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Entrepreneur Hannah Chung: 13 To Watch in RI in 2013

Tuesday, January 01, 2013


Smart, creative, entrepreneurial, and not yet 25: Sproutel co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Hannah Chung.

Hannah Chung should be on the cover of every economic development brochure in Rhode Island. Here's an entrepreneur whose Providence-based technology company, Sproutel, sells to the growing healthcare market.

A design professional with a passion for social justice, she co-founded Design For America, the award-winning national student-led initiative that seeks to use design to solve social problems, while an undergrad at Northwestern University. She's been named one of 15 Women to Watch in Tech by Inc Magazine and her company, Sproutel, got press this year in Mashable.com, Huffington Post, Good.Is, and the MIT Technology Review.

Further, Sproutel's lead product, a cuddly interactive bear named Jerry for kids living with Type 1 diabetes, won a People's Choice award at the 2012 Health2.0 conference in San Francisco, the largest health technology event in the United States.

And she's 23 years old.

The entrepreneur's drive

Chung, a mechanical engineering major, came to Providence from Chicago just after Christmas 2011 to develop Jerry The Bear at Rhode island's incubator, Betaspring. With the drive of a true entrepreneur, Chung began work with partner Aaron Horowitz on Jerry The Bear in Providence while she finished her degree at Northwestern via Skype. Sproutel was launched by Betaspring in Feburary of 2012; it has since closed its funding round and began production of Jerry the Bear.

The toy, which combines cute cuddlinenss with high tech software and robotics to make it interactive, allows kids with diabetes to learn about their disease and practice managing it on a soft and cuddly friend. "Talking with doctors and parents and families, we realized that there was nothing to help children with Type I diabetes learn to treat the disease," Chung said. "There’s no teaching tool that is intuitive for children. When you are young, you play with Play-Doh. You want to touch something. That’s one reason we liked the idea for Jerry the Bear. Because it has an animal form or a doll form, the child can relate to it. Simply by playing, the child learns how to manage his or her glucose level, recognize symptoms and learn carb counting.”

Chung comes at the business world with the twin talents of engineering smarts and creative acumen--something, she says, is combined in the world of design that she has embraced fully in her nascent career. "Design is a creative problem-solving skill. It encompasses art, science and engineering," she says. In addition to growing Sproutel, look for Chung to play an increasingly visible role in mentoring young entrepreneurs like herself, particularly young women. She's already been tapped to lead programs at Betaspring's Founders League for designers and women co-founders. ""Having Hannah in Providence is a huge gift," said Betaspring Chief of Staff Melissa Withers. "She's an incredible role model for young designers and for the women 'makers' that are challenging gender stereotypes about who will build our future. And when I say build, I mean that literally."


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