and Chief Innovation Officer while continuing his position on the Oura Health board. Former Ouraring Inc. President Harpreet Rai has been appointed as the new Oura Health CEO, with US industry specialists Stephen Friend and Kevin Lin also joining the Oura Health board.
“The successful launch of the new Oura ring shows the level of innovation and craftsmanship that Oura Health is capable of. Moving forward, our main goal is to drive awareness and sales in our largest market, while doubling down on the very innovation that brought us here in the first place,” says Harpreet Rai, CEO of Oura Heath.
“I have great respect for Harpreet. He knows the US market and can lead us towards growth and greater market penetration. I’m excited for this next phase for Oura, and am looking forward to focusing on new innovative products and services which I am most passionate about,” says Oura Health CIO Petteri Lahtela.
Oura Health CEO Harpreet Rai previously led investments in technology, media and telecom at New York-based Hedge Fund Eminence Capital. He is joined on Oura’s board by Twitch Co-founder and former COO Kevin Lin, and M.D., Ph.D. Stephen H. Friend, Chairman of the Board and Past-President of Sage Bionetworks, a non-profit organization that provides the tools and environment to conduct dynamic, large-scale collaborative biomedical research. Approximately 60% of active Oura users and pre-orders for the new Oura ring originate from the US.
“Oura has built an extremely capable team that combines and harnesses technological, commercial and design expertise. There has been strong demand for the new ring. Meanwhile, both operative and governance changes within the company will boost Oura’s growth and development. Finland is home to a number of international brands famous for products and services based on biometric measuring. Oura has all the resources needed to join this elite band,” says Jussi Sainiemi, Investment Director at Tesi.
“We have succeeded in creating a new category within wearables. We combined science, technology and design with ultimate wearing comfort. Bringing sleep and recovery from daily mental and physical strain into the core of the user experience with the first generation Oura ring was the right choice. Our users are very committed and our retention rates are much higher compared to wearables in general. We need to continue innovating in all areas to maintain our pioneering position,” concludes Lahtela.
Mr. Kevin Lin, the co-founder and former COO of Twitch, has been appointed chairman of the board. He brings along his vast experience in scaling teams, building communities, growing sales and developing monetization strategies based on his experience at Twitch. He also notably raised multiple rounds of funding and delivered significant shareholder value with Twitch’s exit to Amazon.
M.D., Ph.D. Stephen H. Friend is the Chairman of the Board and Past-President of Sage Bionetworks, a non-profit organization that provides the tools and environment to conduct dynamic, large-scale collaborative biomedical research. Dr. Friend was most recently at Apple Inc. where he worked on ways to impact people’s lives in health and disease. Currently he’s designing a virtual institute to explore fundamental issues around how to make individual symptom predictions and how to return agency to individuals so they might navigate their own paths between health and disease.
Harpreet Rai is based in San Francisco and has a long background in finance. He was previously at Eminence Capital for 9 years, a multi-billion dollar hedge fund in New York City, where he led investments in technology, media and telecom. Prior to Eminence, Harpreet was at Morgan Stanley in their M&A group. Harpreet Rai joined Ouraring Inc., Oura Health’s US subsidiary, as President in 2017 and succeeds Petteri Lahtela as the new CEO, effective June 1st, 2018.
Sunak to use budget to expand apprenticeships in England
LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will announce more funding for apprenticeships in England when he unveils his budget next week, the government said on Friday.
Employers taking part in the Apprenticeship Initiative Scheme will from April 1 receive 3,000 pounds ($4,179) for each apprentice hired, regardless of age – an increase on current grants of between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds depending on age.
The scheme will extended by six months until the end of September, the finance ministry said.
Sunak will also announce an extra 126 million pounds for traineeships for up to 43,000 placements.
Sunak’s March 3 budget will likely include a new round of spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown, but he will also probably signal tax rises ahead to plug the huge hole in the public finances.
Sunak is also expected to announce a “flexi-job” apprenticeship scheme, whereby apprentices can join an agency and work for multiple employers in one sector, the finance ministry said.
“We know there’s more to do and it’s vital this continues throughout the next stage of our recovery, which is why I’m boosting support for these programmes, helping jobseekers and employers alike,” Sunak said in a statement.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken)
UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is seeking to build a consensus among G7 nations on how to stop large technology companies exploiting their dominance, warning that there can be no repeat of Facebook’s one-week media blackout in Australia.
Facebook’s row with the Australian government over payment for local news, although now resolved, has increased international focus on the power wielded by tech corporations.
“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice,” Britain’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said on Friday.
“We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them.”
Dowden said recent events had strengthened his view that digital markets did not currently function properly.
He spoke after a meeting with Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister.
“I put these concerns to Facebook and set out our interest in levelling the playing field to enable proper commercial relationships to be formed. We must avoid such nuclear options being taken again,” Dowden said in a statement.
Facebook said in a statement that the call had been constructive, and that it had already struck commercial deals with most major publishers in Britain.
“Nick strongly agreed with the Secretary of Stateâ€™s (Dowden’s) assertion that the governmentâ€™s general preference is for companies to enter freely into proper commercial relationships with each other,” a Facebook spokesman said.
Britain will host a meeting of G7 leaders in June.
It is seeking to build consensus there for coordinated action toward “promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties,” Dowden said.
The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but Australia has also been invited.
Britain is working on a new competition regime aimed at giving consumers more control over their data, and introducing legislation that could regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of illegal or extremist content and bullying.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet)
Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit
By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it would offer a fast-track visa scheme for jobs at high-growth companies after a government-backed review warned that financial technology firms will struggle with Brexit and tougher competition for global talent.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak said that now Britain has left the European Union, it wants to make sure its immigration system helps businesses attract the best hires.
“This new fast-track scale-up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow,” Sunak said in a statement.
Over 40% of fintech staff in Britain come from overseas, and the new visa scheme, open to migrants with job offers at high-growth firms that are scaling up, will start in March 2022.
Brexit cut fintechs’ access to the EU single market and made it far harder to employ staff from the bloc, leaving Britain less attractive for the industry.
The review published on Friday and headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, set out a “strategy and delivery model” that also includes a new 1 billion pound ($1.39 billion) start-up fund.
“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.
Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.
The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance, all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.
It also recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.
“We recognise the need to make the UK attractive a more attractive location for IPOs,” said Britain’s financial services minister John Glen, adding that a separate review on listings rules would be published shortly.
“Those findings, along with Ron’s report today, should provide an excellent evidence base for further reform.”
Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.
“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.
A UK fintech wanting to serve EU clients would have to open a hub in the bloc, an expensive undertaking for a start-up.
“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” Swinburne said.
The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).
“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.
($1 = 0.7064 pounds)
(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Jane Merriman and John Stonestreet)
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