Startup Review: Akibah, Inc.

AkibaH harnesses the power of mobile health technology and data science to give people the knowledge and recommended actions to live longer and healthier lives. AkibaH's flagship product, GluCase, is the world’s first smartphone case glucose meter: seamlessly integrating a glucose monitoring system into a smartphone case, it eliminates the need for a person to carry bulky supplies while also offering real-time coaching from certified diabetes educators. Customers can also view their glucose levels in the context of other information (activity, diet, and medications) by syncing data from other devices to the mobile app, enabling the delivery of better preventative care and better outcomes.

The Company is currently building products to streamline and simplify diabetes management. The Founders have witnessed numerous friends and family members who have struggled with the disease and want to make living with it as simple as possible.  Life’s too short to worry about carrying around bulky glucometers and deciphering unintuitive graphs. That’s why the Company has developed GluCase, a patent-pending technology that takes all the components of a traditional glucose measuring system and seamlessly integrates them into a compact smartphone case.

GluCase communicates with a mobile application and physician dashboard to present glucose levels in context of other information such as activity and diet, giving users and caretakers the ability to see how their decisions impact their health in real time. Thereby enabling the delivery of better preventative care, allowing for better outcomes, and driving down costs for all stakeholders (patients, providers, and payers). A customer’s care team will be able to provide real-time advice and assistance based on the readings from a glucose test.

GluCase allows a customer to discreetly carry all of the necessary equipment for blood testing and it is extremely easy to access and carry wherever the customer goes. The product is also very convenient, providing an all-in-one solution, combing: test strips, an embedded glucose meter, and dispensable lancets. The device is also ergonomic and has safety-position locking mechanisms while at the same time providing full access to the smartphone’s entire suite of ports and features.

 

Problem

As of 2015, an estimated 415 million people had diabetes worldwide, with type 2 DM making up about 90% of the cases. This represents 8.3% of the adult population, with equal rates in both women and men. As of 2014, trends suggested the rate would continue to rise. Diabetes at least doubles a person's risk of early death. From 2012 to 2015, approximately 1.5 to 5.0 million deaths each year resulted from diabetes. The global economic cost of diabetes in 2014 was estimated to be US$612 billion. In the United States, diabetes cost $245 billion in 2012.

The major long-term complications relate to damage to blood vessels. Diabetes doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease and about 75% of deaths in diabetics are due to coronary artery disease. Other "macrovascular" diseases are stroke, and peripheral artery disease. There is a link between cognitive deficit and diabetes. Compared to those without diabetes, those with the disease have a 1.2 to 1.5-fold greater rate of decline in cognitive function. Being diabetic, especially when on insulin, increases the risk of falls in older people.

Diabetes is a chronic disease, for which there is no known cure except in very specific situations. Management concentrates on keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal, without causing low blood sugar. This can usually be accomplished with a healthy diet, exercise, weight loss, and use of appropriate medications (insulin in the case of type 1 diabetes; oral medications, as well as possibly insulin, in type 2 diabetes).

In short, diabetes is a disease that affects a great number of people worldwide and has no cure. Management of this chronic illness is critical to living a normal and happy life. However, that management requires constant, daily, diligent, and consistent actions. There are currently numerous ways for glucose levels to be monitored and checked, however they are rarely very convenient. Advances in medical technology and equipment have helped ease the burden of illness management for the afflicted, but that hasn’t entirely eliminated issues. Each incremental step toward improving the management process is one that diabetics can accept with open arms.

 

Market Size

The global diabetes devices market is expected to reach $66 billion by the year 2024, according to a new report published by TMR. Major drivers of the market include the growing number of diabetic patients owing to the sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy food habits. The growing demand for the advanced and minimally invasive, diagnostic as well as monitoring devices is expected to propel the market growth during the forecast period. A TMR report suggests that the global diabetes devices market was worth $37 billion in 2016. The glucose meters segment held 59.1% market share of the global market in 2016. The US market is worth approximately $14 billion, currently.

The rising awareness with regard to the technologically advanced monitoring tools, such as the continuous glucose monitor, is a crucial factor expected to spur the growth of the market. The demand for affordable monitoring devices in the developed as well as the less-developed countries is expected to propel the market growth of products, such as glucose test strips.

The majority of these companies are focused on penetrating into emerging markets and tap growth opportunities due to economic development. Nevertheless, development and commercialization of simple and affordable diabetes devices will remain the winning strategy of these players in the future. Geographical expansion by means of mergers and acquisitions and strategic partnerships will continue to remain one of the key growth strategies for key players in this market.

GluCase has an opportunity to tackle a decent chunk of this market share. One of the features of the device seems to be it’s price point. Although the Company does not have it listed on it’s website, a general estimate based on the indiegogo campaign and other factors could estimate that the product is sold for ~$30. This seems to be on the low-end of the market. Combining the price point with devices efficiency and other features, this product could be a huge hit in the market.

 

Support

The Company initially self-funded the company. The first institutional capital came from Techstars and Sprint Corporation. Techstars is a highly competitive incubator program that accepts fewer than one percent of applicants. Since Techstars, the Company has also received investments from other angel and venture capital investors. The Company also raised more than $50,000 from an indegogo campaign.

 

Management

Fathi Abdelsalam – CEO & Founder – Founded the Company while he was finishing his graduate studies at Cornell. He has an MPA in Entrepreneurship from Cornell and dual bachelors degrees in Economics and Industrial Management from Florida State. He put himself through school by working as a patent examiner in the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Larry Ellingson – Chief Strategist – Retired from Eli Lilly and Company in 2001 after spending over half of his career having been involved as a global leader in diabetes. Larry remains active in the healthcare community through committee work and board positions, including: NDSU, Research Park, International Diabetes Federation, Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics, Nurse Practitioners Healthcare Foundation, and the ADA.

Paul Chang – Lead Engineer – Received a Masters in Engineering in Systems and BS in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell. Prior to joining the Company, he was the founder of Engineering World Health, a team dedicated to developing low cost medical devices. He also co-founded Cornell’s Rapid Prototyping Laboratory, where he provided prototyping services for student projects.

 

Conclusion

On an entirely less-serious note, I am a proud owner of a phone-wallet, a device that holds all of my wallet-based items together with my smart phone. I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate how much this has streamlined and improved my own personal life. I know this has nothing to do with diabetes, but the act of combining a smartphone (something that is increasingly becoming a part of our lives) with anything important can have a profound impact. I will continue to beat the drum for smartphone / personal device combinations until I see any substantial evidence against the practice.

Also, I want to mention that I have general bias surrounding this product that should be disclosed: my father has Type 1 Diabetes. I have watched him struggle with the terrible disease my entire life and I know how difficult it can be on a person and that person’s loved ones and family. The constant stress and fear that diabetes can cause is a very really issue that is hard to put into words. I remember when my dad got his first “pump” a device that he could wear on his hip that helped him monitor and control his insulin levels – it changed his life and made everyone sleep a little easier. My dad has been lucky in the sense that he has my mom who has helped him along in his diabetic journey. He is an extremely responsible person and I don’t think I have ever witnessed him admit any kind of defeat to his ailment. However, that doesn’t change the fact that any incremental step toward improving his life would be warmly welcomed. I know that is not empirical evidence, but it’s one data point that I trust.

 

 

Peter G Schmidt