Sara Cinnamon originally began working on the “uBox” — a smart pillbox– as a charitable effort, helping tuberculosis patients in India stick to their medicinal treatment. The device reminds patients when to take doses, curbs access to excessive medication and digitally notes when a dose is dispensed.
But she and her Abiogenix co-founder, Goutam Reddy, soon realized that people around the world could benefit from the uBox.
“People who knew about this would tell us, ‘My mom could use that. My grandmother could use that,’” she says. “It wasn’t just an overseas need — many people want to know if their family members are taking their meds on time.”
Founder: Sara Cinnamon
Headquarters: San Francisco
Year Founded: 2007
Role Model: Mother, grandmother, aunts — plus engineers, scientists and business women who have preceded her
Website: abiogenix.com, my-uBox.com
Related: Meet 10 Young Women to Watch in 2014
The co-founders, who won the Muhammad Yunus Innovation Challenge to Alleviate Poverty in 2007, had been working on the uBox by self-funding their efforts. That resulted in a hiatus in production when the money ran out. However, Abiogenix’s involvement with Boston-based incubator Healthbox in the fall of 2012 gave them the resources they needed — including $50,000 in seed capital — to allow them to restart their efforts.
Abiogenix is now involved in some “promising talks” with investors, according to Cinnamon, and is in discussions with corporations in the U.S., Canada, Australia and India to run trials.
When it comes to managing the business, Cinnamon is responsible for “everything that is facing outwards” at Abiogenix, including those crucial investment meetings. It’s a challenge for an entrepreneur who is also a confessed introvert.
“I’m not used to asking people for things, but as an entrepreneur, you have to ask,” she says. “I wouldn’t, on first instinct, think that I could do it. But then I visualize where I want to be and how I can get there. I practice in my head, I push myself, and it gets easier as time passes.”
As Abiogenix continues to seek funding, it is also continuing to work on making the uBox more user-friendly. Down the line, Abiogenix also hopes to make a smaller second-generation model.
Though the road ahead is long, Cinnamon remains dedicated to her desire to offer “compassion through skillful means” with the uBox.
“It’s sort of a Buddhist principle of providing care for all using technology and empathy,” she says. “That’s what sets us apart from the competition. We are engineers by trade, but making a difference for people is what matters. What’s the best way we can do that? By using engineering for good.”
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