Five Questions With: Hannah Chung and Aaron Horowitz
“In the coming years, we’ll see a slew of purpose-built hardware interfaces created to transform the way we think about our own health care and match the changing payment incentives in the health care ecosystem.”
Hannah Chung and Aaron Horowitz are co-founders of Sproutel, a Providence startup that has created the interactive Jerry the Bear toy to help children deal with diabetes.
Chung and Horowitz spoke with Providence Business News about Sproutel’s ongoing Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign and where their company is headed next.
PBN: How does Jerry the Bear help children with type 1 diabetes understand how to manage their diabetes in a way that other educational tools might not?
CHUNG and HOROWITZ: Jerry the Bear is a best friend for kids diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. By playing with Jerry, children gain hands-on skills while learning how to respond to real world scenarios. Children are tasked with helping Jerry train for the “All Star Games” by taking care of him correctly and thus unlocking a series of animated storybooks.
Jerry transforms diabetes education for children diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 7. In a time when they are entirely passive in their own diabetes care, Jerry empowers them to begin to learn the life-saving procedures that they’ll have to practice throughout their lives.
PBN: What does this newly launched Indiegogo campaign represent for Sproutel in terms of how far the company has come since its beginnings, and what’s the next step if the campaign is successful?
CHUNG and HOROWITZ: This Indiegogo campaign represents over five years of work for us here at Sproutel. Our mission for Jerry has always been to get a bear into the hands of each and every one of the 12,000 kids diagnosed every year. After testing 29 iterations of our prototype with over 350 kids, building a sustainable supply chain with strong roots in the U.S., and reaching 2 percent of children diagnosed last year, we’re ready to make it happen.
PBN: Does Sproutel have partnerships with diabetes organizations or other companies and nonprofits to get Jerry the Bear into the right hands? Are these partnerships currently limited to the United States, and if so, do you have plans to eventually expand to other countries as well?
CHUNG and HOROWITZ: We have partnered with a network of nonprofits across the U.S. to get Jerry into the hands of kids at the point of diagnosis. One of these organizations, Type 1 Diabetes Network, accepts applications to receive a Jerry the Bear based on financial need. While this campaign and our current partnerships are focused within the U.S., we are actively seeking ways of growing internationally to increase the impact that Jerry can have.
PBN: Sproutel has positioned itself at the intersection of health care and consumer robotics. For Sproutel, this has manifested in Jerry the Bear, but what’s the bigger picture as far as the role robotics will play in our lives in the future, in health care or otherwise?
CHUNG and HOROWITZ: In the coming years, we’ll see a slew of purpose-built hardware interfaces created to transform the way we think about our own health care and match the changing payment incentives in the health care ecosystem. With models shifting towards wellness and preventative education, there are finally opportunities to create win-win solutions that benefit the patient, provider and insurer. We aim to lead this charge by creating robots that empower our users with knowledge, helping them to build correct habits from the start and stay healthy throughout their lives.
PBN: What’s next for Sproutel after Jerry the Bear?
CHUNG and HOROWITZ: As of now we’re incredibly focused on building out the functionality of Jerry to establish the core hardware and software as a platform for pediatric chronic disease education. We’re looking at how we can adapt the physical form of Jerry as well as the content we’ve developed to create a similar solution for the 7 million children with asthma in the U.S. This is just the first step of many as we continue to build products that transform one of the scariest aspects of our lives, our well being, into a playful experience.