The Brain Space Guru

It’s become clear that if you want to learn more about the brain “fitness” space, you want your first call to be to Alvaro Fernandez, chief executive officer of SharpBrains, a San Francisco-based research and advisory firm “dedicated to the emerging brain fitness” field. (Fernandez, who once worked as a McKinsey & Co. consultant, wanted to get a handle on the space ahead of Gartner Group and its ilk.)

I spoke with Fernandez earlier today, and he conceded that his business is rather small — or, at least, the universe of companies that he is tracking is. There are currently about 20 startups — globally — doing either cognitive assessment stuff, or else working on training technologies. Applied Cognitive Engineering, with offices in Netanya, Israel, and Studio City, Calif., is one that’s looking for funding. It sells sophisticated training software to more than a dozen college basketball teams to help them hone their decision-making skills. (The technology was originally used to train Israeli fighter pilots.) Another Israeli startup looking for U.S. backers is nine-year-old CogniFit, which makes several different software programs, including Drive Fit, which it sells to insurance companies (the program has been “scientifically proven” to advance driving skills, says its site — as well as determine who isn’t fit to be on the road), and MindFit, for aging customers, as well as people recovering from brain-altering treatments like chemotherapy.
Fernandez argues that the space is on the cusp of getting big, fast, and it’s believable. (Think how far clean tech investment has come since the beginning of 2005.) I’ll have a longer piece about brain investments in the next issue of Venture Capital Journal. In the meantime, I’ll post some interesting data sent over from Fernandez as soon as I figure out how. (Sorry.)

Update: Here you go: SharpBrains.ppt