Interview with Aaron Horowitz, co-founder and CEO of Sproutel

Aaron Horowitz

Aaron Horowitz, co-founder and CEO of Sproutel, is our latest interviewee. He is fascinated with the process of taking an idea from concept to reality, and he’s also passionate about creating interfaces that drive a shift towards ubiquitous computing. So it’s not surprising that Aaron is one of the creators of Jerry the Bear, a platform for pediatric health and wellness education.

Aaron has shared his expertise in robotics and entrepreneurship through speaking at numerous conferences including TED@IBM, Hardware Innovation Workshop, Big Ideas Fest, MakerCon, TEDxUnisinos, CUSP, and Stanford MedX. He has also been recognized as one of 50 honored makers by the White House in 2014.

Aaron holds a degree in Mechatronics and User Interaction Design from Northwestern University and sits on the national advisory board of Design for America. When unplugged, he is likely either carving stone or surfing. Here’s how he answered our questions.

How would you pitch your company? What’s your elevator pitch?

Sproutel is Disney for healthcare. Our flagship product is Jerry the Bear: a platform to engage children in play-based healthcare education. In 2013 we released the first version of Jerry the Bear with an educational module focused on type 1 diabetes. We reached 4% of children newly diagnosed and 25% of pediatric endocrinologist offices. This fall we’re launching the Jerry the Bear platform for general health and wellness and introducing additional content modules for food allergies (6MM kids) and asthma (7MM kids).

What sets you apart from competitors?

Since Jerry is a teddy bear, our biggest competitors are other toys out in the market. What sets us apart is that our play patterns are derived from a wellness curriculum that we’ve developed hand in hand with doctors and families. We are able to leverage play, the way children learn, to impart meaningful lessons about health and wellness.

What’s your business model?

We sell our bears directly to families and build a large lifetime customer value through the sale of accessories and content upgrades. Our long-term goal is to move towards payer reimbursement through outcomes research. We’re thrilled to have just received funding through the NIH SBIR program to conduct our first pilot this year.

Can you share some numbers? How many users do you have?

We currently have 500 bears out in the world. This number represents reaching 2% of children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the US in 2013 and 4% in 2014.

Where do you see the company going from here?

We’ve just launched a new version of Jerry the Bear, focused on bringing health and wellness education to all children. In fact, you can now pre-order Jerry on our website. We also have expansion packs of additional content and accessories that enable Jerry to be customized to deal with food allergies, asthma, and type 1 diabetes education.

Our pipeline includes expanding into other childhood conditions as well as building out our product offering by introducing new plush animals of other characters from Jerry’s world.

Where do you see the mHealth industry going?

I see the mHealth industry moving towards home based, patient centered care. I think that we’ve entered the age of the empowered patient and need to begin creating solutions that let patients take their health into their own hands.

How long are we from seeing modern mHealth technologies going mainstream?

We’ve already started to see the beginnings of mHealth tech going mainstream with the explosion in wearables. I think that in the next 3 years we’ll see technology like this become more advanced and have better integration with healthcare payers and providers.