Pakistan doesn't have much of a hardware and healthcare tech scene, nevermind VC firms or angel investors. So says Fawad Bhatti, the fresh faced founder of Trequant who graduated from the country's National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad last year.
The engineering student turned CEO has just launched Trequant, his tremor tracking wearable aimed at Parkinson's and Essential Tremor (ET) patients, on Kickstarter and, even though he's speaking to us from Islamabad where he's overseeing his technical team, he sticks to Silicon Valley timezones. That's where part of his team are based and where his startup got its big break thanks to Google for Entrepreneurs and the Blackbox accelerator.
"About two years ago, in June of 2014, I started to think about helping my uncles who have a history with Parkinson's disorder," he said.
"My grandfather had it too but he died before I was born. I have been in constant contact with my uncles and I was the one who took them to the doctor. The main issue that we came across was that we could never explain what the doctors wanted to hear: if tremors were worse, how much worse? If medication affected them, how much?"
There are approximately 54 million people with hand tremors as a main symptom in the US, around 220 million worldwide. Fawad's elder brother, Dr. Danish Bhatti, a movement disorder expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, gave him the idea to build a device to track the intensity of tremors.
What works for you
It's available on Kickstarter as either a $99 Watch or a $79 Band but the features remain the same. Trequant's algorithms take readings from the wearable's accelerometer and gyroscope - a "snap" - to determine how the hand moves. It then connects to your smartphone or laptop via Bluetooth Low Energy where the wearer is presented with a score on a scale from 0 -10, one of two scales depending on the disorder.
Users can also input activities into the app to find out if say, drinking green tea or alcohol actually lowers the intensity of tremors or if coffee increases it for each individual. The wearable can be preset so that a double tap means one cup of tea/coffee to speed up the input.
Primary caretakers can be added to be kept in the loop as patients make their own lifestyle changes. Plus this kind of information could be very valuable during visits to the doctor.
The team has also built a motivational leaderboard as well as a community - Trequant Circle - into the app to help people discuss symptoms and lifestyle habits with each other, answering "the kind of questions that only people with tremors can explain to each other."
Instead of adding fitness features, which Bhatti considered, the other main feature is more useful to the target market of the millions of people, mainly aged 40 - 55 and not very athletic, who live with these disorders. It vibrates when it's time to take their medication. Simple but it could be extremely useful.
"The issue is that the medications you usually take can have a dementia effect on you - you can forget if you've taken the medication or not," he explained. "This is a neuro disorder so it's all linked. Once you are taking medication for this or beta blockers, they make you forget. This was something which I used to face so I wanted to add that in there as well."
That said, if the campaign passes its target of $35,000 he is considering adding stretch goals to include sensors like a pulse oximeter.
After the crowdfunding campaign, which also allows people to donate a device, the prices will rise to $129 for the Band and $149 for the Watch. For now, Trequant isn't going to make any money on these initial units: "The price on the Kickstarter is basically the minimum that we can go."
Bhatti is currently scaling his platform from around 40 users to be able to cope with at least 200 - 300 users later in the year and getting ready to oversee the quality of the manufacturing in China. And then, in the next few months, he is - of course - heading for Palo Alto.
Do you live with tremors? Would a wearable like Trequant help you to make lifestyle changes? Let us know in the comments.
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