Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageSmart breast pump startup Naya Health searches for investors

By Ken Hanly     Sep 22, 2017 in Technology
Janica Alvarez and her husband managed to raise $6.5 million from investors in 2013 to start Naya Health Inc. which makes a smart breast pump. Naya has already secured vital approval for her device from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
However, few venture capitalists (VCs) have been willing to invest in their firm. When Alvarez first met with VCs she thought that there would be professional discussion about breast pumps. Potential investors wanted to know how she could run a startup while raising a family.
Some asked how she kept in such good shape with three children. Others did not want to touch her product. Alvarez and her husband decided to turn to Kickstarter to find capital to keep their company running.
The Naya campaign has an initial aim of raising $100,000 and has just started. Alvarez said: “If VCs don’t want this, then we know parents and mothers do.”
The VC industry is male-dominated, being 93 percent male. Alvarez situation is made worse by the fact that she is launching a product that men do not use.
A breast pump is a device used to extract milk from the breasts of a lactating woman. They have a long history. On June 20 1854 the US Patent Office issued a patent of O.H. Needham a breast pump.
Breast pumps can be manual powered by hand or foot movement or electrically powered. There are many reasons breast pumps are used. They can be used to gather breast milk from a woman who has returned to work. The milk is captured in a bottle which a caregiver can later use to feed the baby. The milk extracted may also be donated to be used by milk banks that provide it to babies who cannot receive their mother's milk for whatever reason.
One of the most dominant manufacturers of breast pumps is the Swiss company Medela LLC. Most of the devices use hard plastic cups and air suction. Some are relatively noisy and can be painful as well. There are many different types as this article on Medela products show with costs running to several hundred dollars.
The Naya pump uses a soft suction cup that is more like the feel of a baby's mouth. It also distributes the force of the suction over a broader area of the breast, making it likely to be less painful than the harder plastic cups. Alvarez claims that their pump delivers 30 percent more breast milk and is also 20 percent faster than alternatives.
She claims this is a result of the unique water-based system used. The firm is also planning to market a smart bottle to go with the pump. The bottle will be able to track volume, calorie count, and fat content of the breast milk. The mother would be able to use software that would track how much milk is being pumped, how much the baby is eating and how much milk was left in storage.
The cost however is several times as high as conventional units sold by Medala. The Naya company was selling the units for $999 but has lowered the price temporarily to $649 still a large premium over a typical Medela pump costing about $250.
To come close to the price of conventional pumps, Naya also offers a lower-end model with no rechargeable battery and lacking certain accessories for $399 but this is just temporary and the price is expected to rise to $499 eventually. Naya is also planning in the future to rent out the units which will allow those who cannot afford the upfront costs of the unit to use it.
In spite of its high price, the pump has had favorable reviews from Wired and the New York Times. Even more significant it has been received positively by many mothers. Emilee Stucky a 29-year old mother of seven-month old twin daughter said: “The comfort alone is worth the investment. In a world where pumping is already so inconvenient for women, the Naya breast pump makes it so convenient and so comfortable.”
The company has to raise more capital in order to keep working, hoping to supplement their staffing once their fortunes change and ramp up production.
Two other competitors are working on breast pumps, Moxxly and Exploramed NC7 Inc. have yet to even release their products. Moxxly which was working on a way of pumping discreetly under a bra ended up being bought by Medela.
More about Naya Health, smart breast pumps, medala LLC