Coraluma - Post Hatch Follow Up
Coraluma (originally BeLeaf) was founded during our Great Hatch event in 2017. We are pleased to say this group continued their work within communication and mental health. We followed up with one of the members, Matthew Miller, to hear about the amazing progress they have made.
How was your experience at the event last year?
I think the effect of it all was just a sense of satisfaction that we could pull something off in 24 hours and actually talk about it and have people understand what the heck we were talking about. And you know its like summer camp wrapped up into 24 hours. I left there feeling like that was so worth it and it's probably one of the best weekends I've ever had. And for me personally I love making connections with Emily Carr, UBC, engineering, and for me it was a totally different world and I've kept those relationships going along the way just talking to you and Hatching Health, talking to some of the mentors at UBC. And I feel like it's such a wonderful opportunity that all these organizations have provided by just opening their doors to each other first of all, and then allowing us to come through there. I never thought I would participate in anything that had to do with students, and I felt really privileged to be there.
Tell me about BeLeaf. How did the problem space and objectives come about?
I guess the problem space came about with my pitch, which was thinking about my sister who is the middle child and she had psychosis episodes and tried to commit suicide twice. The first time caught us all off guard and the second time happened quite some time later and that also caught me off guard and it really bothered me. And I thought if there was something I could ever do in healthcare, and I'm not clinical at all, would be trying to get ahead of someones depression.. and understand the signs and the signals that were there but perhaps I wasn't seeing. I thought, well if that's something we can experiment with then there might be some worth there. And I wasn't really doing it for selfish reasons, I just thought that it might be valuable and I think the team that came together.. I don't know everyone's story - but the little I do know I think that it touched a nerve. At the time i didn't know the statistics, I grabbed some things off the Canadian Mental Health Association the day before and put it in the pitch but it didn't resonate with me. The idea that 1 in 5 people live with some form of mental illness in Canada it kinda blows my mind the more I think about it and knowing that number is growing and that it really does affect everybody. The people that support just as much or even more so in some ways in terms of family members who are affected by it and I experienced that right away in the team formation because we had too many people on the team. That's when I went,"oh wait a second," and something shifted. So for me that was the first real ah-hah moment.
[On the name BeLeaf] Part of it was a plant metaphor, and I remember someone had asked me, "Well you pitched this problem, now what is your solution?" And I remember thinking, "We're not supposed to bring our solutions to the table," and i was resisting actually saying anything, but the idea that brought this forth was quite a number of years ago back when online shopping wasn't the thing that it is today.. if you wanted to buy something online you would go to a retail store and they would call their place of business in another city and they would ship things for you and so I was buying flowers for my mother who lived in Toronto. So I went to a local shop in Victoria, picked out the flowers I thought they were shipping it from the Toronto store and the florist said, "Look, take one of these flowers and put it in a little vase on your desk at work and when that flower droops, your mothers flowers will also be drooping and that's how you know it's time to come back here and buy some more flowers from me. I thought that was really clever, but when I was thinking about this problem the night before I was also thinking, "What would be interesting to an engineer?" I'm no engineer but this thing has got to move. So I was thinking about the idea of this mechanical flower in a vase which are in two different locations and the idea that you could just assign a number and at 10 the flower would be standing straight up then 0 the flower would be flat out at 90 degrees and so that was the beginning of this concept of an organic way of some sort of visual system that would externalize depression so that it is dead obvious at a distance without using any verbal communication. That expanded into action cards,the idea of having everyone know what to do in that situation. The thing that I loved about the BeLeaf team was that we stayed in the question for a long time.. think it was until 11 o'clock at night.
Another fun thing was I remember saying, "What does success look like in 24 hours?" and the idea that if we could just use the 3D printer - and I've never used one before, my 8 year old nieces have and I haven't so I figured I just wanted to be able to have that experience. Lets just do something so that we can use the 3D printer!
Why do you think the project resonated so well with the judges and why do you think it resonates so well with the people you talk to?
My guess is that we were able to deliver something on time.. and it lit up. I think we had enough of a stage presence in the sense that we were able to demonstrate how it would actually work just by turning the knobs [on the prototype]. It was all smoke and mirrors but that's the whole point of a prototype. And I think really the judges see the same thing as the audience. It's because it affected them, I think, personally. I don't think there was a judge in there that didn't have some connection directly or indirectly with mental health. So that's what I learned in that moment. And then after when people were coming up and saying, "Hey you know what I've been affected by this." actually all throughout that was the thing that made me stop and get a little nervous, not sure that's the right word, but the sense that this actually was affecting people whereas it wasn't just an experiment - wasn't just a hackathon anymore.
Where are you guys at now? Can you speak to the name change?
The wonderful thing that happened right after was that we went into the UBC Lean Launchpad program. That was an intense 6 week period where every week we had to show up and do a pitch of what we had learned. It was intense interviewing and really forced us to get out there and question and test and it was almost too fast. I probably lost a few pounds of sweat. And then right after that was doing a venture builder program which was just a continuation of another four or five weeks and that momentum was really the thing that was sort of necessary to keep that intense state of the hackathon but it's hard to do.
Coraluma came about just with the idea that we wanted to have a unique space with the idea that having brand that stood out but it was also able to speak to what the product would be. We came up with a website recently that is just benefits based. If you go there there's nothing to do with what the product is. There's no sales - it's the exact opposite of what most startups do and I'm just really convinced that starting with benefits is saying that we're dealing with pain. The form is not there yet, and we're not pretending to have all of the answers and I think it's a good place to be. As we add more, we just layer it with more information. We have a process mapped out, mentors that we work with, we're in partnership with a company that is very much invested in the blockchain side of things - exploring the patient controlled data which I'm really excited about. There's a virtual reality component of that which we're exploring. Looking at different forms of light in terms of what that looks like and what that feels like. What does it feel like to have that light on? Not, what does it feel like to report in that colour - they're two different things.
We are actually exploring doing some tests in an addiction recovery clinic where people are in residence for 30 days, and introducing this device with a therapist in a psychologically safe environment and seeing what happens when this person takes the device and goes into their community where they may or may not have support from their friends and family but they still have connection with the therapist. I'm really interested to see if that has any legs at all so this is the next quarter to put the pedal to the metal which will be our one year mark. I feel like I've lived two years in one year.
What do you see in the future for the group?
Well the future is the product has been validated and it is in the right market. Ideally, regardless of market fit or price or revenue, does it actually help people? That's the most important thing. It's this noble cause.
Thank you so much to Matthew Miller for speaking to us on behalf of Coraluma. Visit their website here.
Hatching Health 2017 Impact
The Great Hatch 2017 event brought some of the most innovative minds in BC together to hatch medical innovation and we are thrilled that many of the teams have indicated they will be pursuing their ideas further. The winning teams include:
This year out panel of judges could not decide on a single PHIX Grand Prize Award winner; instead they gave out two awards! UriKnow (left) and BeLeaf both impressed the panel with their passion in approaching well validated problems and developing proof-of-concept prototypes. In an effort to reduce complications arising from misread or UriKnow provides a easier solution to monitoring urine flow rate for catheterized patients in a busy workplace to reduce complications arising from abnormal rates. BeLeaf aims to bring a more personal approach to help people suffering with depression through both an app and a totem.
The Faculty of Medicine Catalyst Award for best interdisciplinary collaboration went to Opioid Crisis, a team trying to prevent deaths from the Fentanyl overdose through a wearable designed to detect early symptoms.
The Genome BC Impact Award for biggest potential healthcare impact went to MommyData, an eHealth literacy tool for new mothers who can be overwhelmed with information that may sometimes not be from a credible source.
The Faculty of Applied Science Award for best innovation of the course of the Great Hatch went to one of our finalists, LocoMobility. They successfully prototyped a low-cost device to address pressure ulcers for wheelchair users in low-resource environments.
The Geyer Family First Place Award - Smart Curve
This team addressed the problem of customizing wheelchair seating for the pediatric population suffering from spinal deformities.
VCHRI Second Place Award - UpRight
This is a ‘smart’ walker developed specifically for patients with Parkinson’s.
UBC Biomedical Engineering Hardware Award - Companion
A GPS wearable for those with early dementia who are prone to becoming disoriented and need a means to direct them to their home/destination.
HumanAPI Software Award - Happi
An app for those suffering with depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.
Doctors of BC Collaboration Award - StrollSight
Addressing the difficulty of visually impaired individuals pushing a stroller while using their other hand for navigation with a walking stick.