After seven years of serving as a practicing physician, MIT Sloan alum Yechiel Engelhard saw firsthand the problems plaguing parents. Children were prioritizing play over adhering to their asthma treatments, risking hospitalization because they weren’t invested in their own health.
Nearly 10 million children are affected by asthma—a public health issue that costs the United States more than $15 billion annually. Those costs could be cut in half, however, if children complied to their prescription.
To Engelhard, the solution was simple: make monitoring medication as simple as swiping your smartphone. And with that solution in mind, he set out to build GeckoCap.
GeckoCap is a glowing smart button that fits over any inhaler. Once attached, parents and doctors are able to monitor adherence online via their computer, smartphone or tablet and see exactly when an inhaler was used or when it is running low. To increase involvement, parents can also set goals and reward their children with prizes via GeckoCap’s interface, thereby empowering their kin all while teaching them healthy habits.
Engelhard co-founded the company with fellow Sloan alums Mark Maalouf and Michael Chiu at the MIT Media Lab’s New Media Medicine Hackathon last year. After taking the first place prize, they worked their way to the semifinalist round of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, later winning a Boston Beta health and biotech contest.
The balance of hardware and software has been crucial to GeckoCap’s success. “We wanted it to be different from just another app that can remind you to take your medication,” Engelhard says. “This combo is something that can remind you and connect you to the real life.”
Yet, to prove the product was one parents needed, the team took to Indiegogo for market validation. “Because hardware is so expensive … this gave us the opportunity to show people how it’s going to look in the end,” Engelhard says, also acknowledging the team is actively fundraising. The more successful the campaign, the easier the pitch will then be to venture capitalists.
GeckoCap has raised more than $5,000, but is still 17 days away from hitting their desired $90,000 goal. If all goes well, however, Engelhard claims the product, along with an accompanying app, could be on the market in nine months. Once it is, the team will expand their scope outside of asthma.
“We are coming with this idea of helping children and families better understand how to improve behavior,” he says, pointing to tasks as simple as brushing one’s teeth. “We want to be the company that helps build better education, better health and better awareness.”
For a closer look at GeckoCap, check out the photos below, courtesy of the company’s Indiegogo campaign.