By Sara Gilgore – Staff Reporter, Washington Business Journal
Oct 24, 2019, 6:00pm EDT
Shavini Fernando has a congenital heart defect.
As a result, the 37-year-old entrepreneur suffers from severe pulmonary hypertension — which, on multiple occasions, has caused dangerously low oxygen levels. She didn’t know when it was happening until it was too late, and there wasn’t a tool that would tell her.
So Fernando created one. Now, she’s working full-time as part of Halcyon incubator’s current cohort to bring her product, OxiWear, to market.
Millions of people suffer today from pulmonary hypertension — a form of high blood pressure that affects arteries in the heart and lungs. And the device, she said, was developed to help these patients both live normal lives and “prevent the deaths that happen due to not getting help on time.”
What is OxiWear, exactly? A wearable device that monitors oxygen levels. It alerts the user when levels fall too low, and in emergency situations, notifies contacts and calls 911. The device, placed in the ear, uses optic sensors to track oxygen intake. It’s also connected to a mobile app, so patients can personalize their own ranges. A premium subscription version uses predictive analytics to caution users if oxygen levels are dropping or at risk of falling, based on previous episodes and external factors like altitude or air quality.
Who’s behind it? Shavini Fernando, the company’s founder and CEO, is a web developer and designer, with video games and virtual reality expertise in her arsenal.
What’s the challenge? Funding. First and foremost, Fernando needs capital to develop and take her hardware product to market, which she’s aiming to do in 2021. And as an international student from Sri Lanka with limited access to federal grants, she’s looking to hire a few employees — which, she said, is tough without financing.
How is it funded? Fernando’s personal investment plus pitch competition winnings: $35,000 from the Georgetown University “Bark Tank” pitch competition, part of the Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship prize, and another $5,500 through the university’s Global Impact Pitch Competition, backed by Citi Ventures. The company is still pre-revenue, but after going live, revenue will come from device sales and in-app subscriptions.
What’s next? To raise between $250,000 and $500,000 in a friends and family round by December, then launch a Kickstarter campaign. In 2021, Fernando plans to release two versions of the product: a lifestyle and fitness device for athletes and a medical device, for which she intends to seek Food and Drug Administration approval. Ultimately, she hopes, physicians will be able to prescribe it to patients and their insurance would cover the cost. “My mission is to put a stop to all preventable deaths due to hypoxia,” she said. “To make it possible, I need to make sure that everyone who needs this device has access to it.”