A new startup that aims to ease healthcare tasks for the elderly debuted its app on the iOS store in April and showcased its tech at the recent Life Science Innovation Northwest 2022 meeting.
The meeting, hosted by the industry trade group Life Science Washington at the end of April, featured a host of startups at its poster session. GeekWire caught up there with Rashmi Joshi, CEO and founder of Asha AI, and lead designer Dayton Kelly to talk about the new company.
“The premise is to create something that is just really intuitive for older folks to use, that inspires them to be more independent about how they’re managing their care, and helps them stay connected to their loved ones and care team members,” said Joshi, whose Redmond, Wash.-based startup was part of the Washington Technology Industry Association’s Founder Cohort Program in 2020.
The app helps with tasks like managing medication, setting up appointments and connecting with caregivers, who can receive notifications and health information. The interface is fully voice enabled through Siri, Apple’s voice assistant. The type is large and commands are simple, easing use for people with vision or hearing or impairment.
The idea for the company started when Joshi’s grandmother, Asha, was being treated for cancer. Asha, which means “hope” in Sanskrit, lives in Pune, India, with her husband. But the closest other family member is 13 hours away by train and many others are in the Seattle area.
“We found ourselves taking turns flying from Seattle to Pune to take her to surgeries, to help manage post-surgery care,” said Joshi. “And we tried everything you can think of. We tried sensor-based equipment, camera-based monitoring equipment. We went through three or four smartphones and tablets.” But none of the tech the family tried was effective.
Asha is currently in remission. And Joshi’s company launched its product in April, floated by $225,000 in pre-seed funds. When designing the app, Kelly sought to understand the “nuances of how humans interact and translate that into the technology.“
“You have to create something that fits within these nuanced structures of how we work with each other, and how people want to interact,” said Joshi, who culled feedback from payers, providers, and patients to assess their needs after founding the startup in 2019.
Joshi likes to focus on problems involving IoT technology. In 2014 she founded Evalise, which made voice-activated inserts for bags and later dissolved. She also was previously chief marketing officer at Nurego, a Seattle- and Israel-based IoT startup that was acquired by General Electric. “I’m a startup gal through and through,” said the 29-year-old entrepreneur.
She’s pulled together a team that includes advisors Yan Chow, former medical director at Amgen, and Tony Quang, an associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Washington and chair of the American College of Legal Medicine. All advisors and employees first volunteered before formally joining the company, including Kelly and VP of engineering Sean House. That’s because they saw that “what we’re building at Asha serves a vital need,” said Joshi.
Tech built specifically for the elderly covers different needs than Asha AI, said Joshi. Examples include Lively, which makes a cell phone with big buttons that connects to medical care, or CarePredict, which focuses on remote sensing technology.
The Asha AI app is currently free through May, but later will be available for $30 per month, with the ability to add additional patients for less. The company is also aiming to sell to employers and health and insurance providers with discounts at scale. Future add-ons may include community portals for patient support, integration with transportation and other services, third party devices like remote monitoring products, and access to electronic health records.
“The longterm goal of where we’re headed is to actually be a preventative health solution,” said Joshi.
Below we highlight a few of the other emerging startups that presented posters at Life Science Innovation Northwest 2022.
- Crimson Medical Solutions is making an organization system for IV lines to reduce medical errors. The Spokane, Wash.-based company has received funding from Greater Spokane Inc., a business development organization.
- Dotquant is developing quantum dots, an alternative to conventional biological image agents, for cell imaging and western blots, a common lab technique. The University of Washington spinout is powered by two small business grants from the National Institutes of Health.
- Intracranial Pressure Solutions is developing a device to relieve intracranial pressure, which occurs commonly after traumatic brain injury. Laligam Sekhar, vice chairman in the UW and Harborview Department of Neurosurgery, is the founder.
- Precision Sensing is developing a way to improve the quality of single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) scans, which are used to analyze the function of organs like the heart and brain. The UW spinout recently landed an NIH small business grant, awarded to UW scientists Robert Miyaoka and Larry Pierce, who is CEO. The startup also won the audience choice award at the meeting’s fast-pitch competition.
- Mesintel Therapeutics identifies therapeutic targets in fibroblasts, a key cell in connective tissue. CEO T. Michael Underhill, a professor of cellular and physiological sciences at the University of British Columbia, co-founded the Vancouver, B.C.-based company last year. The startup won the meeting’s fast-pitch competition.
- VoxCell BioInnovation develops bioprinting tools to engineer 3D cancer tissues for drug development and research and raised $550,000 in pre-seed funds in March. Karolina Valente, CEO and founder of the Victoria, B.C.-based startup, recently earned her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Victoria.