Investment Note

Time to track what we’re knocking back: why we invested in Omni Biotech

Written by
Rob Greco
On behalf of the Skalata Investment Team
“What gets measured gets improved. To improve global health, people need actionable insights into their brain and body, on demand.”
Will Poot
Omni Biotech

We’ve come a long way from millennium bug hysteria.

Over 1 billion of us are now happily tracking our bodily functions and self-optimising daily through our smartphones and watches.

The mass uptake of wearable tech over the past decade has led to a USD $120 billion valuation for the global wearables market. 

By the end of the decade, it’ll be knocking on the door of a trillion.

We’re very comfortable tracking our steps, sleep, and heartbeats per second. But we're still right at the beginning - and there's so much more we can do with the tech on our wrists, in our pockets, and soon, our clothing.

Plus, there's something pretty major - arguably key to staying alive - we still can't track.

It’s the only metric that improves our brains, our looks, and our lifespans.. 


There are currently >500 million active wrist-worn wearables globally

The big problem

Your wearable can help you clock up 10,000 steps. 

It can keep tabs on how fast your heart is beating. But if you, your coach, or your employer want critical metrics for health and performance, you’ll still need invasive methods to look at your blood, sweat, and urine. 

All of these are “moment in time” tests - not live data. Omni founder Will Poot says it’s like “trying to understand the plot of a movie by looking at a single frame”. 

But they’re currently the only option for athletes, soldiers, doctors, and emergency service workers alike. Across almost every industry, critical live health data is glaringly absent.

Wearables are so key to solving the problem because of their power to monitor, not test. 

What gets (continually) measured gets managed, and the real-time data Omni wants to put at customers’ fingertips is so much more than steps - it is designed to be actionable and available. 

And we won’t even need to lug our phones around. Omni’s world-first suite of health metrics will soon be trackable by everyone regardless of their chosen device via ever-shrinking optical sensors in headphones, smart clothing - and even remotely.

Omni wants to improve global health outcomes by providing a billion people with immediate, actionable health metrics – encouraging a proactive approach to well-being and longevity.

Why it starts with water

Initial customer research showed hydration was the metric users in heavy industry, elite sport, emergency services, and defence need to understand the most - but can't access on-demand. 

Along with sleep and nutrition, hydration is one of the three basic units critical to health and performance. 

"It's common for people to track their calories and sleep but there's still no universal measurement for hydration," says Will.

Dehydration is a leading indicator of cognitive f​​atigue, physical fatigue, and cardiovascular health. It sends productivity levels and reaction times down by 20-30%, inflicts cardiovascular stress, and multiplies drivers’ risk of road accidents by 5. All of this happens before we notice we're thirsty.

“75% of Aussies and 80% of Americans spend their whole day in a state of dehydration."

And the problem is everywhere - from sports arenas to hospitals to mines.

In Australia, workers in mining and construction are exposed to searing heat on top of intense physical labour: a cocktail for dangerous dehydration. Without early detection and live information, it can literally be life or death.   

For both industry and individuals, hydration is only the first step. The team is proving that more data, more quickly leads to better health outcomes - and possibly lives saved.

“Your brain and your body don’t come with an instruction manual or maintenance schedule. We need to empower people by turning all major health indicators from point-in-time lab tests to on-demand, continuous metrics that they can understand and take action on,” says co-founder Zac. 

Meet the product 

Omni takes advantage of the rapid adoption of (take a breath - or sip of water) photoplethysmography sensors in the smartphones and wearables already owned by 84% of the global population (there’s your platform agnosticism).  

It uses Pulse Wave Analysis (PWA) to non-invasively detect and correlate blood flow characteristics to hydration levels with high accuracy. 

Omni's algorithm has been developed to work with any wearable device with optical sensors (e.g. Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch, Fitbit)

Using the raw data from these optical sensors, Omni's integrated algorithm can make a prediction on user hydration every 90 seconds.

The algorithm is packaged into two products: Omni Cloud which receives raw pulse data from wearables and returns a hydration score, and Omni Pulse which uses your smartphone camera to capture data. 

While hydration is a big enough commercial opportunity on its own, Omni has big plans to use it as a beachhead to build out a much broader portfolio. 

They’ll leverage their proprietary data pipeline, domain expertise surrounding the processing of optical sensor data extraction and processing, feature engineering, and health implication modelling.

If you think it sounds very technical, you’d be right. 

Meet the founders

Both originally from WA and students at Curtin University, Will and Zac didn’t actually meet each other until they were in California, completing the International Honours Program at Stanford University.

As part of the Silicon Valley Innovation Academy (SVIA), the founders teamed up to address the brief of exploring and prototyping a world-changing innovation. 

They chose real-time mental health management - a subject close to their hearts - taking qualitative health data (“I feel better” / “I feel worse”) and developing a bionsensor to pair the findings with quantitative data like the change in neurotransmitter levels.

To test market demand, conversations were opened with a number of companies, including a Major League Baseball team, but months of customer interviews told them what companies really wanted was a performance/recovery/hydration solution.

It was these learnings that formed the basis for Omni.

Years in the making

Far from their early aspirations - investment banking for Will and law for Zac - the founders started to see entrepreneurship as a path to positive change.

Will and Zac have since spent years trial-and-erroring their way through non-invasive monitoring methods, experimenting with a purpose-built device before deciding to leverage existing tech with their proprietary software.

Omni has validated their hydration algorithm in university studies with both Curtin and Monash

They’ve scrutinised the business models of their adjacents (e.g. First Beat Analytics who proved out the “start with one novel metric” model, later broadening their portfolio of biometrics before being acquired by Garmin in 2020), and built a global network of experts and advisors. 

It's a level of hard won, hands-dirty expertise that makes this a highly defensible solution.

They believe the time to swap testing for tracking is now, thanks to:

  • Public comfort with - and steadily rising demand for - health tracking
  • The explosive growth of wearable technology and the miniaturisation that will enable the move beyond the wrist-worn
  • The rapid adoption of multiwavelength optical sensors in commonly-owned devices.

Thanks to its ease of actionability, and rising awareness of hydration as a critical component of physical and cognitive performance, hydration tracking makes the perfect beach head. 

Customers, not competitors

Health metrics are the top consideration in the customer decision to purchase a wearable. 

But it’s a poorly differentiated market. 70% of players are offering an identical suite of metrics - even Gatorade, Apple, and Samsung have tried and failed to deliver on their own tech. 

Omni is now fielding interest from brands who want the ultra competitive edge only hydration tracking can offer. 

“Initially we were going to build a wearable ourselves, but we quickly realised that it was better to have companies like Apple and Samsung as customers instead of competitors!”

Raising a glass

On their choice to partner up with us, Zac says: 

“One of our core principles is 'local focus, global vision'. Skalata understood this straight away and have helped us realise our vision by opening up their deep networks across Australia and the US.”

This technology will be a world first, and provides a resounding yes to all the questions we love to ask: does it solve a crucial problem? Is there demand? And is it insanely scalable?

Water they up to now?

Omni has recently completed a successful trial, monitoring worker hydration at a major WA mining site.

Here, they cut their test time from 90 minutes to just 90 seconds, meaning tests can be carried out more frequently. This allows for earlier interventions that should result in a reduced number of accidents, increased productivity, decreased operational downtime, and lower overall compliance and operating costs.

Finalists this year for WA Innovator of the Year (Emerging Innovation), this seemingly unassuming company fresh out of Perth is taking a shot at disrupting much more than heavy industry.

The biggest opportunity lies with those already, perhaps unknowingly, set up for tracking: anyone with a smartphone, smartwatch, or wearable device. 

In Zac’s words: 

“By enabling access to insights previously reserved for elite athletes, we’re giving everyday people and teams the opportunity to perform at their elite level.”

Next up is a study in partnership with Monash University, which will further develop the team’s algorithm and underlying technology.

“We want to capture, analyse and communicate people’s physiological changes to them in ways that inspire action and create meaningful and lasting behaviour changes.”

“Step counters proved that access to health data leads to behavioural change. But it needs to be continuous and accessible for people to make better decisions and perform at their optimal level. We provide all of this, and you don't even have to buy a new device." 

We’ll drink to that.

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