May 29, 2020 - Economy & Business

Smart socks maker Siren raises nearly $12 million

An illustration of socks.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Siren, a maker of "smart socks" designed for early detection of diabetic ulcers, yesterday announced nearly $12 million in venture funding led by Anathem Ventures.

Why it matters: This plays into the burgeoning remote health care trend, as people at risk of diabetic ulcers typically require regular foot temperature checks from podiatrists.

  • It's also a twist on a recent VC legal drama between Anathem founder Crystal McKellar and her former firm, Mithril Capital.

The company: Siren continuously monitors the temperature on the bottoms of a user's feet, and transmits that data to an app that's available to both the patient and physician.

  • The connected "visits" are reimbursable under Medicare, and basically act as an early warning system to stave off something that can result in hospitalizations and, at worst, amputations.
  • Expect to see a surge in these sorts of deals. Including from Anathem, which just backed FocusMotion, a connected recovery system for patients who've undergone orthopedic surgery.

The legal drama: McKellar previously was general counsel for Mithril, a growth equity firm co-founded by Peter Thiel. She also was a whistleblower, informing a Mithril portfolio company and the FBI about alleged financial misconduct.

  • Mithril sued McKellar, whom some of you might remember as "Becky Slater" from The Wonder Years. She countersued.
  • The two sides quietly dismissed their complaints, although a California court document suggests they subsequently entered arbitration.

Notable in McKellar's complaint was a claim that Peter Thiel was horrified by the goings-on at Mithril, going so far as to consider shutting the firm down.

  • Thiel hasn't publicly commented on the dispute, but the Siren deal might hint at his sentiments. His better-known firm, Founders Fund, was an existing Siren investor and re-upped in this new round, knowing that McKellar was lead investor via Anathem.

McKellar tells Axios: "My parents raised me to do the right thing always, and when you witness your employer engaging in fraud you've got to do something to protect your investors. ... Peter is great. I have a ton of respect for him and am thrilled to be investing alongside him."

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