Startups made in Austria XII – mySugr makes Diabetes suck less

Vienna on May 26, 2015

Diabetes sucks – that’s something the 30 members of the mySugr team agree on. Since 2010 the Viennese startup tries to make the life of diabetes patients easier. They already launched five different applications – Logbook, Importer, the Quiz app, Junior and Academy – as well as the mySugr online platform. The mySugr Logbook helps with day-to-day diabetes management. The mySugr Importer was developed together with startup Anyline and scans and imports data from blood sugar meters. Junior was especially developed for young patients and the mySugr Quiz app lets you test your knowledge about diabetes. The Academy – also available as IOS app since last week – helps type 2 diabetes patients with videos and games to cope with their disease.

Our May startup: mySugr

How did mySugr start?

The co-founders Fredrik Debong, Frank Westermann, Gerald Stangl and Michael Forisch started in 2010 to work on a concept for the first mySugr app. The initiative came from Fredrik and Frank, who have both been living with diabetes for many years.

The mySugr co-founders: (from left) Frank Westermann, Gerald Stangl, Fredrik Debong and Michael Forisch, photo © mySugr

The mySugr co-founders: (from left) Frank Westermann, Gerald Stangl, Fredrik Debong and Michael Forisch, photo © mySugr

Since the age of 4 ½ Fredriks life revolves around his disease. He has to measure his blood sugar several times a day, every meal and every form of movement has to be accounted for. Fredrik suffered from diabetes burn-out during a period of 3 years. “I just did not want to cope with it anymore. I did not care for myself and stopped measuring my blood sugar.” He passed out on a weekly basis, and suffered from a constant headache and very low energy levels. “My body was poisoned by constantly having to deal with too low or too high blood sugar.”

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The body is unable to produce the vital insulin. Without insulin the human body cannot absorb carbohydrates. This leads to low energy levels and the body starting to burn fat, which in turn leads to an elevated blood sugar level and a rise in harmful acids in the blood. This damages the human body.

Fredrik was able to defeat his burn-out and his negative thoughts. “I started to reward myself for correct behavior, in my case regular measuring of my blood sugar. The concept of mySugr is based on this idea.”

What does mySugr do?

Around the world there are about 400 mio people suffering from diabetes, about 10% of them from type 1 diabetes. The majority of patients are afflicted with type 2 diabetes, which means that the body becomes insulin-resistant. For that reason the body has to reproduce insulin, which it is unable to do properly.

Using state-of-the-art technology mySugr wants to change the philosophy behind diabetes therapy. The team is using a gamified approach to make dealing with diabetes easier. All their applications are based on positive emotions. To guarantee the highest standards the startup works with an advisory board of leading diabetologists, psychologists and diabetes counselors. mySugr products are certified medical products. The most successful application, the mySugr Logbook,  was certified by the FDA (US Food & Drog Administration), CE (Conformité Européenne) and TÜV.

The mySugr Logbook App, photo © mySugr

The mySugr Logbook App, photo © mySugr

The majority of mySugr users come from the US and Germany, the largest segment is between 30-35 years old. Fredrik smiles: “Two of our eldest users are over 80 years old. The bought iPads, iPhones and Laptops to get the most out of all our services”. With the services of mySugr children learn to become more independent in dealing with their disease on a daily basis.

The Team?

mySugr was founded by Fredrik Debong, Frank Westermann, Gerald Stangl and Michael Forisch. Along with Fredrik Frank wanted to be able to better manage his diabetes and make better use of the data he produced. Gerald has a background in design and usability and led the team through the development process. Michael is responsible for mySugr’s quality management, which in the case of medical products is especially important. In the last few years the team steadily grew to a size of about 30 members of which 10 have been living with diabetes for many years.

Where does the money come from?

For the users the mySugr Logbook app is free. Upgrading to the Pro version gives access to many other features and services and can bought for one year or paid on a monthly basis. Anyone who has the Austrian SVA insurance will get a refund for the mySugr Academy, which was certified by the Austrian Diabetes Association. mySugr’s clients, e.g. Sanofi Aventis, Medtronic, Roche and Abbot are integrating the startup’s services with their own diabetes products.

mySugr was funded by the Austrian Wirtschaftsservice (AWS) and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) gave funding for the development of the mySugr importer. Since 2012 Austrian Business Angel Johann “Hansi” Hansmann has been investing into the startup. The team got a lot of validation for their idea by winning startup competitions like the Techcrunch Pitch, at Hasso Plattner Ventures in Belgium and at the Webit Congress in Istanbul.

The mySugr Importer scans data from blood sugar meters, photo © mySugr

The mySugr Importer scans data from blood sugar meters, photo © mySugr

mySugr is not yet financing itself. For that reason the startup recently completed an investment round where they could raise 4,8 million Dollar. Investors are for example the Roche Venture Fund, iSeed Ventures and XLHealth.

And what about the future?

After the large increase in capital mySugr wants to grow. The team is planning to add more languages to be able to offer an even better service. The mySugr Academy was launched about a week ago as app for IOS. The startup is already preparing for the launch of a new product. More and more doctors, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and hospitals are contacting mySugr to start cooperations to make diabetes suck less for patients and make living with this disease a little bit easier.