The NBA, WNBA and NASCAR all had their athletes use Oura, the health tracking ring to detect fevers and prevent outbreaks, bolstering its profile.
At the start of 2020, the Oura Ring was one in a vast market of health trackers, distinguished by its tiny size — it’s worn as easily and inauspiciously as a wedding band — and its popularity among trendsetters, like Jack Dorsy and Prince Harry. Then the company behind the device, Finland’s Oura Health, quickly pivoted to marketing the device to flag fever symptoms that could be a sign of COVID-19 infection. Soon, the NBA was tasking its players to wear Oura Rings.
With that boost to the company’s profile, Oura Health, which was founded in 2013 and whose sole product is the ring, raised $100 million in series C funding. The company has raised $148.3 million to date and its total valuation is thought to be about $800 million.
Among the investors in this round of fundraising were the investment arm of the LA Dodgers and a mix of funds associated with sports (The Chernin Group and Elysian Park) and health (Temasek, JAZZ Venture Partners and Eisai Co., Ltd). The company said the investment dollars will go to research and development, new hires, marketing and customer experience development.
Although the ring’s main marketed functions had been tracking sleep, activity and a slew of physiological signs added together into the category of “readiness,” Oura Health jumped on the opportunity to show that its rings could be useful in the fight against COVID-19, almost as soon as the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic.
Last spring, it launched a program to detect COVID-19 symptoms in the U.S. military and the company partnered with West Virginia University and the University of California, San Francisco, for studies on its products’ effectiveness to predict an outbreak among healthcare professionals. The results of the WVU study are not in. The UCSF emphasized more research is needed but stated: “Our analyses support the hypothesis that wearable sensors can detect illnesses in the absence of symptom recognition.”
As anxious sports leagues eyed “reopening” strategies, Oura Ring became a tool. The WNBA, UFC, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, NASCAR and the Las Vegas Sands casino group joined the NBA in utilizing it. So far, 500,000 rings total have been sold.
The basic ring is $299, although options and add-ons can increase the price to $999. (You can get an Aura with an actual diamond to seamlessly imitate or double as a wedding ring.)
Mitigation strategies, among small elite groups like sports teams and the public at large, have come and gone with the ever-changing pandemic situations, but some investors evidently see the use for the Oura Ring in a future pandemic and for the endgame of COVID-19. Or possibly they were just impressed by how quickly the company was able to pivot with a relatively small and simple piece of technology.
Nick Keppler is a freelance journalist, writer and editor. He enjoys writing the difficult stories, the ones that make him pore over studies, talk about subjects that make people uncomfortable, and explain concepts that have taken years to develop. Nick has written extensively about psychology, healthcare, and public policy for national publications and for those locally- based in Pittsburgh. In addition to Athletech News, Nick has written for The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Vice, Slate, Reuters, CityLab, Men’s Health, The Gizmodo Media Group, The Financial Times, Mental Floss, The Village Voice and AlterNet. His journalistic heroes include Jon Ronson, Jon Krakauer and Norah Vincent.