Shifting an Industry: Sproutel

  • Shifting an Industry: Sproutel
  • Transforming an industry doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen with just one product. Since launching Jerry the Bear in 2009, Aaron Horowitz and Hannah Chung have turned their passion for healthcare into Sproutel, a thriving company that taps the power of storytelling and play to reinvent pediatric healthcare.

    In 2018, Sproutel announced its newest product in partnership with Aflac Inc. Just as Jerry helps comfort children with type 1 diabetes, My Special Aflac Duck(TM) is an interactive companion for children undergoing cancer treatment. A compatible, web-based app enables children to mirror their care routines, including medical regiments, feeding, and bathing through augmented reality. The smart companion emulates young patients’ moods; it endures the same, painful therapies; and it dances, quacks, and nuzzles to help comfort children when they need it most. My Special Aflac Duck(TM) received the Best of Innovation Award and Best Unexpected Product at the International Consumer Electronics Show 2018.

    With Sproutel, Aaron and Hannah are not only changing individual lives — they are transforming the healthcare system, showing patients and advocacy groups, like Beyond Type 1, that they are not alone. They are working with major companies, like Aflac, teaching them how to use design-thinking to create new products and processes that have the power to impact lives, business, and entire industries. DFA is continuing to empower more Hannahs and Aarons of the world, and if past results are any indication, the future is sure to surprise us all!
  • “I really like the Aflac duck. It’s my friend to help me get through all the tough times here.”
    — Young girl with cancer

    “If she has something to sit with her, something to take her through it, 
    a friend that will always be there, it will make a difference.”
    — Parent of patient

    “That belief that you can do anything is important for any child with a health condition. I was diagnosed with human growth hormone deficiency. I self-administered daily injections throughout my childhood. Some days, I felt entirely helpless. That feeling is something I hope no child ever has to experience. Play is an untapped resource for our healthcare system.”
    — Aaron Horowitz, Co-Founder & CEO, Sproutel, DFA Alum

    “There’s no integrated voice assistant, you can’t play games with it, there’s no camera — but all of that actually makes the duck feel smarter than gadgets with way too many features. 
    The duck does just enough to comfort children during a difficult time.”
    — The Verge

    “Every once in a while I get to work with entrepreneurs who really are changing the world. 
    Hannah and Aaron are two of the best. In all the hype of ‘the next Uber’ or 
    ‘Bitcoin billionaires,’ it’s important to remember that entrepreneurs 
    have the power to make the world better.”
    — Allan Tear, Managing Partner, Beta Spring & RevUP Fund, Mentor