Teddy The Guardian looks like a normal plush teddy bear, but he is much more than that. He is full of sensors to track the vital signs of the kid who is playing with him. When a child holds the bear, sensors detect relevant health parameters like heart rate, oxygen saturation and body temperature, capture them and send real time data to a mobile app managed by paediatricians and parents, with no stress for the children. This award-winning startup is based in London and Zagreb. We interviewed Josipa Majic (@JosipaMajic) and Ana Burica (@AnaBurica), Teddy The Guardian co-founders.
Question. Teddy The Guardian focuses on a pretty specific need (measuring a kid’s vitals), how did you discover this niche? And what’s more important, how did you come up with such an original solution?
Answer. This team has worked for a couple of years together building software for medical niches prior to Teddy The Guardian. A part of our work was talking to doctors, nurses and visiting clinics in order to be as close to our clients as possible. One of those visits made us really curious because we noticed one entire paediatric department covered in plush toys. We were aware of the purpose but that was one surprisingly “gamified” department. After talking to the main nurse we got familiar with the fact plush toys are used in order to distract children so their vitals can be measured properly. That was where we figured: let’s put those two together, let’s integrate medical technology in the plush and see how children would accept it. Results were more than satisfactory.
Q. In which stage is the project? Is Teddy The Guardian 100% ready? What are your short term challenges?
A. We have entered the production phase where we need to, among other things, arrange the supply chain and finalise distribution arrangements. There is rather big interest among distributors in Europe, Asia, Australia and both Americas so we have a chance to work with the best, which is one of our requirements for Teddy’s representation. As hardware is quite challenging in general, delivery of our first batch is definitely a milestone we are working very hard to achieve.
Q. Would you give us an overview in terms of numbers (turnover, clients/orders, employees, etc.)?
A. The company currently has 16 people working on the product, including the founders. The team involves senior ex Motorola engineers, developers, University professors with unique expertise in the field of sensors and signal processing, PhD level mathematicians, marketers and extraordinary advisory board. Using phased approach we have focus initially on B2B customers in order to build professional testimonials prior to Teddy’s B2C market entry. Although the product is not available yet, we have received 600 K Euro in preorders mostly from hospitals and pharmaceuticals that want to perform trials and adopt the new child-friendly approach to their pediatric departments. In Q2 this year we plan to send the first batch to our B2B clients, do the 2 rounds of optimization process and dedicate Q4 of the year to the expansion on the B2C market.
Q. Is it true that doctors prefer an “ugly” app interface? Is it difficult to build a product that potentially impacts on different segments at the same time (doctors and clinicians, kids and parents, hospitals…)?
A. Doctors prefer clarity and simplicity even when web or mobile apps come into play because data is what matters the most at the end of the day. Sometimes it’s rather challenging to make something clear and easy to navigate but it doesn’t mean that the interface has to be “ugly”.
Q. Zagreb or London? Europe or US?
A. Well, we like to call ourselves a European based company because there definitely is something about Europe, especially when discussing design of products we make, that makes us spend most of our time here and create innovation. We have worked a lot on the structure of the company and at this point Zagreb and London are equally represented and it really does make a good and productive balance. Sales and marketing are in the UK most of the time while the product itself is being developed in Croatia. When we visit the States, there is always a clear mission behind it and when we achieve it we come back. That is the way we prefer USA most.
Q. As an entrepreneur, is it tough to be a young woman? Do you think male and female have the same opportunities when setting up a business?
A. Being a woman in business is an amazing asset that you need to take advantage of. It is not always easy and straightforward but when you are a part of a startup world a lot of other things represent obstacles on your way and we would not say being a woman is the most challenging one.
Q. How is a normal day in your life like? What do you enjoy and hate the most?
A. Good thing about our entrepreneurial day is that it is absolutely never the same and it is hardly ever the way you planned it the day before, which keeps dynamics at the high level and that is always good once you are used to it. In the past couple of months we spend a lot of time in our lovely basement where the most of electronics is created and tested. There is also a lot of packing and airports involved in our mission to send this product to as many kids out there as possible so it surely is unpredictable and we are trying to make it as fun as it gets and with Teddy that is the easiest job ever.
Find out more about Teddy The Guardian watching this BBC video.