Swatee Surve, Founder & CEO of Litesprite, is a leader who has developed and launched disruptive technology-based healthcare businesses for Microsoft, Nike, T-Mobile, Premera Blue Cross and Eastman Kodak. These commercialization projects led to several patents including Nike's first wearable technology patents. Surve has an MBA from the University of Chicago, an MSME in Biomechanics from Pennsylvania State University, and a BS in Bioengineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has been featured in international, national, and regional media outlets including Huffington Post, International Business Times, NPR’s KUOW’s Morning Edition, APM: Marketplace, VentureBeat, Kauffman Foundation, and iMedicalapps.
Daria: How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I’ve had a life-long passion about the intersection of technology and healthcare. I have been intrigued with the idea of technology directly helping patients. I have worked in corporate research labs where my role was to identify and build healthcare businesses where emerging technology was foundational to the product. For example, I was hired by Nike in 2001 to work on wearable technology and my patents were the company’s first in their IP portfolio in this area. In 2010 I was evangelizing the use of machine learning and big data in healthcare through my strategic development role at Microsoft Research.
As a healthcare technologist, I observed that individual motivation, not technology, was the key to improving a person’s health. As I started researching this area in 2011, I saw there were over 40 peer-reviewed research papers indicating that gaming could improve health outcomes – but there were no commercialization efforts. In my mind an end-to-end system approach – an effective marriage of technology that strengthens the patient-clinician relationship – was the key to making transformative change. Seeing this as an opportunity, I launched Litesprite.
Today, Litesprite is recognized as thought and industry leader with 15 international innovation awards including being the first video game to receive a U.S. Surgeon General Award. Our clinically-validated mental health video game is actively recommended in medical clinics today. We are creating the new field of healthcare entertainment and we are recognized leaders in this space. Clinicians routinely comment that our solution is like nothing they have come across for patient engagement or tracking outcomes. including being the first video game to receive a U.S. Surgeon General Award and are actively recommended in medical clinics today. We are semi-finalists in the 2018 Consumer Technology Association's Start Up of the Year!
Daria: What advice would you give to someone starting a company in the wellness space?
Swatee: If you don't have industry background, take the time to learn it from all angles for your specific area. Healthcare, health & wellness overlap a lot - especially as healthcare moves towards integrated models and incorporating complimentary medicine. So often if you are starting in a non-clinical area, you may find yourself in a spot where a pivot may require clinical/healthcare knowledge. Also understand the reimbursement/payment for healthcare and health and wellness products. How will it get paid for? Test your assumptions - many people who come in outside of healthcare assume patients will pay for services. Healthcare is one of those where that is a tough sell b/c the patient's expectation is, "I have health insurance coverage. Why should I pay for this?" or the question will be "Is it covered by insurance?" That is less the case with elective product and services. Finally, really think about the problem you are solving - it is a true gap? How are you helping the patient or healthcare provider? I see a lot of health and wellness solutions that looking for a problem to solve.
Daria: What will be the key trends in the health & wellness in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Swatee: Key trends include incentives to promote technology adoption in the healthcare sector. From FDA to new reimbursement guidelines, there is a lot of activity to encourage the deployment and adoption of new technologies. Hybrid solutions - one that combine technology with a subject matter expert is another trend you will start to see. Clinical validation of wellness products will be another.
Daria: What challenges do you see in your business?
Swatee: As an innovator, our challenge is quite often we are in the position of educating as part of our sales process. Quite often, we hold back features because our customers aren't ready for them. One example is we were testing an AR style pokemon-go walking mini-game 6 months before the launch of Pokemon Go. In the clinic we saw similar results but it was really hard to explain to our customers what we were doing. Once Pokemon Go came out, it became a lot easier.
Daria: What are your 3 inspirational companies in health & wellness?
Swatee: 3 female-led companies that are inspirational to me right now are Kari Gran, Excy, and Umm Skincare.
Kari Gran is the anti-beauty, beauty company. They champion healthy prevention over critical correction. And their ethos is centered around creating natural, eco-luxe products that provide simple, elegant solutions for your everyday personal care at any age or stage. Their toner and serum is really wonderful!
Excy is innovative exercise and physical therapy cycling device with a mobile coaching platform that bridges traditional fitness with outpatient rehabilitation. It’s also great for people who need an easy way to keep moving but can’t b/c they are stuck indoors. Watching Michele build Excy, I’ve seen the profound and empowering impact her products had on many people. Excy marries the power of low impact cardio with resistance training and on-demand coaching to meet the fitness needs of those looking to stay healthy while battling injury, disease, or disability.
UMM Skincare is an new one that is about to launch in the next few months. It is an all natural, organic, exotic and luxury line of skin and body
p.s Online voting for the Consumer Technology Association Startup of The Year’s Audience choice award will be open until Oct. 8! One Vote per person (A Voter can either vote with the Facebook or LinkedIn Account). Go to the link below to vote - http://www.startupofyear.com/peopleschoiceaward2018
About the author:
Daria Tsvenger is a co-founder of Supergirls Club - women-focused health & wellness community. She is also a yoga teacher and the ultimate powerhouse of creativity. She can be found on instagram @dariatsvenger