You may know Jerry the Bear as part of Beyond Type 1. But this learning and companion toy for children with type 1 diabetes got his start as a college project. Ten students from Northwestern University entered the first every DiabetesMine Design Challenge back in 2009 and won the most creative design. A few of those students continued on and – as you’ll hear – started a new company called Sproutel.
In addition to Jerry the Bear, Sproutel makes My Special Aflac Duck for pediatric cancer patients and Purrble to help children self-soothe.
This interview with Sproutel CEO Aaron Horowitz and Chief Creative Officer Hanna Chung first aired in November 2015.
This podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider.
This podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider.
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Stacey Simms 0:00
This episode of Diabetes Connections is brought to you by Inside the Breakthrough, a new history of science podcast full of Did You Know stuff.
This is Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms.
Stacey Simms 0:19
Welcome everybody. This is going to be a fun classic episode of the show. I’m really glad to have you along. It’s been fun this year to take a look back at some of these interviews. These classic episodes, as you likely know by now are from the very first year or two of the podcast. Most of them are from the very first full year of lunch. And it’s great to take a look back and revisit some of the cool people that we talked to a lot of you are newer to the show, or at least haven’t been here for every single one of these. What are we 355 episodes. So I’m really happy to bring these classic episodes back out with an update.
So hi, I’m your host, Stacey Simms, and my son was diagnosed with Type 1 14 years ago he is now 16 my husband lives with type two diabetes, I do not have diabetes, I have a background in broadcasting. That’s how I came up with the podcast. And this episode is all about Jerry the bear a learning and companion toy for children with type 1 diabetes, you may be familiar with Jerry and I put some pictures in the Facebook group over Diabetes Connections of the group. But Jerry started out looking a little well a lot different and having different functionality. You may know Jerry has part of beyond type one. Now it’s a program under them. They’re helping with distribution and lots of other good stuff.
But Jerry got his start as a college project. 10 students from Northwestern entered the very first diabetes mine design challenge back in 2009. And they won the most creative design back then a few of those students continued on and as you’ll hear started a new company Sproutel that continues to this day. And in addition to Jerry, the bear Sproutel makes my special Aflac Duck for pediatric cancer and purple for finding calm. I will link both of those up at Diabetes connections.com you can get more information and check them out. They are they’re adorable. They’re really helping kids and families who need them. And as always, you know, episode homepage will have all the details.
I did reach out to Aaron Horowitz. He is the CEO of Sproutel he’s one of the people you’ll hear from in this interview when I asked him for an update. And he says since this time, of course, they’ve added quite a few things. Most recently, they’ve added a continuous glucose monitor to Jerry. And they put in another software update that helps kids learn about washing their hands, and I guess washing Jerry’s hands to about washing their hands more often that sort of thing. And he indicated that there is a big update coming later this year. So I will circle back with Aaron. And hopefully we’ll do another interview and get some more info on Jerry. I will let Aaron explain much more about the history of the company in that classic interview in just a moment.
But first, this episode of Diabetes Connections is brought to you by inside the breakthrough, a new history of science podcast. And the latest episode goes in a very interesting direction using the TV show friends to reveal how we really feel about scientists. I’m not sure that Ross is really the best example of this, but they they get it done. Marie Curie was an outsider in ways you never imagined sort of like Ross on the show. I really do love this podcast. It’s historical wisdom mixed with modern insight with quite a few laughs along the way. Really great production value. Search for insight the breakthrough anywhere you listen to podcasts.
And by the way, this podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider.
My guests in this classic interview are the CEO of sprout tell Aaron Horowitz. And Hannah Chung, who at the time was chief creative officer had a left Sproutel in the middle of 2020. I reached out to her I haven’t heard back yet. So I will post an update in the show notes when I do hear from her and let you know where she is heading. Next is really fun to kind of go back in time and hear the story of Jerry, the team’s appearance at the White House. And a lot more. Aaron and Hannah, welcome to Diabetes Connections. I am excited to talk to you both again.
Aaron and Hannah:
Absolutely. As are we,
Stacey Simms 4:25
Hannah and Aaron. Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s start with the idea. How did you come up with the idea for a stuffed animal that kids could play with and learn from?
Aaron Horowiz 4:35
So it actually started by talking to families of kids with type 1 diabetes. We we went into the homes of bunch of these families and as we were playing with kids, we observed that they were taking care of their teddy bears of their stuffed animals as if they also had diabetes. So they were pretending to prick the the paws of of their teddy bears pretending to give them insulin injections. Some kids were even actually taking little pieces of cardboard and paper and drawing insulin pumps that they would then staple to their bears first. So it that was kind of really this this lightbulb moment for us of wow, you know, these, these kids are mirroring everything that’s that’s going on in their lives that they don’t yet have control of. So can we bring that play experience to life? And can we do it in a way that is educational, that is comforting. But most importantly, that’s really fun.
Stacey Simms 5:28
You know, it’s funny, I hadn’t thought about this in a long time, Aaron, but when you bring that up, my son had an Elmo doll, and Elmo from Sesame Street, and he was 23 months when he was diagnosed, and that Elmo got checked and got juice boxes, which made a mess, and got insets put on him. So it makes perfect sense that playing kind of helped these kids get through what they couldn’t understand.
Unknown Speaker 5:50
Absolutely. You know, like, as kids, we roleplay so many things, you know, right, we roleplay tea parties, we roleplay you know, dressing our animals up and making weddings for them. And for kids with with conditions like diabetes, like, like Benny did with Elmo to roleplay diabetes,
Stacey Simms 6:07
when it was the idea of spread towel always to help medically and to help with play. And then you come up with the idea for type one, play? No, actually,
Hannah Chung 6:16
the reason why I started spread tell was we really wanted to work on Jared the bear so and our mission was to really bring Jerry into the hands of all kids. And from there, we realized incorporating company allows erinite to work with this full time and you know, bringing awesome mentors, investors on board to help us feel the business. And from there just talking to a lot of families talking to a lot of kids, you have realized that the application of play into health can be so many different can help a lot of people not only for kids, but also for adults and the elderly. So from there, you know, working under the beret type 1 diabetes really allowed us to see the potential into coming into, you know, like applying this to help all kids to be healthy. And you know, and have a long term vision of helping all people to use play to help them to come healthy and well. So yeah, a little little Jared type 1 diabetes really allowed us to have the vision for scratch help. That’s great. Okay.
Stacey Simms 7:15
So Jerry has changed quite a bit. There is a new Jerry right now still loyal to that wonderful idea of learning through play. But tell me about the first Jerry, what, you know, what did Jerry look like? And what did he do Aaron?
Unknown Speaker 7:30
Yeah, so well, I’ll say that there are, quote unquote there two first Jerry’s. There’s the first Jerry the bear prototype. And then there’s the first bear that we shipped. And I have a real soft spot in my heart for the first jar, the bare prototype. So I’ll just touch on that for a second. Our first bear that we ever made, was when Hannah and I were still in school, we had no idea how to solder how to make a circuit boards, even even how to sew a bear. And so we were learning everything as we went along. And what we created I’m staring at it now in our office is like a two foot hard chested like behemoth of a bear eyes that we cut out of a Furby so that it blinked its head was attached to its body with with actually with metal nails. It was it was quite creepy looking. And we had made so many mistakes about our understanding of type 1 diabetes, because at that point, we didn’t have kind of the intrinsic knowledge from the community. So for example, when we tested with our first our first user, Gerry’s blood glucose level was only two digits. In fact, his screen was only two digits big. And actually, this, this little boy said, I would be hypoglycemic and go into the hospital. That was my, like, face total facepalm you know, we had missed the mark. But it taught us so so much about one, just the immense amount of knowledge that we had to learn so that we can then create something that actually had an impact. But it also showed us that despite the fact that Jerry was big and clunky and looked super scary, this this child was still really excited by the fact that there was a bear that also had diabetes. So that’s, that’s our technical for our first Jerry,
Stacey Simms 9:08
I’m looking at the timeline you recently posted on Facebook, and I’ll link this up at Diabetes connections.com if it’s okay, is that the first Jerry the one that’s really big and kind of light colored all the way on the left? It is He is creepy looking
Hannah Chung 9:22
at that photo, because the girl is so cute, it makes the photo look really cute. But the bear itself is just take out the little kid part is kind of not that cute.
Stacey Simms 9:32
But I it’s fabulous to see where you’re going. I mean, even then, you know, this is a toy. This is a really sweet idea. And then it’s changed. It was um, it became a little smaller and a little bit more responsive, I guess is what I’m looking for at least it had three numbers for the blood glucose.
Unknown Speaker 9:50
Absolutely. Yeah. So it got a lot more responsive. The bear that we ended up shipping. Really we went we had gone through 29 different iterations of product Type and the real difference between some of our early prototypes. And what we actually ended up creating and sending out to families was that the existence of a storyline. So the jury that that kind of existed in the world for the past few years, it has this curriculum with I say curriculum, but I mean animated storybooks. It’s got 21 animated storybooks, where you train Jerry for the all star games, which are kind of like the Olympics. But the sports are things like climbing trees and diving with sharks. And we teach about diabetes skills, because each of these storybooks jargon meets up with a new friend like love with a monkey or George the vegetarian shark. And they teach Jerry about both a sport and a diabetes skill. So what we ended up sending out had this kind of all of these storybooks and the way that you unlocked the storybooks was that you had to care for Jerry correctly. So there’s kind of this game mechanic that’s built in where children are not only caring for Jerry, who, by the way, has a blood glucose level has fingers that you can prick to check, check that foods that you could swipe over his mouth and insulin injection spots. They’re not only doing justice, what they did with their stuffed animals or with their Elmos, where they’re mirroring all of their all of their care procedures. But they’re doing it to unlock these the storybooks, which for them are kind of the carrot and the incentive at the end of doing this. But for us, that’s that’s really the way that we can convey some of the really complex things that that you need to learn.
Stacey Simms 11:23
That’s really interesting. So the new iteration of Jerry, you’ve expanded from just type one, as Hannah mentioned a few moments ago, you’re really trying to work toward overall good health. Hannah, tell me what’s new about Jerry this time? Yeah, it’s
Hannah Chung 11:38
a new Jerry. A couple of things. He’s cuter, smarter, and with a more affordable price point. So the biggest thing that has changed is around this curriculum. So one, so the new Jerry, his base curriculum is around general health. So he touches social emotional development, nutrition, exercise, sleep and mindfulness. And from there families can customize Jerry to have a condition like type 1 diabetes, or food allergies, and yours were modular. And and it kind of allows families to kind of customize Jerry to mesh their own child. So you know, we can’t so that we can build a world where everyone can have a Jerry but not all, Jerry is the same, which is really cool. And the way the new drivers interaction wise, Jerry had a belly device called a portal is kind of like a window to see what’s going on in Jerry’s world. So using this portal, you can kind of scan Jerry’s brain and different body parts like the mouth and his stomach to see what is going on inside. Similar to the first year of the bear, you can still feed him, you can see how he’s feeling. But if having the portal be detachable from the body, it kind of allows more physical movement for a child to interact with Jerry, which is really nice. And New Jersey also washable, which is a huge feedback that we’ve gotten from especially for educators, you know, if you want it to be used in a hospital setting, and washability is a big part was but we’re wipeable with Clorox and things like that. Now this new Jerry is washing machine washable, which is really exciting. And
Stacey Simms 13:09
yeah, that is because who would think of that, but but you absolutely if you have somebody who’s using it in a in a healthcare setting in an office or a hospital, or you know that Elmo went in the washing machine a million times because they get kind of gross.
Hannah Chung 13:21
Yeah. And then lastly, some of the looks of Jerry has changed. So the previous year was really cute. But we knew that Jerry could be the first Jerry was more geared towards kids who are younger, like five year olds, and now the New Jersey we want to help our age, the target age we’re looking after is between three and four and nine. And even though that might be only a five years difference, it’s a huge difference in the kids role and what kids can understand what kids are interested. So what we’ve done is we design a character that could be more appealing for all kids in that age range. So Jerry looks more expressive. And Jerry kind of have this longer arms like a monkey arm which I really love because he’s more huggable. And so all in all, from design to interaction to the modular aspect of the curriculum has been the biggest part for us for ended up in designing the new dairy that we have.
Stacey Simms 14:17
Aaron Talk to me a little bit about food allergies, there are so many health conditions, unfortunately that affect kids. Why? Why did you move to include allergies?
Unknown Speaker 14:28
Yeah, when we look at different conditions that that kind of might be able to be addressed or to be helped out with with Jerry, we look at kind of two factors. One is the emotional implications and the other is the educational implications. And so food allergies very similar to type 1 diabetes, there’s there can be unfortunately a lot of stigma for example, things like the peanut free table we’ve heard a lot of horror stories from families of isolation cause from eating at school. or children not understanding or really believing that other children have food allergies. So there’s this whole kind of emotional and emotional coping component, which we really feel that Jerry kind of provides some of the biggest impact there just because of the comfort, because of this mirrored care that they have something else that is someone else. That’s, that’s just like that. And then the second is, is the educational component. And that really boils down, you know, for kids with food allergies, it’s things like reading nutrition labels, and also very similar to diabetes and knowing how to articulate how you feel, and knowing when to to go and ask for ask an adult for help. This is really kind of universal across a lot of conditions. But you know, particularly in food allergies, there’s every label or every piece of food that you put into your mouth, you’re going to want to read the label, you know, see if it has whatever your allergen might be. And there is kind of this also really interesting correlation with, you know, an action that’s tied in with mealtime, right. So for diabetes, you might be checking your glucose level and, and taking insulin for food allergies, you’re doing it around mealtime, you’re reading these nutrition labels, you’re making sure that you’re sitting in a place that’s allergen free, you’re making sure that the people around you don’t have allergies, you you need to have washed your hands to make sure that you didn’t touch anything. So there’s all of these just kind of procedural things that we see a real alignment in the value that that we’ve seen Jerry provide for children with type 1 diabetes already.
Stacey Simms 16:26
And so far, how has it been? I know you’ve just put it out there. And you’ve been part of the diabetes community for a few years, where you’ve been very well received, how have you been received in the allergy community?
Unknown Speaker 16:37
So we’ve certainly had parents that are incredibly excited. I’ll say this, we’re kind of stole almost as funny term, but like making a name for ourselves in the food allergy community. We haven’t yet gone to a conference dressed as teddy bears.
Unknown Speaker 16:50
Unknown Speaker 16:51
wait, what we did things like children with diabetes and ADHD,
Stacey Simms 16:55
I should stop you and say, This is how I met Hannah and Aaron a few years back when they were dressed like Jerry, the bear at a conference, which was so much fun. And you definitely had to stop by and talk to them to find out what was going on. So yeah, you need to go to food allergy conference and do that.
Unknown Speaker 17:11
Absolutely. That’s kind of I think that that’s how I think about kind of putting a stake in the ground. Moving into moving into new territory, we got to Don the bear suits, we got to go to a conference and maybe have a dance off with another mascot.
Stacey Simms 17:25
But But have you have you had any feedback from parents of kids with food allergies yet?
Unknown Speaker 17:29
So absolutely. So before we ever kind of decided to move into that into the food allergy realm, we actually interviewed, gosh, a range of families, a ton of families, and the people that we talked to were, you know, ecstatic that we were creating something for food allergies, and actually told very, very similar stories to the families that we had originally interviewed of kids with type one, that their children would pretend that their stuffed animals had a peanut allergy or a shellfish allergy. And they would pretend to have them go into anaphylaxis and give them an epi pen. And so we really saw this this need being presented and are excited by kind of the their excitement for for Jerry and and of course, it’s jury’s not out in in the world alive and kicking yet for kids with allergies. So we won’t see kind of the rubber really hit the road until about june of 2016 when we’re when we’re shipping these bears, but the excitement is really good to see. And Hannah,
Stacey Simms 18:22
Aaron talked about the modules and the storybooks. To unlock the original Jerry Is this the same idea with the food allergies as well,
Hannah Chung 18:31
very similar. And so kind of similar to type 1 diabetes, you know, in the way we teach type 1 diabetes is around talking about your feelings and having a vocabulary, practicing the routines to help you you know, the daily routines you have to go through. And we also have different storybooks, I’ve touched upon social situation that you need to know to kind of apply the concepts that you have learned in the different social settings. It’s the same framework, but that was more geared to the food allergies. So checking your blood sugar level and giving insulin might be around washing your hands, it also gives me an epi pen and you have the allergy reactions of seeing how your stomach is doing and how your body parts are having whether you have hives or not. that’s similar to you know, seeing what is going on in Jerry’s pancreas. And we still teach the same vocabulary. Similar vocabulary is to kind of explain how you’re feeling what kind of symptoms you are having at that moment. And the same thing, storybooks around birthdays or Halloween trick or cheating and things like that, that touches upon the social emotional situation that kids need to know.
Stacey Simms 19:30
You know, I probably should have asked this at the beginning of our interview, but I want to make sure to bring this and you both have a personal connection to diabetes. And Hannah, could you talk a little bit about yours you have diabetes in your family?
Hannah Chung 19:42
Yes, I do. So both my father and my grandparents have type two diabetes and they were diagnosed in their 40s and 50s. Consider late onset. Both my grandparents passed away from the complications behind type two diabetes such as heart attack and hypoglycemia shot. To be honest, I was so young at the time. When my grandfather passed away, which I was in sixth grade, and I did not know anything about type two diabetes at that point until he, I saw he passed away, my dad a year after he was diagnosed, and he decided to change his whole lifestyle to exercise more and walk 15 miles without taking pills to really adjust his lifestyle to be healthy. And from the process. Of course, I saw him, you know, feeling frustrated and feeling isolated when he did everything possible, right. And his blood sugar level was not nice at the end of the day. Yeah. So from that, our whole family decided to change our diets too, because my dad had to support my dad emotionally to make sure he’s getting the cheers that he needs to go power through the day. So two months after my dad lost about 40 pounds, and even 14 years today, he’s still practicing the same routine, which is really amazing. Oh, yeah. And from the process. And you know, not only I learned so much what type two diabetes, but also the importance of having the community around you who can support you, and, you know, cheer for you regardless what the outcomes were. So from there, I just learned a ton about the people who are affected by this kind of cut credit conditions and want to help kids to help support them to
Stacey Simms 21:16
Wow, what a great story of family support that you were able to really rally around him and help out and proud to be still in that routine. All these years later is fantastic. That’s great. And Aaron, your story’s a little different. But you know what it’s like to get injections. Tell us about that.
Unknown Speaker 21:31
Yeah, so when I was a child, I had another type of endocrine condition is called human growth hormone deficiency. And so basically, my, my body wasn’t producing growth hormone, at least at the typical rate. And so for a period of time, my childhood, about five years or so i, i self administered injections every day to grow. So definitely, definitely taught me a lot and gave me a lot of empathy for kind of any type of chronic condition. And, you know, certainly, certainly a learning curve, I’m so inspired by kids with, with type 1 diabetes, because they were diabetes, like a badge of honor. And for me growing up, I felt so self conscious about this, it was something that I tried to hide from everybody. And in fact, I don’t think I told anybody until I was writing our first grant application, or, you know, contributing to that for Jerry to bear. And so I’m continuously inspired by the kids that we meet with type 1 diabetes, and now with with food allergies, and kind of how much confidence and how empowered they are. And so I’m so excited about what we might be able to do with Jerry tea to enhance that even further.
Stacey Simms 22:39
You’ve mentioned a couple times that you were in college, and you were students together, when this all came up. How do you I mean, I was in college, I didn’t have any big idea like this and change the world and help families. How do you do that? Where do you like 19 years old, and you’re sitting around one night, everybody else is playing beer pong. And you’re like, oh, we’re gonna we’re gonna make this huge thing. How did that happen? What are you both majoring in? And and how did the idea come about at that time,
Unknown Speaker 23:03
so I’ll say, it started very, very small. Hannah actually co founded a nonprofit organization called design for America, which is all about using design thinking, to solve problems in your local community that have some type of a social impact with the potential to scale beyond. So lots of lots of boxes to check, but really, really exciting organization. And it’s totally extracurricular. So there are teams, kind of interdisciplinary teams that are formed that go out in your free time after classes to go try to solve problems, everything from you know, sanity, sanitation, inside of a homeless shelter to things like type 1 diabetes education for kids. And Hannah and I kind of rallied around this problem while we were in school, and kind of through this through this extracurricular, these activities, we slowly but surely, pursued, pursued Jerry in it, you know, at first, we never had these grand intentions of starting a company, right? This was this was a passion project. It was, oh, let’s make one prototype and see what happens. And it was like, oh, maybe we should make a second one. That second one looks kind of cool. And it reached a point at prototype number three, when I was like, Well, you know, like, all of our time is kind of going into making these bears and he’s just classes aren’t quite as interesting anymore. Why don’t we Why don’t we start to make these bears full time. And so it really, you know, is a was something that was just a passion of ours that spiraled out of control and into awesomeness.
Stacey Simms 24:36
That’s great. And it sound right to you. But you both did graduate, right? You didn’t just dump the dump the school and go off to do the bears.
Hannah Chung 24:43
We did graduate. We did. And we physically left a little bit early. And so Aaron and I both graduated in spring of 2012. And the last quarter, we moved to Providence. We’ve been displaying Northwestern in Chicago. So we are taking our classes over Skype, being in Providence working very full time. So there was a pretty awesome journey to do that. But it was cool because we have, you’re very transparent about how you’re billing Jerry and the type of mentors you’re working with. So the school was very supportive to let us continue Jerry in a really unique method that any of our other students were doing. So I think having this approach was really great. And they did mention that we have to be highlighting us doing, you know, going through this route, we have to come back to graduation in person to get our diploma, which was not a bad deal at all. Um, but yeah, to your question about what we have studied, and I studied mechanical engineering with the emphasis on Human Centered Design, but I was a very, very weird engineer, where I was not too excited about bolts and nuts. And I loved illustrating and an animation. So in mechanical engineering, we do a lot of like computer aided design. And for me, that was just illustrating in 3d for a product, which is super fun. And I also have done some research around how to build products that is emotionally appealing for kids. So I was part of the research for for a little bit while I was a student, so I was a very a soft hearted, more, you know, I love people type of engineer in the group. So and Aaron, do you have Aaron, Aaron has a cooler major than I do. So we were both studying mechanical engineering, and then in our senior year, and, you know, throughout he and Jerry, Jerry, like Aaron really got excited about robotics. And he found that that’s the area that he’s really passionate about. So he ended up making up his own major called mechatronics, and user interaction design, which really helps people how to play with robots and different creating different robots that is really engaging with people. So that’s a major dead air and creators. So. So that’s our that’s our backgrounds and what we have studied so far. Wow,
Stacey Simms 26:57
this story just gets cooler and cooler. And then, and then, in 2015, this year, you guys went to the White House? How did that happen? Aaron, tell me about meeting President Obama. And he’s holding Jerry the bear.
Unknown Speaker 27:12
Oh, man. Yeah, I think not. Not in my wildest dreams. Did I ever think that was gonna happen?
Unknown Speaker 27:17
Unknown Speaker 27:19
So we had, we had gotten a very mysterious email that they were putting together an event at the at the White House to honor it was called the first ever White House Demo Day. And it was to honor entrepreneurs from from diverse backgrounds, mainly companies with founded by either other women or people of color. And so we know the first step is a phone interview. And I was super nervous. And I was actually at the time on a on a bus, mega bus from New York to Providence. And so whispering into the phone, I delivered our little pitch and hung up and just like facepalm once again, because I was like, oh, man, like, that was probably the worst mistake I ever gave. I was like whispering on a Megabus. And about maybe a week before the event we were we were told that we were selected. And so had an eye or dancing around the office, we’re so excited. And just a few days before the event, we got a call from from it from an unknown number. And the voice on the other end was somebody that was that was putting together the event and they said, Hey, we had this crazy idea. Can you can you program Jerry the bear? We were like, yeah, like, you know, that’s that’s what we do. And they’re like, Can you can you make Jerry wish President Obama Happy birthday. And we were we looked at each other. We’re like, yes, like, we can do it.
Hannah Chung 28:42
As a team, we’re just a guess. Do we have to say yes to and we’ll figure out the rest afterwards.
Unknown Speaker 28:47
And so we we they said they couldn’t guarantee any anything would happen. We put together Hannah made an awesome little animation of President Obama dancing with Jerry. We had two different voice recordings. One is Jerry wishing. The President just happy birthday. The other was Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday, Mr. President. We sent those to the communications team and they totally nixed Marilyn Monroe.
Unknown Speaker 29:11
Unknown Speaker 29:13
they come to me and we go to the White House, and they were about 32 companies. We weren’t sure, you know, up until a few minutes before that we would actually get to get to meet the president. But luckily, there were, I believe six companies that that have the 32 that that got him to meet him. And we were one of them. And we were just ecstatic. We’re like looking at each other and they’re sending out aids to us that are saying, Okay, give us your pitch. Like we’re there, you know, making sure that it sounded good and that we weren’t gonna say anything because it was televised. We’re gonna say anything that was politically incorrect. And to be honest, I’ll give I’ll give my perspective on the actual meeting and I’ll let Hannah share hers. Everything went by and like just such a surreal blur. And I think actually the most memorable thing for me was, you know, I we kind of split split up our presentation into Can I introduce what we’re doing had a carried on and talked about the impact and give a demo of Jerry, and President Obama was standing in the middle of us. And so after I kind of finished talking to him, he was interacting with Jerry. And so his back was turned to me. And all I kept thinking is how close is too close to stand? So I was just like I was trying to lean in, and I was the entire time. I was like, the thought going through my mind and like, oh, man, how close is too close?
Unknown Speaker 30:31
Unknown Speaker 30:31
Stacey Simms 30:33
And what was your perspective?
Hannah Chung 30:35
I think for me, I remember I’m kind of going along with lo and Aaron’s point, you know, up until we got the confirmation that we were meeting the President, we’d never really gotten the confirmation that we’re meeting the President, it was more of a higher chance to meet the president. So an hour before when we were pitching it, I realized, you know, I never gave a picture president and Aaron, I have not practiced anything about this pitch. So it was either gonna go really authentically well, or we don’t. But I realized, because I was holding Jerry, I felt less stressed because I was holding a teddy bear in public and Jerry was kind of absorbing all of my nervousness from my belly to tears comforting companion, so and I felt less nervous because I was holding a teddy bear. But uh, even the demo was really cool. And I was, like, part of me was, you know, speaking really well, explaining Jerry the bear, but also just making sure that the demo goes really, really well. And there’s no mistakes. And but yeah, overall, it’s similar to Aaron. Everything went by so quickly. And afterwards, it took me a couple of hours to really realize, Oh, yeah, like, we just met the president. And he really liked he was impressed with Joe the bear like that. That really happens. They took it took me like a good six hours to really digest that. Oh, that didn’t really happen.
Stacey Simms 31:52
Did he wind up during the bear sing? Did you get him to sing the song?
Hannah Chung 31:56
He did? And the President? Really? Yeah. He was laughing. He was laughing and he really liked it. And but yeah, but the the aftermath is really cool, though. So you know, after the event, all this articles from a lot of different big press channels are coming out. And they actually used our photo with the president and with Jerry as a main photo for almost all the articles. And so from there, we had a huge exposure about the bear and, and that was really helpful for us. Because not only, you know, we got to represent our company as one of the startup companies pushing the diversity in tech force, but also got built a lot of awareness about kids health and what Jerry does in the community. So it was a it was a very awesome event.
Stacey Simms 32:41
That’s amazing. I do love the picture. We’ll link that up as well. So you can you can see it at Diabetes. connections.com. Hey, before I let you both go. I have to point out we did meet a couple of years ago at friends for life when you guys are dressed up like the bears. But it turns out Aaron and I have a crazy connection. We both went to the same high school. Different years as you heard him say he graduated college in 2012. You both
Unknown Speaker 33:05
both have the same teacher.
Stacey Simms 33:06
Yeah. We have the same favorite teacher from high school, our social studies teacher, Mr. Fagin. How crazy is that? Aaron?
Unknown Speaker 33:13
Oh my gosh, it is wild. I remember, the most of the fondest memory I have of Mr. Vega was that he would wear a different sweater to class every day of the year. That’s so many sweaters.
Stacey Simms 33:28
And we grew up in New York. So he needed this sweater. So it was cold. But he was I mean such a great teacher and I took his AP history classes that would you took.
Unknown Speaker 33:35
That’s exactly what I took. And it was what it was one of my favorites. My sister took it and she was that was, you know, the thing that she said was, you know, you got to take Mr. Fagles history class, I was like, Okay, yeah, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. But I knew it was gonna be good.
Stacey Simms 33:47
I love it. Thank you so much for joining me today for talking about Jerry the bear. Is there anything else that you wanted to make sure to mention before I let you go,
Unknown Speaker 33:55
we’re so thrilled to have had for the past couple of years, just the immense support of the diabetes community in the diabetes online community. It’s, it’s really alarming not alarming. It’s It’s comforting. It’s It’s awesome to feel so welcomed as outsiders coming in so quickly. And I don’t know if I can relate a similar experience any other time in my life. You know, the first time we went to friends for life, it was literally like we gained a new family. And so I think we’re both so incredibly grateful for that and, and so excited to kind of keep all of those all of those relationships as we enter this next chapter of Jerry’s life.
Stacey Simms 34:33
That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for joining me, Hannah and Aaron. I appreciate it and I can’t wait to see what’s next. Thanks.
You’re listening to Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms.
Stacey Simms 34:50
More info on Jerry and Sproutel and what’s next for all of them at Diabetes connections.com. I will link up some articles that take a look back and others that do take a look. forward because as I mentioned, Sproutel has several other projects that they have been successful. And it’s really remarkable when you think about the the start that these guys got when they were I can’t call them kids anymore when they were in college and launching something like this. And now to have it not only succeed with one product, but others and really rolling along. It’s a remarkable story and I’m really excited that I got to meet them in those bear suits way back when.
All right, our next episode coming out on Tuesday of next week, I am scheduled to talk to tide pool very excited to get back on the technology news. We are doing a deep dive into technology all this year on the show and title has submitted loop to the FDA. So will this be the first Do It Yourself routed initiative to get FDA approval in the United States. We’ll talk about it and that episode is coming up on Tuesday. Thanks as always to my editor John Bukenas from audio editing solutions. Thank you so much for listening. I’m Stacey Simms. I will see you back here on Tuesday. Until then, be kind to yourself.
Diabetes Connections is a production of Stacey Simms Media. All rights reserved. All wrongs avenged