Introducing Soft CGM

WATCH: Inside Aspire Ventures we take a first look at Soft CGM, a new mobile app for diabetes management designed by Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC, that lets you monitor glucose levels without a continuous glucose monitor. Aspire’s CMO Marcus Grimm walks us through some of the key features of the alpha version of the application.

Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC, Opens Door to Diabetes Community

Developing innovative solutions for diabetes management takes intimate knowledge of patients’ needs and the challenges they struggle with every day.

Earlier this month the Daibetter* team made early steps to engage the type one diabetes community at the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation’s Type One Nation Summit at SpookyNook Sports complex in Lancaster County. At the event Aspire’s Chief Marketing Officer Marcus Grimm, a type one diabetes patient of more than 30 years, helped to moderate discussions while the Daibetter* team shared information about ways they’re using machine learning to create a software-driven approach to monitoring glucose levels.

Attendees at the JDRF event were the first to have the opportunity to sign up with Daibetter* to become “diaBETA testers”, which gives them early access to Daibetter* applications, like Soft CGM, for beta testing. The quickly growing list of beta testers will play a vital role to Daibetter* as they refine their diabetes management solutions to meet the needs of users.

Visit www.daibetter.com to help Daibetter* change the way the world deals with diabetes. 



*Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC

Gadget Fatigue and Consumer Needs

The computer, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs once said, is like a bicycle for the mind.

It’s an apt analogy, but as the number of computing devices explodes, consumers are beginning to wonder, just how many bicycles do we need?

With the endless stream of innovations and iterations in hardware, consumers are beginning to get gadget fatigue, according to a recent article by Mark Inskip in Venture Beat.

The reason, Inskip says, is because we’ve reached a technological traffic jam, with too many gadgets and too little integration between them. 

The next big disruptor to move technology forward won’t be some exciting new piece of hardware, it will be a comprehensive integration of the tech we already have, Inskip writes, one that puts consumers’ needs first and enables more data sharing between devices.

To achieve that, companies will need to create better feedback loops with consumers. And as Artificial Intelligence gets better and better at understanding consumer behavior, it will play a much bigger role in guiding more meaningful innovations.

Steve Jobs is also famous for saying that a lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. And while that’s proven to be true for a good many Apple products and other devices, it might be time to start listening to what people need.

Consumer Medical Technology is Getting Serious

Consumer medical devices are starting to get serious. If you’ve had any doubts as to whether consumer technology would make significant inroads into the medical device market, look no further than the new FDA-approved Kardia Band—a medical-grade EKG band for Apple Watch developed by medtech startup AliveCor.

The line between medical-grade technology and consumer-grade technology is growing increasingly blurry. And those lines are blurring a lot faster than many anticipated.

In a cloistered and siloed healthcare industry that is sometimes slow to innovate, the potential for consumer companies to transform the market from the outside is an exciting possibility. And as regulatory arms like the FDA accept more and more consumer technologies as legitimate medical devices, the possibility is starting to look more and more like an inevitability.

Refining The Sprint

Developing a product takes a lot of time, resources, and understanding about what consumers need and want. Instead of going through the product development process from start to finish before understanding the market, at Aspire we use an iterative product development process to make incremental, but tested, progress. The iterative process includes a series of “sprints”; where we rapidly create a prototype to test our ideas with consumers throughout the development process.

In January we held our first Design Sprint, a process developed by Google Ventures to quickly dive into critical business questions, design a product, build a prototype, and test it with consumers within a five-day period. The method for rapid prototyping was an effective way to get consumer feedback as soon as possible, so our development teams don’t waste valuable time creating a product with no market fit.

In the same way that we refine products through iterations, we’re taking the same approach with the design process itself—adjusting the way we conduct sprints to achieve better outcomes.

We sat down with Aspire’s Chief Operating Officer Alison Lowery to discuss the sprint process, and what we’re doing at Aspire to make it uniquely our own.

What is the purpose of a design sprint?

A design sprint strives to test ideas and to create something people will want as quickly as possible. We wanted a chance to experiment with a process that combined the use of cross-functional teams with a fast, repeatable process that would fit in with Aspire’s strategy.

From your perspective, how successful was Aspire’s first Design Sprint?

It was a fun and focused effort that I believe was quite successful. Working with a cross-functional team during the sprint made it a great opportunity for team building. We also learned that we can create potential solutions to problems within a very short period of time.

The results were much better than a traditional waterfall development approach, which is a sequential process that makes revisions and course corrections more difficult with little opportunity to get consumer insights early in the process. Aspire follows a more agile approach, where you do as much as you can to learn, then take that learning, fold it back in and repeat until you get to something that works.

What, do you believe, are some areas for improvement in Aspire’s next sprint?

During the last sprint we listed several areas for improvement. For example, we found it would be good to distribute the market research packet prior to the sprint to allow everyone time to read and come into the sprint with their questions. Other areas for improvement include sticking to the agreed sprint norms, focusing on the user journey development and ensuring the prototype development focuses on the questions that will be tested on Day 5 of the sprint.

Moving forward, how will Aspire continue using the sprint process, and what will we do differently?

The sprint process will become an important part of Aspire’s overall product development process. We will be using the design sprint process to do early testing of our concepts before investing in the prototyping effort.

We will keep the core techniques of sprints in place, but we plan to learn from each sprint effort. Aspire’s concepting sprints will continue to evolve over time as we refine the process. We will introduce some of those changes next week, when we begin a new concepting sprint for an internal product, the Aspire Dashboard.

Looking for DiaBETA Testers at the Type One Nation Summit

As Aspire’s Daibetter* gets closer and closer to a working beta version of a Soft CGM app that will allow diabetes patients to continuously monitor glucose without CGM hardware, we’re reaching out to the diabetes community to gain insights and to find beta testers for our technology.

This weekend, we’ll be attending the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Type One Nation Summit at the SpookyNook Sports complex in Lancaster County.

The JDRF has been a leader in funding research to find a future cure to type 1 diabetes, and we’re pleased that they’ve also begun to expand their focus to address how patients can manage type 1 diabetes today.

The event will host a variety of activities and educational talks for kids, teenagers, and adults to help them better manage life with type 1 diabetes.

Gary Scheiner, an award winning Certified Diabetes Educator, physiologist, type 1 diabetes patient, and author of several books on diabetes, will be the featured speaker at the event. Scheiner is also the owner of Integrated Diabetes Services, a diabetes consulting service in Wynnewood, PA on the cutting edge of diabetes management.    

We’re proud to sponsor the event, and we’re excited to share with type 1 diabetes patients the technologies we’ve been working on. Getting insights from a wide variety of people who manage diabetes every day is a vital part of our process as we come up with better management solutions.

In January, we developed and tested a conceptual prototype of the Soft CGM app with a focus group of patients during our first design sprint. Since then, the Daibetter* team moved forward to develop a working model to test with internal users. Now we’re testing the application within Aspire, refining our predictive models, and working out the bugs and design quirks to get ready for outside testing.

*Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC

HIMSS 2016 and What it Means for Healthcare IT

There are a lot of interesting things happening in Healthcare IT today. And the best place to find out whats happening in this rapidly growing space is at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference. Aspire Venture MedStatix recently returned from the conference with new insights on where Healthcare IT is heading, and what it means for MedStatix. We sat down with MedStatix CEO Kim Ireland to talk about HIMSS 2016.

Thinning out the Herd

Things are changing for Venture Capital. The recent slowdown in the VC market is fueling some gloomy predictions for the future of startup funding. In fact, the number of U.S. Venture Capital firms have been shrinking for the past ten years. It appears that the traditional VC model is failing to deliver, but the down market may be the perfect opportunity to thin out the herd so that the true entrepreneurs and innovators can thrive. 

“The great entrepreneurs and operators love the down market,” says Michael Eisenberg in a recent TechCrunch article. “So this is THE best time to invest if you can stomach it.”

Eisenberg argues that the VC frenzy created a lot of “tourists” or “wantrapreneurs” who aren’t quite iron-willed enough to stick around for the downturn. That includes entrepreneurs who back out of their endeavors to take more secure jobs once the money gets tight, as well as investor tourists who made emotional investments without fully understanding the VC market.

Tourists, Eisenberg says, end up inflating the market, and as they leave in the face of a downturn a new ecosystem will emerge; one that doesn’t support mediocre companies and one that favors deep strategic thinkers.

The coming market correction, we believe, will also make room for new venture models to gain more traction.

Already, new models have emerged to address the high risk associated with traditional VC’s. By extending support to startups beyond financial backing—including physical infrastructure, methodology, and shared staff support—new venture models create a stronger foundation for startups to grow more efficiently.

At Aspire, we take a similar approach. Our ventures benefit from a core team of researchers, developers, scientists, and marketers so that our entrepreneurs can focus on building the best product possible. Our ventures are also subject to a process of rigorous tests that demonstrate market fit and development milestones, ensuring that the fundamentals are in place for continued success. Our ventures also gain from physical infrastructure at our venture lab.


But we take things a step further with an approach uniquely our own that helps bring some much-needed stability to the VC model (See Graph). All of our ventures draw from a community pool of proprietary technology tools, including our A2i machine learning platform. Those tools act as building blocks for a repeatable process to building new products and companies, so our ventures don’t have to lose valuable time building everything from the ground up. That means our ventures have a shorter time to market, and that means less risk of time and money wasted.

In the changing VC landscape, Aspire Ventures presents an attractive alternative for professionals who might otherwise feel themselves trapped between the two extremes of slow-moving corporate environments and unstructured, high-risk startups. And if the recent tremors in the market are any indicator, that’s exactly what investors are looking for too.


Join the Team

Here at Aspire we’re always on the lookout for top talent to join our quickly growing company. With a growing number of exciting projects in the works, our creative team has immediate openings as they expand to design more cutting edge brand campaigns, innovative websites for early-stage companies, and other creative content to help our ventures reach consumers and investors. If you’re a design wiz or gifted web developer, read on.

Serious inquiries may email careers@aspirevc.com or speak with our HR Administrator Renee Rahe at 717-925-8453.

 

Front-End Web Developer/Graphic Designer

Aspire Ventures, an Aspire Universal company, is a growing venture capital firm headquartered in Lancaster, PA, that incubates tech startups and develops cutting edge technologies with a global reach. The Aspire creative team is looking for an experienced Front-End Web Developer/Graphic Designer to design and produce front-end web content for Aspire’s various startups and projects. Work and grow with an energetic, diverse team of graphic designers, motion graphic artists, marketing strategists, and copywriters in a fast-paced environment that never gets routine or boring. The Developer/Designer will assist the creative team to develop an impactful web presence as well as a creative vision for early stage companies and products.

At the Aspire Venture lab, team members work in a collaborative, stimulating atmosphere where they can thrive to meet their fullest potential. Aspire offers competitive salaries and generous benefits packages that include health and retirement benefits, a very flexible vacation policy, and incentives that give employees a vested interest in each venture’s success.

Key Responsibilities

  • Work closely with Aspire’s Creative Team Manager, Lead Production Artist, Marketing Director, EIR’s, and Aspire Developers to understand project goals, scope, constraints, and motive
  • Develop, test, and launch front end web content requested by the Creative Team Manager, Marketing Director, and Aspire Ventures to fulfill project objectives
  • Craft attractive front end experiences utilizing advanced design principles, artistic skills, and personal inspiration
  • Availability for On-Call operation 24 hours after major Web/Application launch to correct critical errors
  • Ability to learn and apply new Development platforms, programming languages, paradigms to achieve project goals
  • Ensure the quality and accuracy of Aspire Creative Department produced assets
  • Participate in the design, art direction, and iterative refinement of Creative Team projects
  • Influence the continuous improvement of Aspire Creative Team’s web development and artistic process with personal creative input and perspective

Requirements

  • Bachelor Degree (or equivalent expertise) in Front-End Web Development, Web Design
  • 2+ years of team based web production experience
  • Expert-level HTML
  • Expert-level CSS
  • Advanced-level Javascript
  • Advanced-level PHP
  • Experience with DOM manipulation & formulation
  • Experience with JQuery and Bootstrap
  • Ability to independently engineer solutions for front-end experiences
  • Advanced-level Experience in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop (CC Preferred)
  • Excellent understanding of modern design standards and practices
  • Ability to wireframe, mockup, and design professional level page and site layouts
  • Excellent communications and organizational skills

Nice To Have

  • Experience with Angular.js
  • Experience with JSON, SQL, & general data storage practices
  • Experience with Apache server stack
 

Lead Production Artist

Aspire Ventures, an Aspire Universal company, is a growing venture capital firm headquartered in Lancaster, PA, that incubates tech startups and develops cutting edge technologies with a global reach. The Aspire creative team is looking for an experienced Lead Production Artist to assume team design and brand leadership while producing a wide variety of art production assets for Aspire’s various startups and projects. Work and grow with an energetic, diverse team of graphic designers, motion graphic artists, marketing strategists, and copywriters in a fast-paced environment that never gets routine or boring. The Lead Production Artist will direct team design choices in establishing future Aspire brands and developing brand image for early stage companies and products as they move to maturity.

At the Aspire Venture lab, team members work in a collaborative, stimulating atmosphere where they can thrive to meet their fullest potential. Aspire offers competitive salaries and generous benefits packages that include health and retirement benefits, a very flexible vacation policy, and incentives that give employees a vested interest in each venture’s success.

Key Responsibilities

  • Work closely with Aspire’s Creative Team Manager, Marketing Director, and EIR’s to understand project goals, scope, constraints, and motive.
  • Develop future brand designs and establish brand guidelines for Creative Team deployment
  • Assist in Creative Team project coordination and development
  • Assist in the process of hiring capable Creative Team employees to fulfill key production roles.
  • Ability to learn and apply new design software in order to achieve project goals.
  • Guide design, technique, and branding choices of Creative Team Production Artists
  • Produce media assets requested by Aspire Marketing and its Ventures to fulfil project objectives
  • Ensure quality and accuracy of Aspire Creative produced assets
  • Influence continuous improvement of Aspire Creative’s design approach by identifying techniques and reference for artistic growth

Requirements

  • Bachelor’s Degree (or equivalent expertise) in Design, Media, and Branding
  • 4+ years of team based production experience
  • Extensive experience in Adobe CC design suite products
  • Extensive experience in Brand development process
  • Experience in designing for Web
  • Comfortable with uncertainty and rapidly changing priorities
  • Excellent communications and organizational skills
  • Ability to work effectively as a member of a x-functional team
  • Ability to multi-task with a high attention to detail in a fast paced environment
  • Experience in clarifying objectives, dealing with ambiguity/under-defined problems, and influencing teams
  • Collaborative work style and the ability to work comfortably in small teams
 

Production Artist (Design, Flat Media)

Aspire Ventures, an Aspire Universal company, is a growing venture capital firm headquartered in Lancaster, PA, that incubates tech startups and develops cutting edge technologies with a global reach. The Aspire creative team is looking for an experienced Production Artist to produce a wide variety of art production assets for Aspire’s various startups and projects. Work and grow with an energetic, diverse team of graphic designers, motion graphic artists, marketing strategists, and copywriters in a fast-paced environment that never gets routine or boring. The Production Artist will assist the creative team in shaping brand image by producing visual assets for early stage companies and products.

At the Aspire Venture lab, team members work in a collaborative, stimulating atmosphere where they can thrive to meet their fullest potential. Aspire offers competitive salaries and generous benefits packages that include health and retirement benefits, a very flexible vacation policy, and incentives that give employees a vested interest in each venture’s success.

Key Responsibilities

  • Work closely with Aspire’s Creative Team Manager, Lead Production Artist, Marketing Director, and EIR’s to understand project goals, scope, constraints, and motive.
  • Produce media assets requested by the Creative Team Manager, Marketing Director, and Aspire Ventures to fulfill project objectives
  • Ability to learn and apply new design software in order to achieve project goals.
  • Ensure the quality and accuracy of Aspire Creative Department produced assets
  • Participate in the design, art direction, and iterative refinement of Creative Team projects
  • Influence the continuous improvement of Aspire Creative Team’s art production with personal creative input and perspective

Requirements

  • Associate’s Degree (or equivalent expertise) in Design, Media, and Branding
  • 2+ years of team based production experience
  • Extensive experience in Adobe CC design suite products
  • Expert level Adobe Illustrator CC
  • Expert level Adobe Photoshop CC
  • Experience in designing for Web
  • Comfortable with uncertainty and rapidly changing priorities
  • Excellent communications and organizational skills
  • Ability to work effectively as a member of a x-functional team
  • Ability to multi-task with a high attention to detail in a fast paced environment
  • Experience in maintaining objectives across quickly evolving projects.
  • Collaborative work style and the ability to work comfortably in small teams



Serious inquiries may email careers@aspirevc.com or speak with our HR Administrator Renee Rahe at 717-925-8453.

iSchool

Using technology in schools to enrich educational experience is nothing new. Schools across the country have raced to adopt current technology resources that will prepare students for the future. But tech gurus building a school focused on technology-aided personalized learning in order to disrupt the entire educational system? Well, maybe that is something new.

This week the New Yorker published an excellent piece by Rebecca Mead that takes an in-depth look at Silicon Valley’s recent entrée into education. Mead presents an interesting portrait of a private school where students embark on self-guided studies based on their interests and level, aided by tablets and sophisticated lesson management software. Meanwhile administrative tasks are automated to let teachers focus on what they do best: teaching. Teachers and parents also have their own software tools to monitor and assess students’ progress in real time. Welcome to the AltSchool, a new type of school founded by Max Ventilla, former Head of Personalization at Google.

Learning on a unique path tailored to each students’ individual needs seems to run in stark contrast to the nation’s recent moves towards more standardization with Common Core. Traditionally it has been next to impossible for a teacher in a classroom of 25 students to cater lessons to each individual student. However, thanks to sophisticated software and mobile technology that is beginning to change. And not just in private schools founded by tech entrepreneurs, some public schools have also taken a more personalized approached recently with hybrid learning, or “blended learning” models that mix lectures, group studies, and self-guided study with special curriculum software.

At Aspire we’re excited about the potential of machine learning and adaptive software to transform education. Through our recent partnership with Yellow Brick Capital, we’ve become friends with education software experts Smart Sparrow. They’re also focused on creating personalized learning experiences through adaptive courseware, learner analytics, and engaging individualized curriculum.

In education the human component will always remain the most vital part of any child’s learning, but with the right technological tools, we can make it much better.

Future Computer

In the computing world, change is a constant. Moore’s law—the idea that processing speeds double about every two years—is for the most part holding up, and continual growth in computing power is leading to a new era that is just over the horizon.

In an insightful arti cle on Medium, tech entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon offers a comprehensive analysis of computing trends to map out where things are headed next.

According to Dixon, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, along with wearable technology and the Internet of Things are among some of the most important technologies that will usher in a new era of Computing.

That belief is at the heart of Aspire’s model, as we focus solely on ventures that leverage three pillar technologies: mobile and the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, and Machine Learning. Although those technologies will play a big role in the era to come, all three are already proving their power to affect significant change today.

Computing, Dixon says, has seen several major eras, and right now we’re in the heart of the Mobile Era. The explosion of mobile devices has led to massive investments in processors and sensors, which in turn has led to computers that are continually getting smaller and cheaper. That has big implications for the Internet of Things, because soon “it will be cost-effective to embed a computer in almost anything,” Dixon says.

In Software, Dixon writes, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning may finally be entering a golden age. Due to several advancements, it’s now possible for small engineering teams to build state-of-the-art AI systems, which will lead to major upgrades in all sorts of products and startups focused on AI, Dixon writes.

While technologies for the era to come already exist today, many haven’t matured enough to make a major impact yet. Technologies like virtual reality and smart devices are still in their ‘awkward adolescence’, Dixon writes, no different from PCs in the 70s, internet in the 80s, and smartphones in the early 2000s.


“But the future is coming,” Dixon writes. “Markets go up and down, and excitement ebbs and flows, but computing technology marches steadily forward.”