We had an interesting chat with Ms. “Anna Na”, Co-founder of the Shanghai – China based start-up “shiyiku”
Below is the interview we conducted with him:
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
MyChi is Shiyiku’s first product. It is the world’s first food therapy smart assistant. Consisting of a smart hardware(non-wearable) device and mobile app, MyChi helps users live a healthier lifestyle with daily, personal guidance on eating, acupoints (for message), and exercise.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
Shiyiku was founded in August, 2014. Our product MyChi has been designed and developed, with prototypes manufactured and tested. We will launch Kickstarter/indiegogo campaign in early April and fulfill those orders, while jumpstarting larger production and distribution.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
Our target market is North America. MyChi is not only the assistant for individuals, it also helps aucupuncturist and nutritionist to fulfill their clients’ diet/eating plan. We go for B to B business model. We’ll distribute our product through variety channels such as acupuncture clinics, Chinese medicine related clinics, nutrition and fitness clinics, hardware and healthcare product vendors, affiliate program, and online sales platforms such as amazon.com, etc.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
We came together because all of us have passion on health, especially Chinese food therapy. Sophia Ma is Shiyiku’s CEO, handling business planning, management and investors’ relationship; David is Shiyiku’s Technical Consultant, handling all aspects of product development, manufacturing and testing; Anna Na is responsible for marketing&PR, content(website and app), and China company matters.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
MyChi is the world’s first smart food therapy assistant. It differs from other health-related smart hardware in two key ways: first, its closed feedback loop of data and customized advice and, second, its use of principals from Eastern Medicine and holistic health approach. While using whole foods and a balanced diet similar to those recommended by top nutritionists, MyChi takes it to the next level by customizing and integrating ancient Chinese wisdom.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
So far, we have hit key milestones in design and production of our product. We have prototypes developed and tested and have launched our website. Our next big milestone is launching on Kickstarter in April.We expect to then be poised for growth in production and wider distribution.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
There are no direct competitors, though there are numerous apps and smart hardware devices related to health. The competition for people’s attention would likely be among these options and/or websites offering health and food advice. However, none of these offers daily, customized tips based on the user’s data with combined Western and Eastern health principals.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
We began by searching for an existing hardware which we could enhance with our solutions, but were unable to find an open source development opportunity so we had to start from scratch with a new smart hardware device. Fortunately, we had a team with the right experience to do get this accomplished. The other obstacle is for us to effectively communicate the science behind the product to overcome doubts and to illustrate the benefits.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
Traditional Chinese Medicine and the related food therapy theories are not well understood by the general public, especially in the West. However, MyChi was designed specifically so that users don’t have to study and understand the complex theories but can simply follow easy-to-implement daily advice.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
First, our team has personal passion for what we are doing. The company was born of our own health experiences, which we think are pretty common in the world today. This means our product fills a real gap in consumers’ needs. Second, we each bring extensive experience and a solid network in diverse areas of the business. And, most importantly, we are bringing something unique to the market that solves a real
problem in a modern way.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
Shiyiku wants to provide the best tools and simplest methods for creating healthier lifestyles. If we succeed with our first product, we will develop further generations of smart technology and wellness coaching apps that integrate Eastern medicine.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
The idea for MyChi came directly from our personal health experiences. We know the health and lifestyle concerns we had mirror typical situations of many consumers all around the world. Because of our team’s IT experience, we were able to zero in on smart technology as the best delivery mechanism for this advice.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
First, when you transform your idea into a product you should consider the potential users’ need and market trend; second, it’s important to find the right person to do the right thing, otherwise you’ll waste your time to go wrong direction; third, team work is very important.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Like most startups, market, money, and human resources are always the problems that we should face. How to find a balance way to settle them is what we’ve been always working on.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Users benefit in the most essential way: with easy access to better health. My Chi takes away the mystery and complicated work of understanding food therapy, making it easy and fun for users to implement. It’s like having a holistic health practitioner to give you advice every day…all right in your smartphone.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
We have launched our website, setup a series of social media accounts such as facebook, twitter, linkedin, pinterest, etc. Our initial customers will find us via our website and kickstarter or Indiegogo. We have engaged a great team of marketing and public relations experts to help us gain exposure and build a strong community. We’re currently developing our social media outreach and connecting with large media sources, bloggers, podcasters and more.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
We see our early adopting customers as educated, busy professionals who are passionate about health and enjoy using technology. We think advocates of natural health, TCM and holistic nutrition will be natural allies in getting this information out to new customers.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
New users are typically those already interested in wellness, especially those curious about (or currently implementing) holistic health and nutrition. These users may already be using Traditional Chinese Medicine services, such as acupuncture, or listening to advice from Eastern medicine. Similarly, practitioners in these fields may use the MyChi device to extend their services to patients’ daily lives.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
After they see our description and demo, they would like to try. They shows great interest in this product that combines high tech and ancient eastern medicine. They think MyChi is an effective tool for them to improve immune system and achieve wellness.
20. How are you going to scale?
We have already established the relationship with our manufacturer, who is capable of quickly scaling up production and distribution. Because of the foundation we have built, we have flexibility to scale up efficiently.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
The next feature we’d like to add is Android capability, as our first generation app was only for the iPhone. For the content we’ll develop for vegetarian version.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We are currently an international startup, based in China but targeting the U.S. and Europe primarily. This decision was made on market research and our team’s personal experience with overseas work. We feel the market is mature and ready for integrative health solutions incorporating Traditional Chinese Medicine. After we have solid users in North America and Europe, we’ll expand to Asia and China.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
There are huge potential users who want to achieve wellness through holistic health. We combine high tech with eastern holistic health, conducting an easy way to follow. We start from those who accept TCM related services, then expand to general diet&fitness users; finally segment the market by providing contents especially for special groups of such as diabetes and heart disease, etc.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
Currently, we have a team in place to handle the initial crowdfunding launch. However, we will be expanding after that and potential applicants can find information at www.shiyiku.com.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
Yes, we are seeking partnership and funding opportunities. We chose to launch first on Kickstarter or Indiegogo in order to build a solid community of early adopters. We have also talked with investors and will be seeking interested partners to expand beyond that initial production. Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Think big, but do it as minimum investment as possible. As the market is unsustainable, test first , learn, and then involve into big business. Team work is important.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
MyChi is the world’s first food therapy smart assistant based on holistic eastern wisdom. It helps you to improve health in an easy and natural way. It’ll lead health industry to next level.