Plenty of founders have been known to regard a new startup as their “baby.” Some are even influenced by a child or the needs of one to create a product or launch a company.
Seattle husband-and-wife team Illi Eisner and Olivia Eisner have a new company and a new invention that falls into both categories. The parents of two kids, their latest baby is Bubbe, a high-tech feeding bottle designed to take the hassle out of keeping breastmilk or formula cold and then heating it to the perfect temperature in no time.
Illi Eisner has more than 10 years of hardware development experience at Amazon, Microsoft and Apple, where he worked on such things as the Kindle, Fire TV, Fire Phone, Windows Phone, and iPod Nano.
Olivia Eisner is a certified nurse midwife, advanced registered nurse practitioner, and a board-certified lactation consultant with over a decade of experience.
“She’s the science maven. She knows everything about breast milk,” Illi told GeekWire. “I know everything about being a nerd.”
Together, the couple has started Group B Labs and Bubbe is the first product under development. The baby-minded idea was born when Olivia had to return to work at Providence Medical Center in Everett, Wash., about four months after their second child was born.
Charged with keeping his new daughter fed, Illi was frustrated by inadequate cooling and warming techniques for the packets of breast milk that his wife had pumped. Trying to sort it all out in the middle of the night was the worst.
“I love my sleep and I was losing a lot of it,” Illi said. “There was nothing worse to me than being extremely tired and groggy, stumbling downstairs to our kitchen, holding a screaming baby.”
They tried all sorts of techniques and other gadgets and gizmos. Improper storage and overheating of breast milk degrades its nutritional properties, something many (sleepy) parents might not know as they reheat milk on a stovetop, in a hot water bath or microwave, or even with other bottle warmers.
Olivia didn’t want her hours of pumping to go to waste.
“This whole idea of preserving the breast milk and not overheating it and killing all the good stuff that’s in it really was central to where we wanted to take this product,” she said.
Bubbe, which works with all popular nipple brands, is a double-walled, vacuum-insulated stainless steel container similar to those made by Yeti or Hydro Flask. Rather than a heating coil, the bottle relies on small pillars at the bottom that contain the heating element and also generate a vortex that keeps the milk circulating for evenly distributed liquid temperature.
The pillars also contain an array of sensors that collect data such as volume, temperature, and time.
The bottle, which charges on a portable stand, warms to the optimum temperature at the push of a button. The data, or feeding information, is uploaded to a mobile app for parents to track and share with health care providers. What time baby ate, how much and how often is useful especially in regard to premature babies or those struggling to feed.
“It’s a very intelligent bottle,” Illi said.
“It allows us to do a lot of really creative things such as give parents insights about their baby’s feeding,” Olivia added.
The Eisners and Bubbe graduated from the Portland, Maine-based Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator a year ago and have been invited to other programs in the time since, including TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield 200, AWS CTO Fellowship, and the Washington Technology Industry Association founder program.
Bubbe is still about nine months out from pre-sale and 18 months from general availability. The plan is to sell a kit containing a bottle, nipple adaptors, charging station and cleaning brush for about $220.
Illi Eisner is CEO and Olivia Eisner is serving as “chief clinical officer” while still working as a nurse practitioner and midwife. She’s bankrolling the operation as Group B Labs begins the process of taking on investors. They’re currently contracting with an engineering team, and an industrial designer has been a big help. Fundraising will help grow the team with the addition of marketing, operations, etc.
Olivia said Group B Labs wants to develop other products related to Bubbe.
“We’re hoping to dominate the child’s feeding sphere because no one else is doing it in a meaningful way,” she said.
After having two kids and going through the gauntlet of sleepless nights, Illi and Olivia laughed when asked what it’s like running a startup together.
“Oh, parenting is way harder,” she said.
“I’ll take a startup any day,” Illi added.