Startup of the week – BabyWatch lets pregnant mothers track babies’ heartbeats from home

Charmaine Li 2013-09-25 7

For expectant mothers, going to the doctor to get an ultrasound is a common occurrence. The lead-up to appointments can be be both exciting and nerve-racking. What if you could ease your anxiety by tracking your pregnancy from the comfort of your own home between visits?

Enter BabyWatch – a startup, currently in Berlin’s Startupbootcamp programme, that provides mothers-to-be with technology that aims to make tracking pregnancy a relaxing and interactive experience. We speak to founder Urška Sršen about bringing a quantified self approach to prenatal care and what the company’s yet-to-be launched social platform for mothers is all about…

Hi Urška, can you tell us about BabyWatch?

BabyWatch is a startup that developed a system that consists of a small ultrasound device and a mobile app that enables pregnant woman to hear and visualise their unborn baby’s heartbeat. Its mission is to bring quantified self to pregnancy and start changing prenatal care.

Our belief is that the future of prenatal care lies in home monitoring or remote monitoring and this is our first step towards that. We’re bringing a tool for comfortable and interactive tracking of your pregnancy at home and emphasising the bonding of mother and baby.

Where did the idea come from?

My cofounder Sandro Mur and our medical advisor Dr Tanja Premru Sršen, who is also my mother, were working on a pregnancy home monitoring system before BabyWatch. While we were testing the pilot version and its user interface, we realised that patients loved sharing some of the data with their loved ones. So we thought: This is where we can approach them and provide something more interactive and emotional to use at home without the doctor.

Who are the founders and how did you find each other?

Sandro and myself are the cofounders. We’re actually a couple and this is how we started working together – it was very organic and it works perfectly.

Before BabyWatch, I was studying fine arts focusing on sculpture but I was also very interested in medical illustration and medical data visualisation – so this was my focus. Then, I started working as a user interface and experience designer for BabyWatch. Sandro is kind of a serial entrepreneur and he had healthcare startups – and other startups – before. Our medical advisor is an obstetrician and gynecologist with a special focus on maternal and fetal medicine.

What is your USP and what makes you different from everyone else?

What we do is combine hardware and software – we provide an emotional and interactive experience for pregnancy, which is also based on a broad vision that is quite ambitious. Remote monitoring systems or proper prenatal monitoring systems are very complicated and so our advantage is that by collecting this data, we have a basis for data mining and analytics. This is where we can start to provide a system that will then be useful for both patients and professionals.

How many users do you have?

We just closed a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo and this is how we got our first test users. We have 100 users from Indiegogo who are active and communicating with us for the feedback. We’re really happy about that because we achieved above our goal. Also, we’ve sold around 200 devices to possible retailers for test sales and since we’ve gone live, this number continues to grow.

Have you received any additional funding?

We are supported by Startupbootcamp and already have one angel investor – Semyon Dukach. Before that, we were bootstrapped under previous projects.

What is Globalbeat and how does it fit in with BabyWatch?

Globalbeat isn’t launched yet but it’s coming in October. It’s going to be a platform where pregnant women will be able to upload pregnancy tracking data from the BabyWatch app. They will be able to interact among each other and exchange experiences.

What’s really important is that by collecting this data, we’ll be able to analyse it and return it to users in the form of infographics and medical data visualisations that are useful, educational and nicely presented. It will be private and based on anonymous input so we’re not spying on anyone. We really want to give women more accessible data that is presented in an understandable and approachable way.

Babywatch devices

What is your business model? And how big is the market potential?

The mother and baby market is huge and it’s expanding. We estimate that there are five million pregnant women in the US every year. For now, our business model is based on selling the hardware – the app is free.

As we move toward the proper tool for tracking pregnancy we will add more features to the app itself as well. Right now, features include tracking fetal heartbeat and a baby kick counter for counting feet movement. We’ll be adding more features such as tracking the weight and blood pressure of the mother and anything else that is relevant to pregnancy. We’d like to add other hardware devices and eventually begin monetising the app as well.

For the platform, in the future we see ourself connecting it with the professional side, including a medical service that we can monetise. For now, we only sell hardware devices and the app is completely free.

Is there something you’re missing?

We will be looking for a bigger investment further on. Currently, our team is two cofounders, medical advisors, a product manager and two developers. For now, in terms of employment, we’re not specifically looking for people but maybe we’re missing some power in marketing.

Where will you be in a year’s time?

Hopefully, in the US and on a strong and right path towards remote monitoring. I think our focus or future market is the US, so we’re planning to go there as soon as possible.

Why didn’t you think launching in Europe would be a good idea?

It’s not that we don’t believe it’s a good idea, but in the US, the quantified self movement is already so big – more than Europe. In Europe, we’re practically opening a new market, a new niche. In the US, it’s easier to answer to the new niche of prenatal care when people are already familiar with quantified self devices and this kind of lifestyle. So presenting them with a quantified self tool for pregnancy is not a completely out of the blue idea.

Whereas in Europe, people are more reserved about the quantified self movement and not as familiar so when we’re presenting our quantified self tool for pregnancy we have to first create awareness on quantified self in general and then create awareness on quantified self in pregnancy before presenting our product. This is a bit of a challenge, so we thought we should start in the US. Additionally, we think it’s a bigger and more homogeneous market and when you’re selling a physical product, that makes it a lot easier.

Any advice you’d give for fellow startups?

It’s really hard for me to give concrete advice since we’re still in the middle of the battle, I’m still searching for advice. However, I would say really really believe in your idea – I think that’s most important.

Especially when you’re in an accelerator programme and there’s so many opinions, so many people giving you advice – which is really awesome, useful and great – but you have to know the core of your idea to know how to utilise this advice.

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For related posts, check out:

Digital fertility app Clue wants to take family planning “way past the Pill”
Big data fertility – meet the UK health tech startup challenging IVF in the US
Startupbootcamp launches European hardware accelerator – expect robots, 3D printing and medtech

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