Neopenda, a Chicago-based public benefit corporation, is now raising funds in an equity crowdfunding campaign. The campai...
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Our name comes from “neo” - for neonates, and “penda” - Swahili for love.
In fact, a newborn born in a developing country like Uganda has a nine times poorer chance of surviving its first month than one born in the United States.
It doesn’t have to be this way. WHO data shows that 80% of newborn deaths are preventable. The primary causes are complications of preterm birth, birth asphyxia, and infections. Although these conditions are treatable, many newborns do not receive the attention they need because facilities are overcrowded, understaffed, and ill-equipped. Nurses in these facilities don’t have the tools they need to provide high quality neonatal care. As a result, babies are suffering—avoidably.
At Neopenda, we believe that all communities deserve access to innovative, life-saving health technology. There exists a massive opportunity to create appropriately designed medical devices for a largely untapped market in emerging economies, and to do so in a way that can improve quality of care for millions of patients in need.
Our first product is a wearable 4-in-1 vital signs monitor designed to enable more responsive and appropriate medical care of newborn infants in resource constrained hospital facilities. The patent-pending device uses reflectance pulse oximetry and temperature sensors, and is worn in a reusable band. It continuously measures:
The vitals from many devices are wirelessly displayed on a tablet, where the nurse can see what’s going on with all the babies. She gets alerted when vitals go outside the healthy range, so that she knows where her attention is needed and give patients the best chance to survive and thrive.
Today, nurses in these facilities have to check babies’ vitals by hand. However, hospitals don’t have enough staff to safely monitor newborns as often as they need to be. Neopenda’s product is the only option known to us that continuously measures all crucial vital signs, and unlike other patient monitors or baby monitors, is tailored for use in low-resource settings. We’ve designed our product to be affordable, easy to use, and withstand tough environments for a long time. It doesn’t require continuous stable power or wireless internet.
We’re dedicated to getting this right. We’ve spent the last three years in hospitals in Uganda learning from stakeholders and testing the product with nurses and doctors through our human-centered design process.
We’ve already joined forces with a diverse set of partners across the value chain:
We will sell our product in packages containing 15 wearables, 1 tablet, and all associated software, power supplies, and accessories. This package provides comprehensive monitoring for an entire 15-bed newborn unit for less than half the price of a single machine traditionally used in the U.S.
Gross profit margin on the package: 60-70%
System installation, training, and product support is included
Dual distribution modes for rapid market entry:
Selling direct to hospitals via in-country wholesale distributors such as the Joint Medical Stores in Uganda
Partnering with aid agencies such as Doctors Without Borders, whose international presence will help us rapidly scale
Additionally, the detailed frontline health data we’re collecting is of great interest to parties like NGOs and Ministries of Health. We’re currently working on a strategy to aggregate, analyze, and monetize this valuable data.
We are a team of biomedical engineers and public health experts who care deeply about saving lives and transforming the way health tech is approached in emerging markets.
Co-founders Sona (CEO) and Teresa (CTO) began Neopenda in 2015 as graduate students in Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University, after witnessing first hand in Uganda the massive opportunity to sustainably improve health outcomes for vulnerable patients. We also have Dorothy and Michael based in Kampala, Uganda, working on program activities and research activities, respectively.
We have a lot of exciting milestones to accomplish in the next year, and we need your help to get there! Here’s what we will do next:
We will be using your investment dollars to bring our solution to market and accelerate our growth:
Neopenda is pioneering health tech in emerging markets. We're starting with a vital signs monitoring tool to help save vulnerable newborn lives.
We invite you to join us, as we create medical solutions for where they’re needed most!
The maximum valuation at which your investment converts
into equity shares or cash.
If a trigger event for Neopenda occurs, the discount provision
gives investors equity shares (or equal value in cash) at a reduced price.
The smallest investment amount that Neopenda is accepting.
A SAFE is a Simple Agreement for Future Equity. An investor makes a cash investment in a company, but gets company stock at a later date, in connection with a specific event. The Crowd SAFE is a modified SAFE that is better suited for crowdfunding.
A SAFE is a Simple Agreement for Future Equity. An investor makes a cash investment in a company, but gets company stock at a later date, in connection with a specific event. The Crowd SAFE is a modified SAFE that is better suited for crowdfunding.
$25,000 – $1,070,000
needs to raise
before the deadline.
The maximum amount
is willing to raise is
Neopenda needs to reach their minimum funding goal before the deadline
If they don’t, all investments will be refunded.
Vital signs monitoring is a long-established standard of quality inpatient care. There is strong clinical evidence behind the practice of continuous vital signs monitoring of critically ill patients, and it is especially important for the management of at-risk neonatal patients in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) or similarly functioning units. Measurement of vital signs is a component of neonatal care guidelines outlined by the WHO. Vital signs are indicators of the body’s most basic functions, and to medical professionals are markers of disease severity. The primary vital signs include heart rate (HR) or pulse rate (PR), respiratory rate (RR) – or rate of breathing, peripheral arterial oxygen saturation (SpO2) – a measure of the percentage of hemoglobin sites in red blood cells occupied by oxygen molecules, blood pressure (BP), and temperature. Neopenda chose to include pulse rate, respiration rate, oxygen saturation, and temperature in the device because they are the four recommended by neonatologists to monitor continuously in at-risk neonates. Blood pressure is a lagging indicator that typically does not change until after the other vitals do, and is not commonly measured continuously.
Resource-constrained hospitals present many unique engineering and design challenges. Hospitals require equipment that is durable and long lasting, can withstand extreme conditions of dust, heat, and humidity, and do not rely on continuous power or WiFi. We are designing a comprehensive solution that is ready out-of-the-box; we provide training, education, and maintenance in addition to the vital sign monitoring system.
We have three customer segments for our vital signs monitoring product: private health facilities, public health facilities, and NGOs. We will deploy first in private facilities, due to their relatively greater agility in purchasing decisions. Simultaneously we are engaging Ministries of Health for broad reach in public facilities, and international NGOs for broader scale implementation.
While many developing countries are actively strengthening their own regulatory guidelines, FDA approval or CE Mark (the European standard) is commonly accepted. We are developing medical devices and as such are following the international standards for quality, safety, and efficacy. We are currently pursuing CE Marking for our vital signs monitoring solution, and will be regulated as a Class IIb medical device.
There is a significant gap in the vital signs monitoring space: the sophisticated multi-parameter monitors utilized in high-income settings are extremely costly and not appropriately designed for the environmental constraints and users in low-resource settings. They are also nearly impossible to maintain, repair, and get spare parts for in places like Uganda. Similarly, baby monitor products commercially available in the U.S. are designed for American parents, and cannot meet the need for clinical monitoring in a Ugandan hospital, in addition to being prohibitively power-hungry and expensive. Sparse donated equipment and spot checking tools fail to provide the comprehensive monitoring crucial to timely, life-saving care for critically ill neonates. Currently, most hospitals in emerging markets do not have the equipment or the staff to routinely monitor newborns’ key vital signs. A needs assessments in 20 hospitals across Uganda by the Neopenda team found that the average nurse-to-baby ratio in special care baby units was 13 newborns per nurse, and only 4% of newborns were monitored with continuous multiparameter vital signs monitors.
We are currently undergoing clinical studies to validate the efficacy and feasibility of our solution prior to commercialization at the end of 2019.
No- this solution is the first of a portfolio of medical products. We are building the infrastructure necessary to design and develop needs-based medical solutions for emerging markets. In spending significant time in hospitals, problems that can be solved with technology naturally emerge. We have already filed for a provisional patent on a secondary product related to oxygen delivery.
Africa is one of the world's fastest growing economic regions, and the burgeoning medical device market presents unique opportunities. Africa’s 1.2 billion people make up 16.6% of the total global population, and noteworthy is the disproportionately young population—62% of Africa’s population is under 25 years old. With increased urbanization across the continent (half the population in Africa will be living in cities by 2030), access to health facilities and skilled health workers is improving, and expanding healthcare capacity a priority area. The addressable market for medical devices in Africa is estimated at $4.9B.2 It is expected to grow to around $7.1B by 2023, at a CAGR of 6.3%. Ministries of Health in developing countries are focusing more and more on procuring essential medical equipment. Health facilities in both the private and public sectors are increasing budgets for medical equipment, with a particular focus on neonatal care. Neopenda is excited to enter as a key player in the growing and largely untapped medical device market in emerging markets.
Yes! Though still in development, we have been working with physicians, industry experts, and regulatory consultants to ensure or design fully satisfies safety recommendations and requirements. We are extremely conscious of the fact that neonates, particularly preterm and otherwise ill ones, are very physically vulnerable. The Neopenda device has passed safety testing by a third party laboratory and is in compliance with specified standards of IEC 60601-1 Edition 3.1 (pertaining to medical electrical equipment safety), ISO 80601-2-56 (pertaining to clinical thermometers), and ISO 80601-2-61 (pertaining to pulse oximeter equipment). All clinical trials are conducted under Institutional Review Board oversight, and the product will undergo CE Marking before commercialization.
Yes. We have developed a unique comprehensive monitoring solution tailored for low-resource settings. The product is currently patent pending; a PCT patent was filed in August 2017. We also have a provisional patent on a second product concept.
Sona: Well I can't say that I've been on a TV show before.
Sona: Hi, I'm Sona Shah, and I'm CEO of Neopenda. We're a medical device start up for high growth emerging markets. Right after my undergraduate. Degree, went back to graduate school, where I met my now co-founder. We had a unique opportunity to travel out to Uganda. We spent a lot of time new born wards and found that there was just so many critically ill newborns, and really not enough nurses to care for them. We thought, 'why not use our engineering backgrounds to try to help create a solution to a problem like this?'
Sona: A lot of the tech scene is here, so I seemed to be coming out to the Bay area every month, every couple months or so, and all of the Drapers have really interesting back grounds. I'm excited to show the latest version of our model, the more feedback we can get, the better off the product and solution will be.
Tim: Before we continue, we'd like to do something special. We are going to go back across the street, to Draper University. We showed the Draper University students one of the pitches, and we're going to see what they think.
Courtney: Hi, I'm Courtney.
Fatee: I'm Fatee.
Kevin.: I'm Kevin.
Courtney: So, do you guys think there's an art to pitching?
Kevin.: I think definitely the biggest thing about pitching, is making sure you communicate your ideas clearly and just keeping it as simple as possible.
Fatee: It should include all of the necessary parts; the problem, the solution, and the competition, team, and the business model too.
Courtney: I think it's really important that an entrepreneur can share their story and their vision, 'cause that drives their company and their 'why' needs to come out most importantly in a pitch, so the investors can see their motivation behind it.
Sona: Hi, I'm Sona, and I'm CEO of Neopenda. Now if you've been inside a hospital ward here in the US, I'm sure you've seen a room full of medical equipment. Well that image isn't quite the same, in places like Uganda. It's not hard to imagine why three million newborns are dying every year low resource settings, mostly from preventable causes.
Sona: We have developed a patent pending, wearable vital signs monitor that continuously measure four crucial vital signs all in this small wearable device. The vital signs from multiple newborns wirelessly connects to a single tablet, where a nurse is immediately alerted of any newborns in distress, and for just 25,000 dollars we're selling in packages of 15 wearables and one tablet to two different costumer segments; hospitals and air agencies.
Sona: It's not just neonatal patients that need this, its pediatric populations, surgical applications. As we continue to build a pipeline of complimentary products, we're really entering as a trail blazer in the 4.9 billion dollar medical device market in just Africa.
Sona: We've [inaudible 00:30:17] designed our first product with over 150 users, across 30 hospitals in Uganda. So to keep all this momentum going, we invite you to join our open 750,000 dollar round, so that together we can create medical solutions for where they're needed most.
Tim: So tell me about the four patches, and why this is new? I mean babies get these four patches all the time.
Polly: Four patches?
Sona: So there's four vital signs that we're measuring. We're measuring pulse rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation, and temperature, and all of that is in this wearable device.
Tim: Oh, it's only one device?
Sona: So it's one device that measures these four vital signs, and you're absolutely correct. Here in the US, every baby in a NICU type setting is hooked up to thousands of dollars worth of monitoring equipment. But when you take that equipment out, even if you donate it, it fails because it doesn't meet the design constraints.
Kevin.: Did she say it's 25,000 dollars per device?
Courtney: I think so.
Kevin.: That seems a little bit expensive for merchant countries.
Bill: I thought I heard you say it's on 150 babies in Uganda now.
Sona: No so we've, it's not on 150 babies, we've collected feedback from 150 nurses. So we've taken our iterative prototypes out to Uganda, we've collected feedback, involved them in really every step of the process.
Bill: How many babies-
Tim: No they haven't put it on a baby yet.
Kevin.: What I'd really like to know is the background on the team? She says she's an engineer, right? I want to know if there's anyone on the team that has a medical background, at least.
Sona: We have done bench testing, of course, to validate the accuracy, and we're going into the first phase of accuracy studies in Uganda. Ultimately when it is commercialized it can be used on, we estimate 50 babies a year.
Sonny: Can you give us a little background on your self and your team?
Sona: My background is a chemical engineering and I did my masters in biomedical engineering. I meet my co-founder and CTO at Columbia University, where we were both pursuing our masters. We had a unique opportunity to-
Tim: You're still at Columbia?
Sona: Nope, I graduated two years ago, and now we're working full time on Neopenda.
Tim: And why are you doing this?
Fatee: That's a great question.
Sona: That's a great question, I think there is such an untapped opportunity to go into emerging markets. After my undergrad I spent some time in western Kenya and just fell in love with the culture and community, but saw a lot of inequities that existed there. I came back to the US and worked in Pharma for two years and loved the engineering and health care but realized that my kids in Kenya would never see the medicines I was helping make.
Polly: It's sort of interesting that you can do all that in that one little headpiece, where we have all these, this huge equipment in America. Is it really doing the same thing?
Sona: Here in the US we have many more bells and whistles. We've intentionally paired it down to the essentials for what these environments look like.
Tim: What does that cost to make, and then how much do you sell it for?
Sona: So we're selling in packages of 15 of these wearables and one tablet so everything is self contained within the system, at a price plan of 25,000 US dollars, and we're operating at profit margins of over 60 percent.
Tim: And what's the market for just neonatal devices? How big is that in Africa and India and Southeast Asia? How big is that?
Sona: So the unique thing about a vital signs monitor is that it's not just for neonatal patients. We can readily adapt it for pediatrics, surgical, community health workers. We estimate that medical device market to be 715 million dollars just for the vital signs monitor.
Bill: I think it's excellent that you're doing this in Africa. I think it's important to cover Africa before you worry too much about the rest of them.
Tim: When I was in Africa they told me that there are a billion people in Africa today, in 50 years going to be four billion people in Africa. A lot of babies are going to be born in Africa.
Kevin.: I feel bad that she has to hold this baby the entire time she's giving the pitch, being grilled by these judges.
Bill: Be careful of that baby.
Sona: [crosstalk 00:34:17] I should carry her more carefully.
Polly: I worry about his neck.
Bill: One handed, terrific.
Tim: Well, thank you so much for coming to Meet the Drapers.
Sona: I appreciate your time.
Bill: Good job.
Sona: It was really fun to be able to chat with all of the Drapers. The questions that they were asking were really interesting and intriguing for the business. What we could take away for next time is really focusing on the markets that we're entering in and being very clear that this isn't a product for the US because it's not necessary here.
Sona: Bill Draper in particular, I think, he has a lot of expertise in this are and really understood the potential market and opportunity for what we're doing.
Sona: So the time is now to really combine social impact and sustainable financial return. We invite you to join us in our open round and encourage you to ask us any questions.
Tim: So now it's up to the judges, but before we go to the judges we have a special group of guests today. They all are students from Draper University of heroes, they've got some comments, and we want to ask them what they thought.
Courtney: I really wish we would have seen what she wanted to do with that 750,000 dollar, how that's going to help her company explode, and become the next big unicorn and take over Uganda.
Kevin.: I'd like to know more about the team. Is there anyone with a medical background?
Fatee: She should give the device the Drapers.
Courtney: And also if they have any advisors, that are advising their team, that would be really important to know.
Kevin.: I would invest, passion is there and also it's a really, really big market. Great opportunity.
Courtney: And I think there's a great exit strategy, there's already [inaudible 00:36:18], heavy eye on the prize. So I definitely would invest.
Fatee: I am not sure about, probably I wouldn't invest, I need to see the product while it's working. After seeing the devices working, properly and really good, after that I can invest.
Kevin.: I think being a VC is really exciting because you get to see all these technologies before they happen, right? You're at the forefront of all this emerging tech. I mean blockchain, VR, and all that now.
Courtney: Especially with these mission based causes where they're going. This is going to save people's life, and to be a part of that is a pretty amazing place to be. So I definitely think that's a perk of being a venture capitalist.
Fatee: Things look a bit different than being on the other side. In here I can see the missing parts and the good parts better.
Courtney: It's definitely a lot easier side of the table than the entrepreneur. You kinda get to sit back a little bit.
Tim: Thanks guys! Now lets see what our judges had to say that day.
Tim: What did you think Sonny?
Sonny: I think it's a great cause, what she's trying to do. My only issue would be would is how you make this expanding grow into Uganda and these countries where it's hard to really get traction. But I loved the idea and vision and how she's trying to help people. I think there's a lot of need there, it's how you take it to market in these countries where there's a lot of pain that could come in the long run.
Polly: And it seemed like it was a little plastic thing. It looked like it would be easy to ship, easy to use, and so hugely helpful.
Bill: I'm a little suspicious that it may not solve all these problems. Even if it isn't quite perfectly accurate it would probably be a good thing.
Polly: Better than having nothing.
Sonny: Yup, I agree with that.
Tim: So I think the product is what you are all focused on, and I'm focused on her. I didn't feel like she's the kind of person who's willing to break down walls to make something happen. I did believe that the product was interesting. I'm always looking for that thing, that little x-factor that's going to drive somebody to do this for their life. I don't feel that here.
Tim: So we feel the crystal ball, and do we have it?
Bill: And if anybody took us seriously when this show began-
Polly: They don't anymore.
Bill: They don't now.
Tim: And I feel it. Everybody in TV land, you ready? Thumbs up. Thumbs down. Thumbs all around. Oh, two up, two down, that's usually a good sign.
Tim: You've heard from us, now you guys get to decide on your own. You get to be the judge, you just go to meetthedrapers.com and you're a share holder.
Tim: And now back to today's episode. It's been great here on this show, we've had a great day. Seen a lot of interesting companies. [crosstalk 00:39:15]
Polly: So what's the story with the poop test? I am curious, 'cause did you say this on the air about you taking it and finding out that spinach is bad for you?
Naveen: Well more than that [crosstalk 00:39:26] and really the skin, skin conditions actually depends a lot on your gut. So you can see the acne, the eczema, the psoriasis, and the dry skin. When people actually eat the right nutrients and the right food, we have had our customers tell us that acne completely disappears, their skin starts to glow.
Tim: So we are all just a function of our gut?
Polly: It's amazing.
Tim: All of this is on gut feel.
Naveen: Whenever the mom do the gut check, listen to your gut, what were they talking about?
Naveen: Billy's thinking, 'I want my poop tested.' [crosstalk 00:40:02]
Polly: He's like, 'why did I flush it down?' [crosstalk 00:40:05]
Tim: He's smart enough not to do that.
Bill: I'm smart enough not to enter this whole conversation.
Tim: Polly, now that you've been through all of this a couple of days, what is it that grabs you about some of the entrepreneurs and doesn't grab you about other entrepreneurs?
Polly: Generally speaking it's their passion and also their communication skills affect me because, maybe because of my performance background, but I feel like the ones that feel like they're really actively engaged in talking to me-
Tim: Good, well I mean eventually we're going to also have Jesse Draper back, but thank you and thank you and thank you.
Polly: She had to have a baby. [crosstalk 00:40:49]
Tim: This was really fun.
Sonny: Thank you.
Tim: Great, and we'll see you next week on ...
Group: Meet the Drapers!
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