Notable alumns include co-founder David He, an MIT researcher who went on to become the technical lead at Alphabet’s health tech group, Verily, bringing at least three top engineers with him. His labmate on the academic project, Eric Winokur, did not join Quanttus but went on to join Apple as an engineer behind the original Apple Watch heart rate monitor.
Then there’s Yoky Matsouka, a short-lived former Quanttus CEO, who went on to the Apple health team in 2016 before joining Alphabet’s home-automation division, Nest, as its Chief Technology Officer the following year. Jordan Rice, who managed hardware at Quanttus and ran the team behind the watch, is now a senior hardware leader at Nike. Maulik Majmudar, the resident cardiologist who helped lead Quanttus clinical studies, went to Amazon in August for a new health-tech bet. Euan Thompson, a board member and interim CEO, went on to become the head of digital health at Samsung and is now at Johnson & Johnson. Other alumns joined Facebook, Microsoft, Fitbit, AthenaHealth and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The list goes on and on.
Many of these companies now have blood pressure projects of their own.
Verily, Microsoft, Apple and Samsung all have teams working on the problem, and have been dabbling in the blood pressure space for years, according to multiple sources familiar with their internal projects. (Verily and Apple declined comment. Microsoft did not return a request for comment.) Apple, Microsoft and Samsung have all applied for one or more patents in the space, too.
Samsung has been the most public about its efforts, as it has a blood pressure-related partnership with UC San Francisco. “Sensor technology is advancing quickly,” said Jack Ahn, vice president of Samsung health strategy and R&D, in an interview. “We are paying attention and we want to bring that capability (continuous blood pressure monitoring) to the wearable.”
The first to crack it will be richly rewarded. A May 2017 report from Grand View Research puts the market for blood pressure monitoring at nearly $12 billion by 2025. Other investors in the space say it’s more like $40 billion, if you include all the potential applications for more continuous monitoring with a wearable.
If these tech giants succeed, Quanttus may turn out be the most influential failed tech company since General Magic, which anticipated the mobile revolution in the early 1990s and boasts alumns like Android co-creator Andy Rubin, iPod creator and Nest co-founder Tony Fadell and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
To learn more about Quanttus and its tantalizing brush with success, CNBC spoke to nine former Quanttus employees and boardmembers, some on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorized by their current employer to talk to press.
They shared new insight into the company’s wild history, including high-level talks with Fitbit to buy the company shortly after its IPO in mid-2015. Others spoke about secretive meetings with Apple, Fitbit and Samsung to discuss potential collaborations, investments, and other opportunities, which gave employees a reason to believe that they were onto something big.