MIT’s Storyteller In Residence, Dom Smith chats to Aagya Mathur and Alexis Wong [Aavia] about their idea, how it has incubated at MIT and plans for the rest of the year.
Can you introduce yourselves, and tell me a little bit about who you are, and what you do here?
AM] My name is Aagya Mathur, and I am working on a team called Aavia, and what we are working on right now, is a Femtech company, and we are empowering women.
AW] I’m Alexis. I come from Hong Kong, I graduated from the University of Hong Kong very recently, and I’m working on Aavia, with Aagya!
Can you tell me more about the idea?
AM] We started with medication compliance last June, and we were incubated by the Hong Kong Innovation Node. We worked full-time in Hong Kong over the summer. Through a lot of our conversations with women, and men of all ages in America, one thing that kept coming up was birth control pills. Birth control pills are something that you have to take every day at a certain time for it to be 99.9 per cent effective. Unfortunately, over 5 per cent of women are actually inconsistent in use, so that increases their risk of getting pregnant from point one per cent to nine per cent, and just speaking with women, they would call it stressful, or they couldn’t remember. We actually spoke with a few women who had unintended pregnancies because of this, and some of those led to abortions, and that can cause emotional distress. These stories continued to build and stick with us, and we knew that we wanted to do something to help with that.
What we heard was that people want to take the pills at the same time, and they’ve tried setting apps or alarms – when the alarm goes off they just get distracted because they are focusing on their family and friends. So, we invented a device, that you can store your usual blister pack in, and it will remind the user whether they have or have not taken it; the device will know if it’s been thirty minutes since the person was supposed to have taken their pill, and send a reminder, even if you turn it off!
What are the biggest challenges that you face in getting your product out there?
AM] There are a lot of different components to it. If you are a women who has gone through it, it resonates with you very quickly, but if you are a male, and not on the pill, people will often ask, ‘Oh, why can’t you just set an alarm – why do you need hardware?’ So, there are more components to this than a simple elevator pitch. We try to leave people wanting to ask more. People are starting to recognize that this is a bigger problem than we thought it was. A lot of males for example, are now realizing that women do have to do these things. A big part of all this is education.
What are the goals for the rest of the year?
AM] Even just in January, we’ve got a lot done. Alexis has been working on this full-time since June, the rest of us are still students, but this is a great time to have Alexis here in the US. We’ve been using this month to take the product, and integrate it with the software and hardware in order to get it into the hands of users, and continue to get feedback, while also testing price points and marketing channels. We’re also looking into manufacturing. We want to launch globally by the end of this year.
What would be your key tips for entrepreneurs?
AM] One would be to talk to as many people as you can, and don’t hesitate to ask for help. Entrepreneurship is not something that you can do on your own. It’s important to use any resources that you have available. Part of it is also about grit, and recognizing that it’s not easy for anybody. The idea that you have has to be something that you are passionate about, and recognizing the impact that you can have. The harder that you push now, regardless of the setbacks you face, the more you are going to impact multiple people.
AW] We need to spend more time outside of the office and actually talk to people and understand their problems, before we try to build something to solve that problem. What motivates me is the belief that I am building something that will make an impact.