Business

Siblings unite for winning business venture

Martin van den Hemel photo R.C. Palmer Secondary’s Celine, Maxine, Michael, Michelle and Monique Harjani are off to Washington D.C. in June, after winning the TYE Vancouver Venture Challenge for their idea to build a wristband that incorporates a non-invasive pain-free glucose sensor to help diabetics. - Martin van den Hemel photo
Martin van den Hemel photo R.C. Palmer Secondary’s Celine, Maxine, Michael, Michelle and Monique Harjani are off to Washington D.C. in June, after winning the TYE Vancouver Venture Challenge for their idea to build a wristband that incorporates a non-invasive pain-free glucose sensor to help diabetics.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel photo

Five R.C. Palmer secondary siblings who were inspired by their late grandfather and his battle with diabetes, won the TYE Vancouver Venture Challenge last week, earning them the right to represent Vancouver at the international competition in Washington, D.C. in June.

Maxine, Michael, Michelle and Monique—who are 16-year-old quadruplets—and their younger sister Celine, 15, came up with the winning business plan to design, manufacture and market the Kaya Band (pronounced k-EYE-uh), a high-tech device targetting the estimated 41 million diagnosed diabetics between the ages of 15 and 55 who use smartphones.

The Kaya Band is a non-invasive glucose-monitoring system that will incorporate a special tattoo-like sensor that’s half the size of a postage stamp, electronics-laden wristband, and both apps and a website, in what the siblings refer to as an eco-system.

Following several weeks of being mentored about business by the best in the business—including team mentor Pavel Bains, as well as Vik Khanna, Rattan Bagga and Richmond’s Amit Sandhu—the participating students were split up into teams, and tasked to come up with a winning business venture.

The Harjanis came up with an ambitious plan focusing on healthcare, and brainstormed a technology that if it comes to fruition, could spare tens of millions of diabetics around the world the painful daily task of checking their blood glucose levels using pin-pricks. What’s even better is that the technology would be much cheaper than what’s currently available on store shelves.

The siblings described their grandfather as a charismatic man who left an indelible impression on them with his entrepreneurial spirit, a characteristic their parents—who are in commercial real estate—also share.

Born and raised in Indonesia, the Harjani siblings moved to Florida in 2006, splitting half the year in the U.S., the rest in their country of origin.

But last June, the family moved to Richmond after an earlier visit left them speechless.

“It was love at first sight,” said Celine, referring to the environment, the people and the inclusive culture with representation from the entire globe. “The view is absolutely beautiful and the people are too.”

For their TYE Vancouver Venture Challenge, they dubbed themselves C4M, which stands for Care 4 Mankind, and developed the idea of the Kaya Band. Kaya means rich and prosperous in Indonesian, but also means pure in Greek.

Celine explained that the non-invasive glucose-monitoring technology already exists, but would be tailored for diabetics, and would be melded with the wristband, apps and website to create a comprehensive ecosystem that they believe holds the promise of being “revolutionary and game-changing.”

The sensor would employ near-field communication technology to transmit blood-content information to the wristband, which would then employ Bluetooth technology to transmit information to a smartphone.

Their target is for their product to cost $1 per day, compared to the $14 per day for other non-invasive tech available to diabetics.

The sensors would be effective for 10 days, after which their accuracy drops, therefore necessitating replacement. They would be removed from the surface of the skin using makeup remover, and be hidden underneath the wristband, which would contain a battery requiring recharging once weekly.

For the first year of operation, and to manufacture some 20,000 devices, would cost an estimated $8 million, with about $1.5 million of that required for U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval, with the remainder for the development of the app, the sensor and testing and beta-testing, they said.

They will draw upon their own expertise to develop the app.

They have developed more than 40 apps for the App Store and Google Play, including one that received 500,000 downloads. The Sir Steve Jobs fan app was created in February of 2011 to celebrate Apple computers’ founder Steve Jobs’ birthday, but was removed from further downloads following his death.

Having already pitched their product to local investors and venture capitalists, the siblings are eyeing crowd-funding—such as Kickstarter which has successfully raised more than $10 million for the Pebble E-paper watch, and more than $5.7 million for the Veronica Mars Movie Project—as a realistic source to fund their dreams.

The next chapter of their teenage adventure will include a trip to Washington this June, which will give them an opportunity to reconnect with family who live nearby, while pitching their product and hoping for the best.

With the inaugural international TYE event won last year by Vancouver’s winning group including two Richmond teens, one also from Palmer, the Harjanis know they have big shoes to fill, but will relish the opportunity to make their new hometown proud.

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