A new startup looking to ease care tasks for the elderly debuted its app on its iOS store in April and showcased its technology at the recent Life Science Innovation Northwest 2022 meeting.
During the meeting, organized by the industry association Life Science Washington at the end of April, many startups were present during the poster session. GeekWire met 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 people to use, inspire them to be more independent about how they manage their care, and help them stay connected with their loved ones and care team members,” said Joshi, whose startup in Redmond, Wash. was part of the Washington Technology Industry Association Founder Cohort Program in 2020.
The app helps with tasks such as managing medication, making appointments and connecting with healthcare providers, who can receive notifications and health information. The interface is fully voice controlled via Siri, Apple’s voice assistant. The type is large and the commands are simple, making it easier to use for people with sight or hearing or disabilities.
The idea for the company came about when Joshi’s grandmother, Asha, was being treated for cancer. Asha, meaning ‘hope’ in Sanskrit, lives with her husband in Pune, India. But the closest other relative 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 surgery, to help manage post-surgery care,” Joshi said. “And we’ve tried everything you can think of. We’ve tried sensor-based equipment, camera-based surveillance equipment. We used three or four smartphones and tablets.” But none of the techniques the family tried were effective.
Asha is currently in remission. And Joshi’s company launched its product in April, with $225,000 in pre-seed funds. In designing the app, Kelly sought to understand “the nuances of how people interact with each other and translate that into the technology.”
“You need to create something that fits within these nuanced structures of how we work with each other and how people want to interact with each other,” said Joshi, who gathered feedback from payers, providers and patients to assess their needs after the startup’s founding in 2019.
Joshi likes to focus on issues with IoT technology. In 2014, she founded Evalise, which made and later dissolved voice-activated inserts for bags. She also previously served as Chief Marketing Officer at Nurego, a Seattle-Israel IoT startup that was acquired by General Electric. “I’m a startup girl through and through,” says the 29-year-old entrepreneur.
She has teamed up with advisors Yan Chow, a former medical director at Amgen, and Tony Quang, associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Washington and president of the American College of Legal Medicine. All consultants and employees volunteered before formally joining the company, including Kelly and vice president of engineering Sean House. That’s because they saw that “what we build at Asha is meeting an essential need,” Joshi said.
Technology built specifically for the elderly covers different needs than Asha AI, Joshi said. Examples are Lively, which makes a mobile phone with large buttons that connects to medical care, or CarePredict, which focuses on remote sensing technology.
The Asha AI app is currently free through May, but will be available later for $30 per month, with the ability to add additional patients for less. The company also strives to sell at scale to employers and health and insurance companies at discounts. Future add-ons could include community portals for patient support, integration with transportation and other services, third-party devices such as remote monitoring products, and access to electronic health records.
“The long-term goal of where we’re going is to actually be a preventative health solution,” Joshi said.
Below, we highlight some of the other emerging startups that presented posters at Life Science Innovation Northwest 2022.
- Crimson Medical Solutions creates an organization system for IV lines to reduce medical errors. It’s in Spokane, Wash. established company has received funding from Greater Spokane Inc., a business development organization.
- dotquant develops quantum dots, an alternative to conventional biological imaging agents, for cell imaging and western blots, a widely used laboratory technique. The University of Washington spinout is made possible by two small business grants from the National Institutes of Health.
- Solutions for intracranial pressure is developing a device to relieve intracranial pressure, which often occurs after traumatic brain injury. Laligam Sekhar, Vice Chair of the Division of Neurosurgery at UW and Harborview, is the founder.
- Precision Detection is developing a way to improve the quality of single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans, which are used to analyze the function of organs such as the heart and brain. The UW spinout recently received an NIH small business grant awarded to UW scientists Robert Miyaoka and Larry Pierce, who is CEO. The startup also won the audience 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, BC-based company last year. The startup won the meeting’s fast-pitch competition.
- VoxCell BioInnovation is developing bioprinting tools to develop 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, BC-based startup, recently received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Victoria.