Archives for September 14, 2013

Light to the brain relieves winter blues

 This really short video will show you in no time how Valkee works, hope you’ll enjoy it !

An unusual method of delivering light therapy to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): through the ear. Finnish researchers present their invention with positive findings from a randomized controlled trial, in this short news clip. The system involves a headset, much like earphones, that shine bright lights directly into the brain through the ear canal. Stuart McDill reports


Valkee Sadlight Raises €7.4 Million Round

Valkee Sadlight Raises €7.4 Million Round
Valkee has raised a huge €7.4 million round for its bright-light headsets marketed to treat Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (S.A.D.). An unnamed “international fund” joined the round, with the current investors participating.

A few of our readers are skeptical of Valkee’s claims, but it’s tough to say its not a good business. The devices seem to be put together nicely, but they basically boil down to a bright-light LED attached to a battery pack, something that can be built for basically nothing at volume and is currently sold for €186. Valkee claims its user base has already grown to tens of thousands of people in 20+ countries, and of those users, 87% recommend Valkee to their friends.

Valkee is looking to expand their device’s market from only the “winter blues” niche. For example they are pursuing research on it’s effects on jet lag, cognitive performance and different depression types.
Looking at the €7.4 million round, you have to weigh that against its risks such as if their €186 price point could be easily cut by competitors, and the linkage between SAD and brain photosensitivity may not be as strong as they claim.

The placebo-controlled study used a fMRI to show that light does have a biological response in the brain, which does suggest something interesting. But the linkage between ear-light and effective treatment of S.A.D. is weaker. They write on their website “92% of winter blues sufferers experienced total symptom relief with 8-12 minutes of Valkee daily” citing their pilot study that used only 13 test subjects, and was published a journal with a colorful history.

They do have a double-blind placebo-controlled study, but the independent group looked at motoric reaction speed to visual and audio stimulus of ice hockey players in the Oulun Kärpät National League team (which it affected positively). I hate to keep pushing to goal post further and further back, but it would be fantastic to see a double-blind placebo-controlled study evaluating the S.A.D. claims.

“We have discovered a new mechanism for the way light positively impacts mood and performance. As a science-driven consumer electronics company, we aim at further deepening our understanding of how bright light affects humans, and turning this science into easily usable healthcare and wellness products,” says Timo Ahopelto, Partner at Lifeline Ventures and Valkee Chairman.

With the funding, Valkee will expand its market areas, reseller network, and use cases.


By Greg Anderson, June 07, 2013


With 45,000 Units Shipped, Valkee’s Light-Emitting ‘Medical iPod’ Gets A Sleeker Look

After closing a $9.7 million round this summer, Finnish startupValkee – which makes a light-emitting pair of earbudsdesigned to counteract seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — has put some of that cash towards a product refresh. The second generation of its product, Valkee 2, has been given a sleeker look and a variety of user-friendly tweaks.

The makers of the device, which Valkee’s co-founder Juuso Nissillä describes as a “medical iPod”, claim to draw on scientific research that suggests bright light stimulates brain activity to counteract SAD. The LED earbuds are designed to leverage that effect by allowing users to give themselves a daily dose of light directly into their ear canals — where the photosensitive areas of the human brain can be exposed to it.

The main change with Valkee 2 is remodelled LED earbuds, aiming for a more ergonomic, in-ear fit. There’s also a new smaller, all-aluminium casing (that looks very 2nd generation iPod nano-ish) from which the micro USB headphone cord can now be detached so that multiple users (i.e. who each have their own LEDSet) can share a single Valkee 2.

The product’s interface has also been updated to add on-device control — rather than having to change settings via Valkee’s website or a PC. Other tweaks include a longer headphone cord and internal memory in the earbuds so that settings can be retained when the headset is unplugged from the control unit.

Valkee launched its first commercial prototype in Finland in winter 2010, using off-the-shelf products. A global version, made from proprietary plastic parts, followed in winter 2011. That version retailed for €185. The startup said today it has shipped 45,000 of its bright light headsets to more than 20 countries around the world over the past three years. Satisfaction rates are apparently very high: 87% of users would recommend the product to others, it claims.

The Valkee 2 is available for pre-order – costing €199, in a choice of either black or silver – from the company’s website. It’s due to ship next month.

Update: Valkee has provided TechCrunch with the following statement in response to criticism that its product does not work as claimed:

We have come across at Valkee this same weblink to a site that publishes anonymous and misleading information about Valkee. I can only second-guess the motives of the author. Similar false accusations have come up every now and then.

To keep the record straight: Valkee has been tested clinically for both treatment efficacy and user safety according to the requirements of the EU Medical Device Directive (93/42/EEC) and is consequently an approved European medical device in Class 2a for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, Winter blues) and its many symptoms, and is CE-marked for that. Many other additional health benefits of bright light are being  studied currently, by Valkee and by others, including health technology majors. All clinical studies of Valkee since mid-2012 have been double-blind, placebo controlled, even if not all have been published to protect new IPR, nor is there any requirement to publish all. 

A required 3rd party clinical evaluation with full access to all research in connection with Valkee 2 product program reaffirmed that the product is clinically sound, and that the marketing claim of treating SAD is well founded.

We will not start correcting every single false accusation of anonymous sources such as the website in question, but instead focus on continued work in bright light research, and on serving our satisfied customers to the best we can.

You can read the full article here :