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Patient Entrepreneur Series: Anna Sjӧberg

Anna Sjӧberg is the CEO and founder of AnnaPS Scandinavia. As a Type 1 Diabetic since 1998, Ms. Sjӧberg wears an insulin pump and began to design underwear with pockets so that she would be able to wear the pump at night, when she was exercising, or when she wanted to use clothes without pockets such as dresses. AnnaPS released its first products in 2011. 

What motivated you to create a business addressing a disease you know so well?

My heart is burning to help others live a lovely life feeling strong and healthy. I always look for solutions to solve a problem for someone or myself making it possible to live as you would like to do. So when I found out that myself and other diabetics were missing a discrete and comfortable way of carrying an insulin pump, I started to invent the AnnaPS clothes / underwear’s with integrated pockets. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I love to make it easier to live with diabetes. It is always a satisfaction when you can help people with already huge challenges in their life.

What are some of the hurdles you perceive exist for people with your disease?

I know it is a challenge to keep up a good spirit, to feel empowered, to manage the diabetes all days 24/7. It is a great challenge to have that power. I think the most hurdles are when you can’t get medication and supporting equipment in a smooth way. When you need to fight to get it. Unfortunatly it is still like that for a lot of us with T1D. I am focusing a lot to eliminate the hurdle of bringing all our diabetes stuff, in good shape and easy accessible.

Who are some of your role models in your space?

Oh yes they are many! All people that are doing so much to spread the awareness about diabetes (especially type 1), all people who arrange events and camps for T1D’s and especially for kids with diabetes. All these people starting businesses and communities within the world of diabetes are so important for us with T1D. But I am also fan of all T1D’s who do sports on a very high level, they really learn so much about managing diabetes and their knowledge is so helpful for all of us. My biggest role model is today the Swede Robin Bryntesson, a T1D and former junior world championship winner in cross-country skiing. He is working so hard to empower kids with T1D to live their dreams and not feeling stopped to do what they want to do. He is doing so much for other T1D’s and one thing are camps for kids with T1D.

In my entrepreneurship I have a lot of Swedish fashion brands as role models. They deliver high fashion, high quality, are stylish, relaxed and unexpected. I love that.

What is your goal beyond creating a successful business?

I would like to earn money to be able to support diabetes related activities, especially for kids, such as camps. My goal is also to enable people with diabetes to try out living in AnnaPS clothes and finding out how easy it can be to carry all your diabetes stuff and also feel more relaxed by having all your things close to you, at all times. To support diabetics to feel more relaxed and comfortable in their life.

What does Lyfebulb mean to you? How can we support you better? what are some of the biggest gaps today for a “young” entrepreneur?

Lyfebulb is a very important player, helping us to get in touch with the right people. I am so happy to be one of the finalists in Lyfelbulb Novo Nordisk Award. I would like to take more part in Lyfebulb events etc.

How do you stay healthy and motivated to deliver?

I am living a hectic life with an own business and two very sporty active kids. I am involved in and supporting a lot of organizations. To make this possible I am helped by being very interested in food and exercising. I love to eat food that makes me feel strong. Today I eat primal eating (no pasta, gluten, rice, potatoes, bad oils and processed foods). I exercise a lot, many hours in very low pace and out in the nature. I love to relax doing yoga and soft movements. When I have more focus on myself I do a quick weight training and flexibility program 3 times/week and once a week I do interval training  (if I’m up to it). I’m careful regarding my sleep and recovery and prefer relaxing in the nature, especially in the Winter as I love cross-country skiing.

 

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I am a strong believer in mentorship and have acting like it myself for 30 years. I have also had a lot of help from my own mentors. I think people get more relaxed and smarter when thinking together and supporting each other.

How can we draw more attention to user-driven innovation?

It is difficult to introduce new products and in this branch there are lots of big companies. It is very expensive to be part of fairs and exhibitions. I think it would be great to find a way for start-ups to be able to take part in these events without having to spend so much money. I also think it would be great to take part in virtual big events, we should start virtual diabets events!

How do you maintain work/life balance?

I try to maintain it…..it’s not easy. I need to take breaks and I always try to take a short walk in the daytime. My best days I do yoga and feel so much better.

If you had three wishes, what would they be?

A cure for diabetes is of course top 1, but before we find the cure my wish is an easy manageable  accurate CGM system and insulin pump in a close loop, communicating  the blood sugar status to me regularly (as Nightscout make possible today) and of course, I wish AnnaPS clothes to all diabetics.

What is your favorite song that gets you motivated?

I love an artist named Laleh and she have a great song called Some die young. This helps me to feel my beloved died father inside myself, he helps me go on.

Interview Series: Amin Zayani, LBNN 2017 Winner

We are excited to share our interview with our Patient Entrepreneur and 2017 Lyfebulb Novo Nordisk Summit winner, Amin Zayani. As a T1D since 2006, a solar energy engineer by training, and hardware expert by trade, Amin is revolutionizing pharmaceutical care through his creation of Med Angel.

Hi Amin! Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Tunisia, and then moved to Germany for studies. I graduated as a solar energy engineer, and then worked in Berlin for several start-ups. I was lucky to work closely with the founding teams, both in engineering and business roles. I was diagnosed with T1D in 2006, but my diagnosis was not a big deal to me, because my brother has had T1D since age three. Since his diagnosis in 1994, our family had a special relation with carb-counting, insulin, and everything that comes with it.

What drove you to start MedAngel?

I woke up one morning in August 2013 with high blood glucose. And despite injecting many corrections from several insulin pens, it wouldn’t go down. I ended up in ER that day (luckily without major complications).

 I went home with a fresh batch of insulin after a couple of hours, but I was frustrated and determined to understand the cause of the problem.

I traced the cause to my malfunctioning refrigerator, which froze my entire stock of insulin overnight, and then defrosted it again. Unfortunately, the damage was irreversible. I was aware of insulin’s vulnerability to heat, but I never suspected it to be at risk when stored as instructed in my refrigerator. I hacked a simple solution using some electronics I had lying around (a microcontroller, a thermometer and a buzzer) and I showed it around at local meet-ups. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, I quickly understood that this is an overlooked problem that affects millions of people and that there was also a market opportunity. I quit my job, invested all my savings and a loan from the bank, and joined Rockstart Digital Health Accelerator in the Netherlands. MedAngel was born as an easy to use, reliable and affordable solution in early 2017. The solution consists of a wireless Bluetooth temperature sensor that is kept with insulin and communicates with an App on the phone. The App supports all types of insulin on the market in the USA and EU (plus a couple of hundred hormones and biologics), and knows the safe ranges for stored or opened meds and alerts you only when there is a real danger.

Why should people buy MedAngel?

Our mission at MedAngel is to eliminate the uncertainty about insulin’s potency. We believe that no one should ever have an insulin pen in their hand and not know if it is still good to use or not. Many of our users have one sensor with their stock in the refrigerator, and one with the insulin they carry on the go. Many of them started using it for their travels, and we noticed that a majority of users place them in cool bags or Frio pouches in summer (to make sure that the protection works well). To summarise I would say that our solution achieves the following:

1. Bringing peace of mind and reducing some the burden of living with diabetes

2. Ensuring optimal therapeutic outcomes of insulin and other drugs

3. Avoiding financial waste by giving early alarms before it is too late, or avoiding discarding medication because of doubt.

How do you feel about winning the LBNN17 award?Our team is honoured and proud to win this award, especially after competing with such high-level start-ups! We worked very hard to do the pitch, and we wanted to stand out with a unique proposition and story. I have not felt happier in my life! For me personally it feels like a well-deserved recognition after 3 years of non-stop hard work. For us as a team, it is proof that we are doing things right, and that we work well together.

What does this award mean for you and your company?

It is a major milestone for our company! It feels like everything we were doing, everything that was on hold is falling in place! Business leads, investments, projects. We were overwhelmed with the number of emails, calls and inquiries that we received in the next few days: all major pharma companies got in touch with us, people sent us their CVs because they want to work with us, VC funds from Europe and the USA. The validation, exposure and visibility that came with winning the award are priceless. Thanks again to your team and to Novo Nordisk for making it happen.

What is next for MedAngel?

Great things! Big and ambitious plans! We need first to close our fundraising round (which I hope we will announce soon), then we will focus on growing the business and scaling up. We plan on reaching more users worldwide, and keep our high user satisfaction.We are also concentrating on working with a select number of pharmaceutical companies to make their digital transformation happen, and together bring a nicer, richer user experience to all people living with chronic conditions.

 

Interview Series: Anna Sjӧberg of AnnaPS Scandinavia

One of our favorite brands of diabetes friendly clothing, is AnnaPS. They design clothing from t-shirts, tank tops, and sports bras, to underwear for men, women, and children that have integrated pockets to carry diabetes devices, thus making life a little bit easier for those living with diabetes! Founder and CEO, Anna Sjӧberg, is a T1D and is a part of the Lyfebulb Entrepreneur Circle. I got a chance to chat with her about how she started AnnaPS Scandinavia. Read our interview below!

Bruna Petrillo: Hi Anna! Tell us a little about yourself.

Anna Sjӧberg: Hi Bruna. I am from Sweden, Scandinavia and I have been living with T1D since 1998. I started my insulin pump therapy in 2009 and immediately realized that my insulin pump really disturbed me. I got hooked in the tubing, I dropped it, I needed to use one hand to hold it during a lot of situations, so on. To solve this problem I began designing underwear with integrated pockets for my diabetes devices. Then I began to design tank tops and swimwear for women.

I have two wonderful kids who do a lot of skiing, scouting and soccer, so my husband Per and I are very involved in lot of activities as parents. We live at the coastline in a small town and I really love the nature. I also love to do a lot of sports, and for me it is important to not feel held back by my diabetes.

BP: What drove you to start AnnaPS?

AS: When I designed this underwear with integrated pockets, it really helped me with my pump. The pump became a part of me, and I never had to think about it or get disturbed by it. It was freedom. The pump and the tubing were secured into the pockets and it was easy to put the pump out or back in the pocket when I need it. It was so nice to make it easy to carry, and I started making all kind of clothes, and even bikinis, that were good looking and had pockets in a discrete way. I love to not have to carry any extra diabetes cases or clips.

I think my driving force has always been to make a difference and find solutions. It is me as Engineer.

This feeling became even stronger when I realized I can help others, and make their lives easier. I think those living with diabetes have so many things to think about every day, so it feels great to help others with diabetes. If I can do anything to support life with diabetes and make it a little bit easier, I will do it. When someone says to me, “this was the first night in years I slept all the night thanks to your clothing,” then everything I am working on is worth it. Messages like that make my heart warm.

BP: That’s wonderful Anna! Where did you get the inspiration for your designs?

AS: Of course we are inspired by our nature here in Scandinavia! I love sustainability and to make clothes with a great design and color that always makes the customer feel comfortable. Long-lasting products also means high quality. I also think clothes should give you energy, and this means the fit is adapted to how our bodies are constructed.  To combine this with functionality is our mission.

The pockets are placed to minimize disturbance by the pump. It also has openings from inside and outside of the garments, and makes you feel safe (the pump has to stay in the pocket even when you take the garment off.) Today we have mainly our basic assortment or product offering, but I hope to have opportunities to design more loose fit clothing in the future.

BP: Why should diabetics buy AnnaPS products?

AS: Because the products really solve a big problem for diabetics: how to carry all of the diabetes supplies you always have to bring! And it really minimizes the risk to leave things behind.

When I started to use my own designs with integrated pockets, I really felt how much it helped me to bring all of my diabetes stuff I needed everywhere I went. I put my phone, my blood sugar meter, and my sugar in the pockets (along with the pump). It was really freedom to always have my things close to me.

My mission is to let all diabetics know how much easier their life with diabetes can be when they have the clothing with integrated pockets for their diabetes devices.

We as diabetics need to bring so many things with us wherever we go, that we sometimes risk forgetting something, or have to bring along an extra diabetes bag.

 

BP: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced with AnnaPS?

AS: The biggest challenge is reaching all of the diabetics around the world, and growing the business so that we can exist as a brand and develop more products. We are still a small company run by my husband and I. It has also been a challenge to develop clothing with so much inbuilt functionalities that is environmental friendly and high quality.

BP: What has been your most proud moment or achievement with Anna PS?

AS: I am sure it was when I was nominated to the LyfeBulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Award! I didn’t win the first prize, but to be a part of this team for three days at the Summit in Copenhagen, and to participate in such inspiring workshops within the field of diabetes made us all feel like winners. It was fantastic! I am really impressed with Lyfebulb for setting up this Innovation Summit and Award together with Novo Nordisk.


You can shop AnnaPS Scandinavia products in the Lyfebulb Market Place!

Follow Anna on Instagram: @annaps_scandinavia

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