"I like to fix problems. The fact that Alzheimer's is the sixth largest cause of death in this country, and we don't have any way to detect it early or do something about it is just heartbreaking.”

My pet peeve is: Operational inefficiency My celebrity crush is: Jodie Foster

Karen Crow

Accelerating the path towards better brain health

FEELING DRIVEN TO GIVE BACK. Karen Crow's enterprise has deeply personal origins. Her company, NeuroGeneces, was born in 2016 when her family was simultaneously hit with two health issues. One was the discovery that her three-year-old son had a sleep disorder, while the other affected her mom, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. "Being the very Type A person I am, I learned everything I could about sleep science and neurodegenerative diseases. And that was the birth of NeuroGeneces."

The Santa Fe-based startup uses sleep science to measure brain health and enhance memory retention. The product consists of machine-learning algorithms that work with a headband device installed with electroencephalogram (EEG). Analyzing the brain’s electrical waves during sleep against normative patterns measures how well the brain is functioning and enables timely interventions before irreversible damage occurs. In addition, the device provides audio stimulation to enhance deep sleep and improve memory consolidation.

"The real secret sauce is in the algorithms behind it. AI-driven algorithms analyze brain activity during sleep and map them against normative bands for that age and gender to identify whether you're in or outside the normal range. Sometimes behavioural changes can have a big impact, like getting good sleep, healthy eating, exercise, or controlling diabetes. Many of those behaviors impact your brain health and the effectiveness of brain function."

NeruoGeneces aims to become part of the routine preventative screening tests provided by primary care doctors. Their research, backed by the National Sleep Foundation, suggests the tool could identify signs of brain health issues up to 20 years before a person shows symptoms. "Most people don't see their neurologist or get an MRI until they already show signs of cognitive issues. By then, the damage is done; it's too late to have an effective intervention."

INSPIRED TO LEAVE THE WORLD IN A BETTER PLACE. The concept of giving back has always driven Karen. This ethos was instilled in her while working at Google during the company's lift-off in the early 2000s, by Sheryl Sandberg. "She was fantastic at giving people opportunities and, particularly for women, uncovering and being explicit about unconscious biases and how to overcome them." Inspired by this, Karen co-founded the non-profit WiserGiving.org, a free online tool that helped the suddenly wealthy from the Silicon Valley tech boom figure out their "giving style" in philanthropy.

While Karen says coming out as a lesbian when she was almost 40 had little impact on raising capital for her venture, given her established career, she is acutely aware of unconscious bias surrounding sexism, ageism, and homophobia in the VC community. "Some of the hurdles we have come across in terms of fundraising, it's hard for me to differentiate. Is it one of the 'isms'? Is it a cautiousness with investing in hardware? I think it's probably a little bit of all of the above."

Regardless, Karen remains locked on her end goal. "I like to fix problems. The fact that Alzheimer's is the sixth largest cause of death in this country, and we don't have any way to detect it early or do something about it is just heartbreaking. To be able to move the industry forward in a way that accelerates our path to making Alzheimer's a less destructive disease would be massive. In addition, anything I can do to help make our community safer and more progressive would be huge."

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Presented with Pride Here is the first collection of one hundred incredible and inspiring LGBTQIA+ venture-backed entrepreneurs featured in this year's Gaingels 100.