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Lokvani Talks To Jayanthi Narasimhan

Ranjani Saigal

( IIT Alumni Association of Greater New England (IIT AGNE) is holding a holiday party on Dec 9. 

Checkout their website at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/iit-agne-holiday-party-tickets-51995531033)

Jayanthi Narasimhan is the Founder and CEO of WatchRx, a digital health care startup. An alum of IIT Madras, she is a serial entrepreneur, award-winning Innovator, with 20 plus years of executive leadership. She is a subject matter expert on telecommunications and technology and has worked with executive level clients to deliver complex and sophisticated software solutions for enterprises.  

Since its inception in 2015, WatchRx has been recognized by many start-up and health care associations as a solution that improves lives and offers individuals an easy way to adhere to a medication plan, which saves the economy thousands of dollars in what could be non-compliance and multiple hospital re-admissions costs.   

Narasimhan received the 2016 Women to Watch in Science & Technology Award from the Boston Business Journal and was named Outstanding Women of the Year for her Excellence in Business and Eldercare from India New England News.

She enjoys travel, reading and cooking in her free time, teaches science to young kids through local Science Clubs, and is an official mentor at FIRST Robotics, an organization that combines “the rigors of science and technology” in competitions led by high school students.  
She lives in Acton, Massachusetts with her family. 

What motivated you to start the company WatchRx, Inc?

My mom fell sick three years ago and was forgetting to take her medication. I used to call her to remind her, but I was always anxious and worried when I couldn’t call her due to meetings or travel. I was looking for a simple solution that would remind her to take her medication and then inform me that she has taken it. I decided to rely on technology and my more than 25 years of experience with telecom hardware and software. That is how WatchRx was born.

Could you tell us about the company? 

WatchRx offers an easy-to-use smart-watch-based solution to help seniors take their medications on time and extend independent living with dignity. The watch has GPS functionality for live tracking and a built-in phone for emergency calls. WatchRx also has an app for dedicated caregivers to receive notifications about missed medication, as well as GPS and emergency alerts. It helps caregivers stay connected with their loved ones and reduce stress. WatchRx is a comprehensive, coordinated Internet-of-Things (IoT) healthcare solution that connects patients, caregivers and providers to provide value-based care and improve health outcomes. Using on-board sensors, WatchRx collects 150+ behavioral data points and based on Early Warning Predictive Analytics generates alerts to caregivers for any anomalies.

What are the core technologies that you have used that makes this product innovative?

The solution is based on IoT technology and a cloud based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution that provides a web interface to caregivers and physicians. The solution consists of a smart watch worn by the patient to deliver reminders and collect data, and a smartphone app for caregivers to receive alerts about their loved ones. WatchRx is a patent pending all-in-one human + tech IoT solution offering:
* Hardware - a customizable smartwatch with visual medication reminders, live GPS tracking, and a built-in phone connecting caregivers for emergency calls
* App - a caregiver app real-time updates and remote connectivity 
* SaaS platform - a HIPAA compliant, customizable solution for providers
* Behavioral Data Collection and Predictive Analytics

What in your background gave you the expertise to create this product? 

I have an electrical engineering degree and have been working in telecommunications for 25+ years. I have developed many products in network technologies, including devices, VoIP, wireless protocols, cable television, and network management. My experience in connected devices and network management enabled me to envision an IoT-based product. I have expertise in IoT that led me to think through a solution for my mom’s problem.

How do you differentiate your product?

The watch is specifically designed for seniors 70+ who have difficulties in using smartphones. It is easy-to-use, no set up required, and all configurations are pushed from the web application. The smartwatch also has a built-in phone for emergency calls and a GPS for live tracking, especially for Alzheimer and dementia patients. It is also a connected solution where caregivers can receive alerts via the app if the patients missed medication or wandered away. It can provide independence to patients and peace-of-mind to caregivers. 

Other platforms rely solely on an app for patients, which can be difficult to use especially for seniors who are forced to wrangle with the rest of the smartphone. Some platforms fail to loop in healthcare providers or dedicated caregivers, so patients are left to manage the technology and medication regimen by themselves. WatchRx provides an integrated solution that targets care by filtering all patient interaction through an easy-to-use smartwatch, while allowing dedicated caregivers and healthcare providers to monitor and update a patient without imposing upon them through the caregiver app. Overall it is a comprehensive solution connecting patients, caregivers and providers to provide value-based care and improve health outcomes. 

How easy has it been as a Women Entrepreneur to raise funds? 

It has not been easy to raise funds as a woman entrepreneur. It is harder to get a response from investors other than those who provide funding only for women founded startups. Though WatchRx has won many awards and recognition from Google, Boston Scientific and other major innovation competitions, it has been hard to get attention from angel groups as well as VCs.

What is the future plans for the company? 

The product is ready and WatchRx is currently working with telehealth companies and hospitals for pilot studies. We follow a B2B model and want to establish partnerships with telehealth companies, hospitals and senior homes such as assisted and independent living facilities.

How has your IIT background helped you?

I have received mentorship and guidance from some of the IIT Alums in preparing the pitch decks and pitching. Also, my first external investment is coming through IIT connection.

Any advice for entrepreneurs?

It takes lot of effort to run a startup, especially with little or no money. It is important to select the right cofounders who align with your vision and are able to contribute, but can provide constructive feedback and different perspectives. It is better to select a cofounder with complementary skills so the work load can be shared. Extensive market research and market validation is another key factor in a successful startup. It is important to validate at the early stage. Developing a great product that does not find a use is not a path to success. There can be many failures and road blocks along the way, but it is important to learn from them and move on. Hard work and perseverance is the key to success.

Any special help you are looking for?

In the digital health industry, introductions to other telehealth companies, hospitals or health insurance providers go a long way towards making a successful product. WatchRx is also looking to conduct large scale pilots, and would welcome help to gain access to any facilities that could provide that support. Finally, it always helps to connect to investors in the digital healthcare space.


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