Aavia is a smart sensor device that helps birth control pill users take their pill on time, every time. I sat down with Co-Founder and CEO, Aagya Mathur (MIT MBA ’18) to hear about the startup’s team, product and plans for the future.
Aavia is aiming to empower women to take their birth control on time, every time. The Aavia hardware device provides users with peace of mind as they go about their busy lives. The product offers personalized alerts and tracking to relieve the mental burden of remembering to take the birth control pill at the right time every day. Birth control blister packs are inserted into the Aavia device, which contains sensor technology that recognizes pill count and position and relays information to the consumer-facing app. The app sends persistent and customizable reminders to the user’s phone via Bluetooth as well as allows users to see what days and what time they took the pill.
For Aavia’s users, the device provides more than a friendly reminder to take the pill on time. Its intended benefits exceed medicine adherence by integrating the pill-taking process into busy schedules, factoring in time zone changes to reduce uncertainty, and minimizing the anxiety that results when a pill is missed or late. Users have reported that the app feels like a best friend rather than a nagging significant other or startling alarm. The app encourages adherence by sending notifications every 30 minutes until it registers that a pill has been removed, and if a user takes her pill before the set time, no notification is sent.
Early devices allowed users to provide feedback and request features for future releases. The team developed 3D-printed devices and generated interest for the Beta product. This August, the release of their Beta device sold out in just a few weeks and built out consumer demand for future releases. The team has incorporated feature requests such as timezone change adjustments, customizable notifications, calculating your daily pill-taking streak, and maximizing battery life (the device currently holds a 9-month charge). Future versions will allow women to change the 30-minute notification time and much more. The team also plans to incorporate recommendations from ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) for instances when women forget to take the pill on time for a streak or miss a pill entirely.
Competing with Hardware in a Software Market
While taking birth control medication can empower women to take ownership of their reproductive health, it requires strict adherence to protect against unplanned pregnancies and realize its 99.9% effectiveness. The team realized that there were several software solutions that helped birth control users set reminders, but they often fell short of effectively assisting adherence. Similar to an alarm clock, a user may get a reminder but turn it off only to forget that the alarm had buzzed in the first place. Apps like myPill or Bedsider will nudge you to remember to take the pill, but don’t have any way to know if you have actually taken it or not. Other medicine adherence apps such as Dosecast and MedHelper act as a pharmacist by sending reminders and alerting you when you require a prescription refill. With 10M+ women taking the birth control pill in the US alone, daily consistent adherence is a pain point for users.
Aavia began to conceive a different approach and worked with potential customers to design an IoT device built by women for women. With the decision to move forward with hardware, the team went back to the drawing board to design a user-friendly, sleek, feminine device. Paired with an equally beautiful consumer app, the product senses when a reminder is ignored or ‘snoozed’ by recognizing that the corresponding pill is still in the pack and keeps sending reminders until the pill is removed. Whereas their competitors are mostly app focused, Aavia has created a reliable technology and patent-pending device. One hardware competitor has emerged in Finland. The company, Popit, has created a clip that similarly detects when pills are popped out of blister packs. The Aavia team is excited that competitors are validating the space, and remain focused on optimizing the pill-taking experience for their users.
A Team on a Mission
Last June, co-founders Aagya Mathur (CEO – Sloan MBA ’18), Aya Suzuki (CPO – MIT MechE ’18), Alexis Wong (CTO – HKU) started exploring solutions to improving medication adherence based on personal and professional experiences. While they researched a variety of problems surrounding taking prescription medicine on time they landed on a common complaint from women taking the birth control pill.
Even among men they interviewed, they often heard that they were constantly reminding significant others to take the pill on time or that a child was a result of an unintended pregnancy.
Aavia dug into this problem and found that the risk for unintended pregnancy increases from 0.1% to 9% when the pill is not taken at the same time every day. This has resulted in 1M unintended pregnancies per year in the US alone (CDC, WHO ’11).
The team harnessed their strongest assets, their shared passion and highly disparate skill sets, to push forward and understand key pain points and demographics for their core users. With Alexis’s technical expertise in both firmware and electronics, Aya’s mechanical engineering and product design focus, and Aagya’s healthcare consulting and design thinking expertise, they took ownership of various parts of the business and charged forward with their mission. They took advantage of resources at MIT and participated in various competitive accelerators (MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node, 100k Challenge, MIT deltav) to further their product and customer development for future iterations of their device.
Putting Aavia in Every Pill Taker’s Pocket
Aavia recognizes that many need and want this solution and are hustling to make it available as quickly as possible. The team is heads down working to produce as many devices as possible and secure pre-seed funding. The devices are currently available for pre-order at (www.aavia.io/) and StartU readers can use code ‘StartU’ to receive a beta device.
With a mission-driven focus to effect as many end users as possible and change lives for the better, I am rooting for their continued success. Given the praise they’ve collected from users so far, and the hotly anticipated wider launch, Aavia certainly seems like a team to watch.