We caught up with Caitlin Baltzer, co-founder and CEO of MYndspan, a brain health startup. We originally met MYndspan when they went on our P4 Precision Medicine Accelerator. Since then, MYndspan have made huge progress, launched a number of exciting partnerships, and even have a preprint in the works on healthy ageing. 

We talked about the problem MYndspan are trying to solve, the current funding environment, and how to extend your runway when funding is tight. 

Capital Enterprise: Tell me about MYndspan and the problem you are working on.

Caitlin Baltzer: MYndspan is a brain wellness and data analytics company on a mission to empower individuals with actionable insights into their brain function and health.

When it comes to monitoring wellbeing, people have many options to track their sleep, heart rate, and exercise. However, there are very limited options to understand the health of the brain and the impact of lifestyle choices. Our aim is to provide a personalised data-led approach that provides rich insights unique to each individual. 

We use a brain scanning technology called MEG – that’s magnetoencephalography – which can measure brain activity with pinpoint precision. MEG is typically used in research, making it difficult for the general public to access the insights it can provide into brain health. We want to democratise this data to make brain health accessible for everyone.  

Customers can come to one of our partner scanning sites. They do about a one hour site visit which consists of simple data collection through an iPad that includes gamified cognitive tests that measure short-term working memory, visuospatial skills etc. Then they sit down for a completely passive 10 minute resting scan in the MEG scanner, which looks a little bit like an old 80s hair dryer. 

We then analyse this data to produce a personalised report that outlines localised brain function, the activity in the main neural networks, and the output of that activity, i.e cognitive function. This provides a comprehensive view of how the brain is functioning and offers a baseline that can be compared to overtime.  

It’s important to say that we’re not diagnosing anything. We are purely measuring the data that comes out of the brain. We have partnered with clinical institutions who understand our data and the implications of it when it comes to interpretation, and are always looking to partner with the right academic institutions when it comes to studying the data we collect for markers of various states of health and disease.

CE: That’s really exciting. So, 2023 was a tough year for a lot of startups looking to fundraise. Did this have any impact on MYndspan and your plans?

CB: Yes, we intended to raise early last year and started to make some progress. Then the fundraising environment changed, and it became very difficult with a lot of ‘wait and see’ from the VCs we were talking to. We realised it was taking too much time, when we really wanted to focus on developing our product and making commercial progress. We decided to put the raise on hold and shift our focus to generating revenue and getting development contracts across the line. 

Instead of the big raise we had been planning, we did a smaller family and friends round. We’ll probably look at the financing market again this year, hopefully when the dust has settled somewhat in the world of VC. 

CE: That’s a situation a lot of founders have found themselves in, I think, so it’s encouraging to hear you were able to put the raise on hold and keep moving forward. What are your top tips for startups looking to extend their runway?

CB: Closing that family and friends round was critical, and it was made up of people who had been along on the journey with us the entire time we’ve been building MYndspan. It’s important to have people who are close to you, have watched your progress and believe in the mission just like you do. 

As a startup, I find that if you have a good idea and a good business model, there’s always something you can pivot to that lets you extract value from what you already have. Last year we already had an assessment pipeline for processing MEG data. We already have a certain amount of data that we can do research with. We already have the ability to partner with commercial organisations who are interested in analysing this data when it comes to, for instance, therapeutics pre and post brain scan. So it might not be in our main business model but when the market turns you have to be very agile to adapt. 

Looking back, one thing I would have done from the outset is keeping the investors and key stakeholders interested in our journey updated with our progress. 

Not doing so is a missed opportunity because if someone’s interested enough to consider investing they will probably be interested in hearing from you every few months with updates. For example, we now write a monthly newsletter for people interested in what we are building and it’s really useful as a way to provide structure and narrative.

CE: Final question, how can our readers help you in 2024?

Good question! If they are interested in this space, engaging with us would be a great start – we have a brain health newsletter they can sign up for here. Ultimately, we are building this product for people who want it and so we are very actively asking for feedback. They can also register for our waitlist to get a scan at sites across the UK. We are also always open to having discussions with individuals and organisations who are interested in discovering more about brain health. 

The other thing I’d mention is we are on the hunt for a Chief Medical Officer, which is a pretty exciting role in terms of the future of the business. If you think that might be you, get in touch