Design Sprint Finish Line

Last week we finished a regimented, rapid prototyping process known as a Design Sprint, where we developed a concept, designed a product, built a conceptual prototype, and got customer feedback all within five days. The process culminated last Friday in a webinar when we unveiled what we had been working on all week to a focus group of diabetes patients: a mobile application for monitoring glucose levels without a continuous glucose monitor.

Like any other inventive company, we’re not immune to getting excited about our own ideas, which is why it’s critical to get objective feedback early on in the process. Thanks to the observations from participants in our webinar—people who have intimate knowledge about which tools are useful for managing diabetes—we gained invaluable insights that will help us move forward as we develop a product for market.

That product, SoftCGM, we hope will be an entirely new way for patients to monitor their glucose levels without having to use expensive and invasive CGM hardware.

A common assumption is that once a diabetes patient begins to use a CGM device, they never go back. But actually, according to research, more than half of patients who try CGM systems end up abandoning the technology.

The same held true at our webinar on Friday, where almost half of the participants said they used CGM systems in the past but no longer do so. More than 80 percent of our respondents said they didn’t like the invasive nature of the CGM sensors.

So, we posed this question to our webinar participants: if we could eliminate your number one objection to CGM technology, would you be more likely to pursue Continuous Glucose Monitoring? The answer to that question, was an overwhelming yes.

Our solution, SoftCGM, applies machine learning technology to create a dynamic algorithm that can utilize data from health trackers, mobile devices, finger-stick data, and manual inputs to give a blood glucose score, without the use of sensors. The reading would look similar to that of a traditional CGM monitor, with some additional features to help the user know the accuracy of the reading, and whether or not they need to input more data.

Because a predictive model is only as good as its data, we built in a data confidence level and accuracy scorecard in our prototype that shows the accuracy of glucose readings. Without sensor data, the system requires other regular inputs to remain accurate. If you forget to sync your Fitbit, or you don’t upload finger-stick data, the data confidence level will drop, letting the user know that more data is needed. To improve the app’s confidence, the user simply needs to input more data, maybe by turning on their health tracker, or recording what they ate for dinner. The accuracy scorecard will compare the app’s predicted glucose readings to actual glucose levels revealed by finger stick data.

Design Sprinting Towards New Soft CGM Technology

When it comes to solving a problem, humans aren’t always inclined to sprint directly towards it. But at Aspire Ventures, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that the Aspire team has been supporting venture Tempo Health in their endeavor to leverage machine learning technology to help diabetes patients manage their glucose levels with a mobile application. Over the past few months we’ve pooled our collective resources to develop predictive models that can provide more accurate glucose readings and produce more accurate predictions of future glucose levels. Leveraging our machine learning tools, the Aspire science team has developed a software-driven approach to glucose monitoring, dubbed Soft CGM, that reduces the noise of current continuous glucose monitoring devices. It does so by applying unique algorithms per patient according to their unique data to automatically find the best path to accuracy. The result, in short, is a new diabetes management solution that could give continuous glucose monitoring capabilities without CGM hardware.

The challenge: How do we get this technology into the hands of consumers with an easy to use application?

To address that problem, this week we entered a process known as a Design Sprint, where we’ll dive into critical business questions, design a product, build a prototype, and test it with customers—all within five days. This regimented method of rapid design and prototyping, originally developed by Google Ventures, is a tried and true way for start-ups to quickly develop ideas and learn about their potential outcomes.

The process will conclude on Friday with testing, where diabetes patients can test our prototype and provide feedback during a webinar on Friday at 1:30 p.m. The webinar is open to anyone with type 1 diabetes. Our application will be especially targeted for diabetes patients who are on insulin and who don’t use Continuous Glucose Monitors.

To meet the design challenge, we’ve assembled a cross-functional team with members representing research and analytics, marketing, data science, software architecture, software development, and business perspectives.

On day one, the Design Sprint team examined the problem to gain a fuller understanding of the market, the consumer’s needs, and all of the challenges in meeting those needs. 

“The simplest way to describe it is how do we create something that is everything diabetes patients love about CGM but nothing that they don’t,” says Marcus Grimm, Aspire’s Chief Marketing Officer and a diabetes patient of 31 years. 

According to Grimm, consumers like how CGM systems help them understand their blood sugar trends, but they don’t like the cost and the burdensome sensors.

“So the goal here is, can we find a way to tell people what direction their blood sugar is going without exactly measuring their blood sugar?” Grimm says.

There are at least 24 factors that influence blood glucose levels, but many of the bolus calculators on the market today only look at four or five of those factors. The goal of developing a Soft CGM application, Grimm says, is to utilize measurements of a broader set of factors, which can be provided by fitness trackers and other common personal devices. That data can then be plugged into our machine learning algorithms in order to give blood sugar readings without CGM hardware.

On the second day of the Design Sprint process the team brainstormed to come up with a number of different ways to tackle that challenge. Today, the third day, they’re honing in on one solution. The Design Sprint team will then draw up a blueprint in preparation for the fourth day, when they’ll actually develop the prototype. 

Finally, after an intense day of development on Thursday, our team will have a prototype ready for feedback on Friday. That prototype won’t be a fully functional beta version of a product, but a bare-bones version of what we’re hoping will be a significant technological development for diabetes patients will be available for consumer review.

If you want to participate in Friday’s webinar you can register here, or if you’d like to learn more about the Design Sprint process you can read about it here.

The Trendsetters

Here at the Aspire Venture Lab we’re proud to support companies who are truly leading the way in their industries. We always knew Wylei was on the cutting edge with their innovative approach to digital marketing.  It’s only natural that a company specializing in predictive content would be a few steps ahead of the competition.

The industry leaders in E-commerce and digital marketing have noticed, and some of the world’s most recognized brands are partnering with Wylei to stay ahead of the game.  

The result? Jaw-dropping growth in 2015.

Wylei increased their volume of marketing emails month to month at an average of 84 percent. That means they’ve been nearly doubling their output every single month. They also grew their client base by over 150 percent with major brands like Adidas Group, Unilever, and Charter Communications. They also showed monthly revenue growth of 62 percent.

Those are impressive numbers. And judging by what journalists and marketing experts are saying about trends to expect in 2016, it’s probably safe to predict that Wylei is in for another good year to come. Learn more about how Wylei is ahead of digital marketing trends on their blog here.