They call concussions the “invisible injury,” but the serious health issues they cause are anything but imaginary or disguised. With about 200,000 diagnosed concussions in Canada each year—and patients suffering the repercussions for months or longer—Ashleigh Kennedy and the team at Neurovine are working to help people recover from these traumatic brain injuries, and they’re making brain health more accessible and transparent at the same time.

In March, Chris Simon committed suicide at the age of 52. In a statement released through his former agent, the family of the retired hockey player (he played 15 seasons in the NHL) stated they “strongly believe and witnessed first-hand” Simon’s struggle from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The disease is progressive—it manifests in many ways (including memory loss, mood swings, depression and other mental issues); it’s associated with repeated brain injuries, including concussions; and it can only be diagnosed upon death. Medical experts say it’s becoming more common to find CTE in the brains of athletes who had careers in contact sports and experienced repeated blows to the head. While research released by Statistics Canada last year found 1.6 percent of Canadians ages 12 and older reported sustaining at least one concussion (bruising caused by the brain hitting the inside of the skull) in 2019, it’s likely the actual number is significantly higher—concussions are the most common traumatic brain injury (TBI) impacting Canadians, but they often go either misdiagnosed, undiagnosed or unreported altogether.

Neurovine is a health-tech startup built on making brain health transparent and accessible. It delivers personalized, data-driven brain-recovery tools for people who’ve suffered concussions and other brain-related injuries. It’s the brainchild of Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, an Ottawa-born neuroscientist who earned her PhDs in exercise physiology, and motor control and neuroscience, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. She’s no stranger to the world of concussions and the havoc they wreak on our health and well-being, and when she tells me she recently suffered from one herself (it was an accident involving a heavy piece of wood), her injury further personalizes what she’s been working on and dedicated to for more than four years.


The Backstory

Kennedy’s sister, who was an Olympic team captain for gymnastics representing Canada at the Games, suffered a major concussion prior to competing in 2004. Years before, her father (once a professional football player), lost a friend and fellow player to suicide—he was the bruiser on the team and had suffered mental health issues after retirement, a foreseeable result of sustained brain injuries. “We know it was related to CTE. The brain is eaten away from the inside out, and it wasn’t on the radar decades ago. That drove my interest in learning about the brain,” she says. “Sport is near and dear to my heart, and there’s an awful culture of hiding pain and playing through injury. Some athletes still lie about concussions to get back on the field, but it isn’t an old boys’ club anymore where no one cares about brain health. We’re finally seeing organizations take repeat brain trauma seriously.” Kennedy’s genuine interest in bringing this issue to light, and to take innovation from the hospital and into patients’ hands, inspired her and Dr. Matthew Kennedy (her husband and cofounder) to conceptualize a technology and platform that would put patients in the driver’s seat. “Family doctors are quarterbacks for brain injuries because patients have to wait so long to see experts. My husband has dealt with concussions in his practice and these cases are hard to manage—it’s frustrating for him because he can’t do much to help. That’s part of why we knew this problem was big enough to make a real impact,” she says. The partners started the company at their kitchen table and, while they wanted to be a small software offering, they found they needed hardware to drive the platform. “In the last few years, we’ve gone from idea to prototype to our technology being piloted with professional sports organizations and in hospitals.” she says.


The Technology

“If you get a concussion today, the medical assessment is usually subjective. The doctor will ask you what happened and might do some tests if they know about concussions, otherwise you get put on a waiting list to see a neurologist. In Canada, that’s a year-long list,” Kennedy says. The Neurovine platform, which integrates hardware and software, allows patients to take their recovery into their own hands. It starts with wearing a headband that reads brain activity while patients take tests (playing games) on their phone. “The brain emits a signal picked up by the headband and pairs that information with data on memory, reaction time and executive function. We get a clear snapshot of what’s going on with that individual’s brain health. This data allows the family doctor or team physician to quarterback the recovery process and manage the injury,” says Kennedy. “Based on what we find, AI and analytics are used to develop a personalized recovery program for the patient. It’s like Noom for the brain—the road map is intuitive and tailored, all to ensure patients recover faster and unlock the healing potential of the brain.”

The app has a simple interface featuring prompts to let patients know when to get physically and cognitively active, personalized meditations and alerts that warn patients the brain is overexerted and a break is needed. (Concussion patients often can’t tell when they need to take it easy, so they rely on the EEG technology to signal when it’s time to rest.) Kennedy explains it like this: Think of your brain energy as a glass of water that’s full in the morning. After a concussion, you only have half a glass to start, and it drains quickly. When it empties, it means you’re fatigued or overexerted, and you end up with symptoms that cause setbacks. “If you get an alert to take a break, you go for a walk or do a prescribed meditation,” she says.

Meditation is vital here, and the addition of mental health resources was inspired by feedback from patients. “When I had a concussion, my anxiety was way out of control—it was different than before the concussion. I felt like my brain was constantly spinning. In 2023, we realized we needed to build out a better meditation program,” she says. “We worked with user-experience groups doing wellness meditations and we are focused on cognitive-behaviour-therapy-guided mediations. We need to raise more money to build it.”





“We’re on our way for our platform to be considered the gold standard for concussion recovery.”Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine cofounder

The Angel Investor Journey

Kennedy cites a dinner out with a physician from Capital Angel Network, Ottawa’s local angel group, as the meeting that kicked off her raising journey. “Dr. Brian Whitestone took me for Indian food and told me I had to make a decision—either what we were working on would be a research project for the next decade, or I could raise some money and commercialize it,” she says. “I didn’t feel ready to raise, but he really helped me to realize it was now or never. His advocacy and this support helped us raise $500,000 in our first round—and that money was raised before we had a working prototype. People believed in me.” Kennedy and her team used the funds to build a rough prototype, then went back to her angels—and pitched to HaloHealth, Maple Leaf Angels, York Angels and Georgian Angel Network—with the product and asked for more investment. Having Whitestone’s validation was crucial, as was support from SheBoot, an investment-readiness program that prepares women founders to pitch their business and secure funding. “We wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have Brian and the ecosystem of women who care about supporting other women. They believed in us, made introductions to customers and other investors, and have stuck with us.”


The Future

So far, feedback has been super positive. There are a variety of partnerships and pilots in play—including with professional soccer club Atlético Ottawa; Elizabeth Bruyère Hospital and Saint Vincent Hospital (both in Ottawa); as well as the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and CFL (Canadian Football League)—and athletes are eager to use Neurovine’s technology to measure their brain health and have better outcomes post-retirement. “The CFL Alumni Association has been an enthusiastic partner because they’re thinking about their colleagues who are suffering the results of repeated brain injuries,” says Kennedy. “When you look around the table at their alumni meetings, you see the progression of cognitive decline in men in their forties. There are things we can do pre-emptively in those early days after the injury to improve the situation. That’s our mission and vision.” (Non-sports-related studies have also been conducted—one is about burnout’s effect on nurses, who can take advantage of Neurovine’s app without using the headband.) “We’re in hospitals and used in professional sports. My job now is to raise another round of financing and focus on marketing and sales to get us into the US in a more aggressive way,” she says. Kennedy is also looking forward to building out Neurovine’s mental health resources and ramping up AI analytics on the back end so they can further understand the root causes of some of the triggers and symptoms patients experience. “I really love solving problems. That’s how my brain works. And when I was at Stanford, I learned I would not be satisfied only writing academic papers—I needed to do something that would have tangible results,” says Kennedy. “I didn’t think I’d be leading a company, but I knew I’d be working in innovation. We’re on our way for this to be the gold standard for concussion recovery. It’s been an incredible journey.”





Last Word: Q&A with Dr. Brian Whitestone, Neurovine angel investor 

Q: How long have you been an angel investor?
A: I first joined Capital Angel Network (CAN) in 2017 as way to incorporate myself into the entrepreneurial community and meet successful, dynamic and forward-thinking investors in Ottawa. As someone with a healthcare focus, I was also involved with Toronto-based HaloHealth for a year or two. Some of my greatest pleasures derive from meeting driven, focused and passionate people who want to make a positive change. Ultimately, success boils down to the founders and their teams, so I love digging deep into character and drive, and finding out what makes them tick.

Q: What impressed you about Ashleigh? Why were you interested in investing in Neurovine?

A: I was very impressed with Ashleigh’s demeanour—she was calm and assured—as well as her intelligence and drive. Concussions are notoriously underdiagnosed, poorly treated and can cause long-term health issues. The fact that Ashleigh’s PhD work was centred on providing a science-backed solution to treating concussions was a gamechanger for me. This was the spark that led me to invest with Neurovine.

Q: Neurovine’s vision to empower people to take charge of their brain health is so important and commendable. As an angel investor who’s also a physician, what does Neurovine’s success mean to the healthcare community, and to patients who suffer from concussions? 

A: Neurovine’s ultimate success will result in far more appropriate management of folks who have suffered from concussions, leading to a faster and more complete recoveries. This will allow earlier returns to work, school and life in general. This is what makes Neuorvine such a compelling story and investment—they’re solving a real problem.

Q: Tell us about any mentorship, guidance, networking opportunities, etc., you’ve been able to provide to Neurovine? Ashleigh mentioned how much you advocated for her and the company, so tell us about your experience working with her.

A: I guess the biggest nuance here is that I was the first angel to invest in Ashleigh without going through the (sometimes) onerous due diligence process, which can be burdensome and time consuming. In this capacity, I was able to advocate on her behalf to other angels and, likewise, I was able to spend time with Ashleigh helping her work through early-stage issues. We had a very informal but easy relationship where she was able to reach out with questions or concerns. Sometimes, you just “click” with another person, and this was one of those special times.


Check out Neurovine website here!

Interested in becoming part of the dynamic angel investor community in Ontario? Explore our wide network of supported Angel Investor Groups. Discover your local group with the details provided on our website. Get involved and start making an impact today!

👉 Find a Group Here

Success Story was written by Lisa Van De Geyn 

Lisa van de Geyn is a self-proclaimed magazine junkie and more-than-20-year veteran in Canada’s magazine industry. The multi-award-winning writer and editor has worked for many of the country’s most venerable publications, including Chatelaine, Canadian Living, Today’s Parent, House & Home, Toronto Star, Reader’s Digest, CAA Magazine and Globe & Mail. She’s been covering the fascinating stories of angels and founders for several years, working with Spark Centre, NACO, Access IO, Capital Angel Network, and Angel Investors Ontario (she served as editor-in-chief and feature writer of [XV].
Lisa is a mom to two teenagers and is very fond
of her many streaming services.