Conversation with James Wyman, Co-founder, Pillo Health
Co-founders Aiden Feng, James Wyman and Emanuele Musini have come up with Pillo, a personal healthcare robot that can keep track of your medication, remind you to take them, answer your health-related queries, connect you directly to doctors, and can also notify your family members when you miss your medication.
Startup-Buzz Media found out more about Pillo in an interaction with Co-founder, James Wyman. Read on.
Question: How did the very idea of Pillo germinate?
Pillo is an intelligent health and wellness assistant. The story behind Pillo comes from a personal experience that one of our founders had around medication non-adherence – a close family member regularly struggled to remember to take very important medication and ultimately became very sick. We realized that there had to be a better way, not just for people to manage their medication, but for people to manage their health (and the health of their loved ones) at home.
Pillo is not just for the sick. Although it’s true that Pillo can massively improve the lives of people living with chronic illness and who have to take medication every day. Pillo is for anybody that wants to better understand and monitor their health and wellness needs (or the needs of a loved one).
Question: Could you briefly recount to us how the three of you- Aiden Feng, James Wyman and Emanuele Musini- came together for developing Pillo?
The original idea for Pillo came from Emanuele Musini in late 2014. James Wyman had just started Columbia business school and took a passive advisory role for the first few months while settling in to school. He then transitioned to full time in the summer of 2015, around the same time that our engineering team came on board. Aiden Feng was finishing his joint MBA / MD degree at Harvard Business School. He joined the team around the same time as James Wyman in order to lead our healthcare initiative and ensure that we had all of the tools needed to properly tap in to the U.S healthcare system.
Question: Apart from your Indiegogo campaign, how do you plan to attract customers?
After the Indiegogo campaign we will focus 100% on setting up our manufacturing operations. During those months we will continue pre-orders via our website, as well as additional online channels. We will then ramp up marketing in early 2017 as we prepare to ship product. We will also tap into distribution channels provided by our partners in the home health, healthcare, and retail spaces (still to be announced).
Question: Who all are your competitors and what USP does Pillo has over them?
We have several potential competitors in the space, depending on the perspective through which you view Pillo. As a pure medication management tool, there are competitors such as Hero Health and other connected Pill Dispensers. There are also software plays such as AI Cure and Medisafe, who offer mobile solutions for the adherence problem, but without the hardware element. Personally, we feel that the strongest competition will come from the likes of Amazon, Google, and potentially Apple. These companies are all developing connected platforms for services in the home – for example, Amazon’s Alexa product. We too are a platform for the connected home, however our key differentiator relative to these products is our focus on the healthcare vertical, and our unique combination of hardware and software solutions.
Question: Pillo puts users in direct contact with healthcare experts. Is there an inbuilt contact directory?
- How did you go about tying-up with medical professionals?
- Is there a fee involved when one contacts the healthcare expert via Pillo?
1) We are using third party partners to provide the telemedicine services via our device. We will leverage their back end including their directory of healthcare professionals.
2) Yes. This will depend on the rates charged by our telemedicine partners and on the type of healthcare provider that you speak to.
Question: What kind of success have you been getting till now? Can you shine light on some numbers?
Our Indiegogo campaign has reached its goal and is now about 110% funded. We still have about 24 days left to run. Other than that I would prefer not to share numbers, for now.
Question: Was it difficult to gain traction among customers or was it a cake-walk?
It depends. Pillo is solving a critical need. People who take vitamins or medication, or have a relative or loved one that requires a Pillo, understand 100% the value of the product. It is very easy to get traction among that audience because they understand the problem (on a very personal level) that Pillo is trying to solve, and desperately need an effective solution in their lives. Pillo is years ahead of any other products in the space and the best solution that they have seen so far.
Question: Apart from Indiegogo, was there any other source of funding, and what did you guys do to secure it?
Yes. We originally funded Pillo using our own money, as well as raised angel & seed capital.
Question: How hard is it for a young startup like yours to secure funding?
Raising capital has been an exciting process. There are so many startups vying for the same dollars that you really need to have a unique selling point in order to get the attention of Angels and Venture Capitalists. In addition, hardware is inherently riskier and more expensive than software. However, our product is addressing a critical need in a massive and inefficient market. For people who understand the healthcare and hardware spaces, and who share our vision, Pillo is a very attractive financing opportunity.
Question: What’s next after Indiegogo? What are your future plans of expansion?
See above. We will focus on delivering product to our Indiegogo backers on schedule. We will also continue partnership discussions with several large distribution and pharmacy partners in the U.S and in Europe.
Question: What key lessons have you learnt during your budding stage?
1) One of the most exciting challenges has been to convince people that the future is today. Voice and facial recognition and artificial intelligence all sound like futuristic endeavors that are too ambitious for a young startup to incorporate into their solution. However, that simply is not the case. We are combining in house solutions with open source software from large technology companies to provide this unique combination of services, and we are 100% confident in our ability to deliver. Our prototypes are performing well and we are excited to introduce people to the future of home healthcare very soon.
2) Listening to your customers is critical in the product development phase. We conducted hundreds of surveys and questionnaires and interviews with all types of customers. Really understanding their core needs and pain points has helped shape what Pillo has become today.
3) A strong core team is critical to the success of any startup. We maintain honest and open lines of communication at all times, and it has served us very well to date.
Question: One most important lesson that you wish you knew as a younger person.
Find a mentor. Someone who can offer you objective and honest advice when you need it most. It’s all too easy to get stuck in the weeds and to lose sight of the bigger picture… use this person to help you regain the proper perspective when you need it the most. You’ll be surprised how willing people are to fulfill this role for you and to help you develop and grow as a person.
Question: A few words of inspiration for people dreaming of becoming entrepreneurs.
Believe in your abilities. Take that first step. And remember that failure is just another excellent opportunity to learn and to grow.
Curious about Pillo? Leave your questions and comments in the our comments section below.
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