Boston tech isn’t just brimming with unicorns and freshly minted billionaires. Up-and-coming entrepreneurs are everywhere, looking to become the next big thing.
So, as part of our innovation newsletter, we’ll sit down over breakfast with founders of early-stage tech companies getting traction in the market. We’ll eat good food and talk about how they want to change the world. I know, it’s a tough assignment, but we all make sacrifices.
We’ll start with Alicia Chong Rodriguez, the founder of Boston-based BloomerTech, which makes “smart bras” for women.
We met at Tatte in Harvard Square. I got the traditional Shakshuka, a classic for this cafe founded in the Boston area. It’s huge and comes with two heavenly pieces of skillet-fried, butter-soaked bread. Chong Rodriguez got a parfait and croissant. (I won the order war.)
To understand why Chong Rodriguez’s company matters, we have to understand two things: Heart disease is the leading killer of women in the United States, and females are vastly underrepresented in clinical trials. The combination leads to heart medicines and treatment plans that are not as reflective of a woman’s biology, leading to worse clinical outcomes.
Chong Rodriguez and her team have set about to change that. They are angered by the inequality, and motivated by women in their lives who suffered from heart disease. “Most of the technologies, most of the therapies ... [don’t] take into account the differences between men and women,” she said. “I don’t think that’s the future that we want to see.”
To attack the problem, Chong Rodriguez and her cofounder, Aceil Halaby, created BloomerTech in 2017. Their product is simple: a sensor-enabled bra that feeds real-time heart data to doctors running clinical trials on women’s cardiovascular disease. The team is driven by purpose and business, Chong Rodriguez said. And the $50 billion market for “femtech” and wearable clinical diagnostic sensors is compelling for investors.
They founded the company after meeting as master’s students at MIT, and participated in the Delta V student accelerator program. They are alumni of the startup accelerator at Thrive Global, Arianna Huffington’s wellness company.
It’s still very early, but their idea is catching on. In 2020, BloomerTech raised $3 million in seed funding, led by VC firm Material Impact. John Abele, the cofounder of Boston Scientific, is an investor.
Their bra line has expanded from two to 26. They can collect upwards of 2.5 million cardiac data points, including things like heart rhythms and pulse rates. That data can be used to “create the next generation of digital therapeutics and diagnostics” to better treat heart disease in women, Chong Rodriguez said.
The company has hired a renowned bra designer who has worked with brands like Victoria Secret. They brought on a head of medical device operations who spent 20 years at Kimberly-Clark.
BloomerTech’s product has been deployed in early-stage clinical trials. The startup expects clearance from the FDA next year, Chong Rodriguez said. Currently, the company has eight employees. With their next funding round, she wants to expand their headcount three-fold.
“We scaled the product in our seed round,” she said. “Now, we’re ready for clinical trials on a larger scale.”