Startup Spotlight: SuperHealosJune 5, 2016
This week we speak with Yuanyuan Yin, CEO and co-founder of SuperHealos, a female-led company based out of Newton, Massachusetts, on a mission to help children facing medical treatment feel like superheroes. Through an emphasis on helping children turn challenges into adventures, their Medical Adventure Kits are designed to educate, empower and entertain children. What they want to be known as? The “superheroes of health”.
GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did SuperHealos get started?
YY: 2 years ago, I had an unexpected and difficult prolonged hospital stay. During my stay, I shared a hospital floor with young children and often thought, “If I am this scared as an adult, I wonder what these young kids must be feeling.” After I recovered, I could not stop thinking about the children and families I had met. I did extensive research to learn what techniques and products were being used to make children in medical situations feel better. I was determined to make a difference in their emotional well-being.
GH: How did you build your team?
YY: My friend, Kathryn Jones, is an Occupational Therapist, who works along hospital bedsides to help family and children rehabilitate and heal. She became very passionate about the idea the moment she heard about it. Because children are so passionate about technology we wanted to incorporate that into our business . We needed help to develop an app and website that would engage children with hours of entertainment and education. My husband, Dylan Murphy, a tech guru, was working as a product manager for a big corporation. After unexpectedly losing his brother, he was looking for a change in his life. He wanted to invest his energy in a social impact company and he joined the team as well. We quickly realized that we needed a creative person to make our products fun for children. We recruited a full time illustration, Jake Reynolds, from RISD. We also leveraged local UI/UX and marketing talents.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
YY: The values our company are confidence, fun, support and dedication. We focus on turning challenges into adventures and achieve that though a fun lighthearted attitude, confident adventurous spirit and supportive team environment. Although we try to have fun whenever possible, we never waiver on our dedication to doing what is right and best for children and their families.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
YY: When we first started the company, our first product idea was to redesign the boring hospital gown to look like a superhero costume. We loved the prototype because it was comfortable, warm and fun. Every parent and child we showed the product to, loved the newly designed gown. However, after months of product development, we realized that the product lacked a viable business model. Currently, hospitals buy through laundry services for their hospital gowns. The laundry services and our mission are misaligned. In addition, the cost of our re-designed gown was much higher than the traditional hospital gown, which made it almost impossible to sell to hospitals. These, among other reasons, made selling our re-designed hospital gown extremely challenging.
We were definitely very disappointed and felt we had wasted months of work. But we re-grouped and realized that the core value and true passion of SuperHealos was to empower children facing medical treatment. The hospital gown was one approach, but there were other ways to achieve the same mission. We pivoted the company and started researching what that would be.
After a year of hard work, we are now introducing the Hospital Adventure Kit, packed with imagination, art, education and play. The kit contains an adventure storybook in which two young kids use their magic superhero capes to bring medical equipment to life and solve medical mysteries. Also included is a coloring book, a color-your-own superhero cape, and fabric markers. Just like signing a cast, children are able to color and personalize their capes and coloring pages. We are also working with leading medical experts to develop a MRI Adventure Kit to reduce the use of general anesthesia during MRIs. There are many other topics and Medical Adventure Kits in our roadmap as we build SuperHealos as the go to empowerment brand for children facing medical treatment.
GH: What did you learn from your first customers?
YY: Let kids be kids. They want to play and have fun, and this is truly what children should be allowed to do. Though education is a key component to reducing fear of unknown, we need to make the products super fun and attractive to children.
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
YY: SuperHealos began its journey with help from Babson College while I was getting my MBA there. Babson Professors, Butler Venture Accelerator and Summer Venture Program provided SuperHealos resources and support that helped to build the company’s foundation. We validated our business model during MassChallenge with help from our mentors and the startup community. Earlier this year, the City of Newton, partnered with MassChallenge and CIC to open an innovation center. We took advantage of that office space as well as support from that community. Currently the InnoLoft is helping us tremendously with our go to market strategy. With the extensive medical expertise found here in New England, we were able to work with the world’s leading researchers, including experts from Boston Children’s Hospital’s Gaab Laboratory to craft quality offerings for children and families. I cannot think of a better place to start and operate SuperHealos than here in the Boston area.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
YY: The best advice we were given was that if we try to sell to everyone we will end up selling to no one. This sentiment helped us focus on getting to know our true target market and customers. We have never been given terrible advice but we quickly learned that sometimes getting too many opinions can slow you down and take you off track. As founders we know our business the best. We often need to remember that and simply trust our instincts and make the best decisions we can.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
YY: The amazing guidance and support we received was a true blessing. Mentors, advisors and other startup founders have really helped us to drive forward. We are also truly appreciative that Boston Children’s Hospital’s Gaab Laboratory is sharing 10 years of their research on how to achieve 95% success rate with pediatric MRI scans without the use of general anesthesia during. We are very excited about this partnership that can truly make a difference in pediatric patients’ lives.
GH: What does the future hold for SuperHealos ?
YY: There are interesting trends in the industry right now. Hospital reimbursement rates are tied to patient satisfaction ratings for the first time. The emotional well being of Pediatric Patients’ is becoming more and more important. SuperHealos is working hard to be part of this revolution. We are proud to offer these children and families a community that champions them. We are very excited about our new Hospital Adventure Kit, the MRI Adventure Kit, and so many other kits and medical topics that we envision in our future. As we grow, we plan to build SuperHealos as the go to empowerment brand. We imagine a day when children watch the superheroes of health solve medical mysteries on their Saturday morning cartoons and maybe even a motion picture one day!