By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Entrepreneurs pursue start-ups for different reasons. In Kyle McClain’s case, his latest endeavor is a personal crusade for individuals afflicted with the same disease that he has – Type 2 diabetes.
That entrepreneurial passion finds the Oklahoma native, who now calls Knoxville home, on an airplane today, headed for California. He’ll be attending tomorrow’s third annual “DiabetesMine Innovation Summit” at Stanford Medical School in Palo Alto.
With a theme of “delivering on the promise of diabetes technology,” the one-day event brings together key stakeholders involved in creating “tools for life for those afflicted with diabetes.” Attendees include patient advocates, device designers, web visionaries, venture capitals, regulatory experts, clinicians, researchers, and mobile health experts.
So, it is only natural that McClain would be a participant, based on his passion for gludi, a mobile phone app that makes the task of self-managing diabetes better. The trip comes about a month ahead of McClain’s third anniversary of knowing he had the disease.
“I was very fortunate that we caught my diabetes when we did,” McClain told us in a conversation last week. He had just returned from a trip to China in December 2010 and thought he still had a persistent bladder infection.
“I never want to be that familiar with an airplane lavatory again,” McClain explained. “I went to the doctor, and he told me they were going to test for diabetes based on my symptoms.”
The results were an “insanely high” blood sugar level reading of 600, something with very serious or even fatal consequences if not treated quickly.
Determined to proactively manage the disease, McClain started looking for apps to help him. What he found was not the type of app that he was seeking – an interactive tool rather than simply a recording mechanism.
During numerous presentations to individuals and groups, including last week’s Entrepreneurs of Knoxville “$1,000 Giveaway,” McClain has shared his vision for gludi, also referred to as the “Diabetes Virtual Assistant.”
“I want to remove as much of the tedious hassle that comes along with living life as a diabetic as possible through automation,” he says. “And, perhaps more importantly, I want to make it easy to get a healthy dose of the human element by seamlessly blending in the support of people that have your back and will always cheer you on.”
So, what is gludi and how does it achieve McClain’s goals?
“It is user focused,” he explains. That means that those with diabetes, both Type 1 and Type 2, can regularly record their glucose readings and times when they take their medications. If they fail to do so, gludi will remind them.
His idea is straightforward: automating as much of the tedious process of recording medication taken and blood glucose readings.
But, what might be described as the secret sauce is McClain’s vision of the app as an “accountability and encouragement” tool. He says that diabetics can invite friends and family to be part of their support group. Those who join will receive updates on how the PWD (Person with Diabetes) is doing and a reminder to get in touch and encourage them.
“Diabetes can sometimes be a lonely condition, knowing others have your back and support you on a regular basis can make all the difference in the world,” he says.
It is both the interactive capability and the support network that McClain believes are so important to people afflicted with diabetes.
“They (the support group) can help if I’m not doing what I need to do or send words of encouragement if I’m meeting or exceeding what I should be doing,” he says.
“I have a conceptual, interactive mock-up of the app,” he says. Those pages include, in order, the sign-up page, the readings entry page, a rolling average of readings, and a set of readings for the day.
On the funding side, McClain says he’s interested in talking to an angel investor who has the right connections as well as “a passion about what we are doing.” He’s also considering a Kickstarter campaign to raise development funds.
This is not McClain’s first start-up. We talked with him months ago when he was Chief Operating Officer of ROAR, a company previously profiled on teknovation.biz. That company was acquired earlier this year, allowing McClain to devote more time and attention to his personal passion.
And, today just happens to be “World Diabetes Day.”