When Martina Viduka and Erin Webb decided to attend Hacking Health’s Female Health Hackathon in 2018, little did they know they would end up winning the Hackathon and go on to start their own digital health startup called Advosense. This dynamic duo’s story shows us how a Hackathon project can evolve into a startup.
Now in 2021, the startup is a success, and we’re delighted to share a recent interview with Martina to give you the inside scoop on Advosense and the founders’ journey from Hackathons and accelerator programs to health startup.
Can you share with us how Advosense was born and the key steps that you took to turn it into what it is now?
In November 2018, we decided to attend the Hacking Health’s Female Health Hackathon to expand our Healthtech network in Berlin. It was at this Hackathon that Advosense was born. Although we were both purpose-driven, and ready to make some serious changes in our health system with regards to aging, we had no idea how we were going to achieve this.
As a direct result from attending the Hacking Female Health Hackathon, today we are building intelligent elderly care solutions to empower and support our caregivers. From winning the Hackathon, to being selected into Fraunhofer’s AHEAD accelerator program, we were able to build on our ideas and with their technical expertise we were able to realize the concept, which was born at the Hackathon, could be a real thing. The journey continued with us taking this technical concept and turning it into an initial prototype, which we’re now building into our first MVP, with our newest member of the team and are getting ready to test the device on bedsides in North America and Europe this year.
What exactly is Advosense?
Advosense exists to change the way we feel about aging, by championing dignity and respect in elderly care. Advosense envisions a world where the elderly feel heard, seen, safe and empowered.
Curious how? By supporting and advocating for our clinicians and their patients through innovative technologies. Our mission is to transform geriatric care. At Advosense, we’re developing the next generation of incontinence care products, to empower clinicians to know when, where and how best to respond to their patients’ needs.
What hackathons have you attended and won? How did they help you to further develop your product? What do you think the real benefits of attending these hackathons have been for you as founders?
Indeed, I doubt we would have come up with Advosense’s first product if it weren’t for the opportunity at the Hackathon, which to our surprise we won. From there we attended HPI’s Hackathon where we came in first place for best pitch. Regardless of the fact that the Hackathon was the catalyst, it really provided us with opportunities and networks we never had before. Thanks to introductions at the Hackathon, we ended up taking part in the Vision Health Pioneers Incubator program, which enabled us to create a company in Berlin and gave us visibility when applying for European grants.
One of the greatest benefits resulting from this experience was gaining access to these networks and the diverse and engaged discussions, which took place thanks to the wide range of people from different backgrounds who attended the Hackathon. The global Hacking Health Hackathon community also introduced us to our partners in Montreal, Canada. It is here that we will continue to co-create and validate our solution with our upcoming clinical research study, in collaboration with The Donald Berman Maimonides (DBM) Center for Research in Aging team CIUSSS West-Central Montreal and its connected health innovation hub OROT.
From your experience, what are your thoughts on how Hackathons can leverage the development of new ideas and innovation in healthcare?
Hackathons can leverage the development of new ideas and innovations by bringing people together from all industries, allowing attendees to combine forces and knowledge with different people than who you usually engage with. These inputs facilitate open-mindedness and out of the box thinking, who knows what you can come up with. The energy during these sessions is palpable and you always come away with something new.
They are a platform that creates engagement in a safe and supportive way, letting you break free from the everyday. Having this space fuels innovation. But it is important to have next steps to push these ideas forward past the Hackathon. For us, it was great because we had opportunities to continue exploring our idea with Fraunhofer AHEAD and HPI as part of the winning team’s prize.
Please tell us about the highlights of your journey since the Hackathon up until now.
The top three highlights since the Hackathon would be our time at Vision Health Pioneers Incubator, which provided us with incredible mentorship. The support we received enabled us to found our first startup, win the Deep Tech Award and EIT HeadStart Grant in 2020 and expand our team. We’re pleased to welcome Florian Gmeiner to the Advosense team, as our new co-founder and CTO this year.
Can you tell us about your experience being part of the Fraunhofer accelerator program and the Vision Health Pioneers Incubator in 2020, as well as any key learnings you’ve had to date?
In both programs, we were the ginny pigs in the first cohort. We found this to be beneficial and learned to be flexible and work collaboratively to achieve mutual goals. Both the Fraunhofer AHEAD and Vision Health Pioneers gave us the expertise and support where we needed it most, and gave us the confidence to keep pushing forward when that inevitable imposter syndrome kicked in.
What advice would you give to Hackathon attendees wanting to develop their own health startup?
Just go for it! Leverage your networks. We met some amazing individuals at the Hackathons, many of which we still collaborate with today.
How is Advosense embracing patient-clinician-centricity?
At Advosense, the patient and clinician are inseparable. By building tools to support patients, we are supporting our clinicians. When we innovate to help our clinicians, we are supporting the care of our patients. Everything we do at Advosense is for our patients and our clinicians.
Since day one, we are embracing and involving them each step of the way to make sure we are providing the right support and empowering them. To serve them we must first understand them, which requires empathy and compassion to ensure we always know why, who and what we are working for.
How are you disrupting the field of incontinence?
We are challenging the way incontinence is being managed. The care process for those suffering from incontinence is in desperate need of change, and like many other inefficient processes, clinicians are left doing their best just to get by. And we believe we can do better than that. We are helping organizations imagine new ways of caring for incontinence, using tools and technologies. In a nutshell, we are giving a voice back to patients and empowering the clinicians that manage them.
What is next for you? And where?
Next up, alongside our German collaborators, we are heading to Canada, Paris and the US to continue validating and improving our solution with caregivers worldwide in preparation for our market launch.
What are you doing to expand the Advosense community?
The Advosense community, just as the aging population, is a global one. We are building our international community from the start, engaging with healthcare organizations worldwide, as well as advocating for our aging friends and families.
How can potential partners collaborate with you and how should they get in touch?
Collaboration with our community is of foremost importance to us, and we are always open to engaging with clinical and industry partners, patient and caregiver groups, and other founders and friends to keep improving the health of our aging communities and those who care for them. Anyone can get in touch with us via our website, LinkedIn or email address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a message to share with early adopters who might be interested in your product?
We are looking for partners who are interested in testing the product, providing us with direct feedback from the bedside and challenging us so we can continuously improve. If you see that your organization needs to find better ways for managing your patients or residents with incontinence, let’s figure out why and how we can make this care process more efficient, cost effective and improve the quality of care you strive to provide.
Incontinence is not a normal part of aging, so let’s stop doing things the normal way. Join us and help keep our patients dry. Check out our website for more information: https://www.advosense.com/
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by Alexandra Verzuh
Alexandra is a strong marcoms professional with a global focus and over ten years of international experience in communications, writing and marketing; widely travelled with a passion for healthcare, health tech, digital innovation and technology. She is also a Certified Transformational Coach with a BA in Psychology and an MSc in International Business Management.