Throwback Thursdays: Interview with Regina Vatterott a Social Entrepreneur, Healthcare Disruptor, and COO/CO-founder of EllieGrid!



Welcome to the third throwback interview series! Every Thursday at 7PM EST, I will be releasing one of the older blogs (until I run out eventually) that I have released before on my previous platform. 

I am super excited to release an interview with Regina, a rising successful superstar entrepreneur who founded EllieGrid, a smart bluetooth pillbox for active lifestyles. 

"Organize pills in seconds, set medication reminders, and track adherence."

Regina Vatterott is a founder and COO. Regina’s responsibilities include overseeing marketing and operations, and making sure we stay true to our brand in everything we do. She has experience advertising for thousands of independent pharmacies. She is passionate about using entrepreneurship and innovation to make a positive impact.

What is the motivation behind co-founding EllieGrid? How did you come up with the name? 

The motivation for the smart pill box came from my co-founder Abe Matamoros. His grandfather got deathly ill after forgetting to take his meds for only three short days. Abe called me soon after this incidence because I was working in marketing for independent pharmacies. My personal motivation was that I have always had at least one family member or loved one who struggled with medication management whether it be an aunt going through cancer treatment, a cousin with prescription drug abuse tendencies, or a sibling who simply never remembers to take his medications on time. After doing some research, I realized that they were far from the only ones dealing with this issue. In the US, medication non-adherence causes approximately 30%-50% of treatment failures and costs the healthcare system $300 billion each year in the US alone. We wanted to find a solution that was simple, smart, empowering, and affordable. 

The name was inspired by elephants. Elephants are known for their great memories and are a widely loved animal. Grid is referring to the grid of compartments. Somehow it stuck. 

Could you discuss the tech architecture and connectivity behind your smart product (both the hardware and mobile app)? For instance, how does the smart pill box organize all medications in seconds, set reminders, track adherence, etc. 

Thanks to our patent pending design, there is no sorting involved. Users simply pour their pills directly into EllieGrid from the bottle. There are seven compartments. Each compartment contains one type of medications. You simply take the bottle and pour the pills into the correct compartment, thus taking 30 seconds to organize all of your pills instead of 30 minutes. You use the mobile app to keep track of what medication is in each compartment and set reminders. When it is time to take a medication the device will light up over each compartment with the number of pills that need to be taken from each and an alarm will ring. The box senses when it is opened so it can know when a user takes their medications. This information is communicated via WiFi & BLE Bluetooth. 

It makes more sense if you see a picture. If you want the technical details I can connect you with my CTO who can explain the process a little better than I can. 

Who is your primary target audience and how do you effectively market your product? 

Our target audience is the Baby Boomer generation who take four or more pills or vitamins daily but I can't tell you how many inquiries come from people 35 and younger so we service this market as well. We effectively market the product through Facebook, TV ads, and other online retailers. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you encountered thus far as both a co-founder and COO? 

One of the biggest challenges has been trying to learn everything I can about manufacturing, software, and healthcare when I do not have a background in those fields. Feeling like the only person in the room who had no idea what was going on during some of the earliest conference calls threw my confidence off guard. I am catching on thanks to my fantastic team and mentors for patiently answering all my many questions. I also have to continuously focus on saying no to distractions as do all other entrepreneurs especially for the first couple of years. 

Did you have go through any government or health regulations for the smart pill box? What were some barriers to entry within this industry and how did you overcome it? 

EllieGrid is a class-one medical device which is the same class that eye glasses are in. We will have to go through FCC testing once we start outsourcing our supply chain soon. There are some HIPPA regulations we are careful to follow. For example, we cannot identify our user's name to their medications or make any health related suggestions for the time being. 

Pre-existing competitors can be barriers to entry. There are three types of competitors. The first, and by far most popular, is the plastic weekly pill organizer. These plastic containers usually cost no more than $10 but do not have smart capabilities and take a long time to organize. The second type of competitor is the internet pharmacy that sends patients pre-organized medications to their homes. We have found that these services have not been considered successful because they have a high user acquisition cost due to the fact that their users must transfer to their pharmacy, they take away from the valuable face-to-face interaction between the patient and pharmacists, and they do not provide real-time adherence data. The last type of competitor is the smart device. These devices have minimal notification capabilities, high costs, poor designs, take long periods of time to organize, and are essentially plastic weekly organizers with an alarm attached to them. 

In addition to our patent pending design that makes medication management easier than ever, and the fact we are approaching the market in a completely different way, what makes EllieGrid special is our brand. Products currently in the market are designed to be medical devices. EllieGrid is designed to be an attractive consumer lifestyle product before a medical device. EllieGrid will be an attractive product choice for consumers, solving both a utility problem and an image problem. We will also brand EllieGrid as a company for people who take vitamins and supplements, which in many cases are the healthiest people. By building a brand that is associated with being healthy, people who are sick will be empowered by EllieGrid. 

When can we expect the product to be released to public? 

We plan for our crowdfunding campaign to go live on November 10th 2016! Our goal is to have products shipped by Q2 of 2017. 

In the long run, how do you plan to make a positive impact within the health industry with your company and its products? 

In the short run, our goal is to make a positive impact by helping those who struggle with non-adherence stay healthy and out of hospitals. In the long run, our goal is to use the data we collect to prevent users from ever becoming non-adherent to begin with. 

Even though we are currently focused on the hardware, we are planning ahead for the good we can do with data. EllieGrid can collect medication-adherence data from it's users with their permission. For example, we can know when a user is being non-adherent and share that information with families, caregivers, and healthcare providers so timely interventions can be made if a user is in danger. 

Any advice to our aspiring entrepreneurs? 

When you have an idea, ask 100 strangers for honest feedback then reevaluate the concept in order to perfect your pitch. Then do it again to another set of 100 strangers and log feedback. Identify those who say they would refer the idea to a friend and then hyper focus on them as your target market. Then find a team who is equally passionate about the idea and pushes you to work even harder. Ignore distractions and focus on completing task B before worrying about task F or M or Z. Better yet, listen to the advice of these successful entrepreneurs- https://www.facebook.com/regina.vatterott/videos/10209673430706467/ 


Please share to any social media of your choice if you like the interview!

If you want your startup to be interviewed or have any inquiries, please reach out to me at contact@taehongmin.com. Thanks you for reading!
Throwback Thursdays: Interview with Regina Vatterott a Social Entrepreneur, Healthcare Disruptor, and COO/CO-founder of EllieGrid! Throwback Thursdays: Interview with Regina Vatterott a Social Entrepreneur, Healthcare Disruptor, and COO/CO-founder of EllieGrid! Reviewed by Tae Hong Min on 7:26 PM Rating: 5

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