HabitAware, maker of bracelet that minds annoying habits, wins the Minnesota Cup
The “awareness tracker” helps people overcome tics such as pulling hair.
By Neal St. Anthony Star Tribune
October 8, 2018 — 8:26pm
HabitAware, a Minneapolis company that makes a bracelet to help people control habits and tics such as pulling hair and sucking thumbs, won the $50,000 grand prize the 14th annual Minnesota Cup business competition Monday.
Carrot Health, a software firm in Minneapolis, was the winner of the Life Science/Health IT division and $20,000 prize. Carrot Health, which combines social and behavioral data with predictive modeling for institutional clients, helps insurers and other clients predict health problems with target populations.
The awards to HabitAware and Carrot Health are in addition to $30,000 cash prizes for each of the nine divisional winners.
The evening announcement climaxed the first day of Twin Cities Startup Week, a weeklong series of demonstrations, workshops and networking events that emerged in 2014 from activities around the Minnesota Cup.
The Startup Week has, in turn, spawned similar conferences around food and health innovations in the metro area this week.
A record 1,660 Minnesota creators and innovators participated in this year’s competition. Nearly half the entering teams included women; 27 percent included members of color and 8 percent included veterans.
“Some come to the starting line with an operating business ready to become the best version of itself,” said Jessica Berg, executive director of the Minnesota Cup competition. “Others use the Minnesota Cup process and the guidance and advice of our extraordinary mentors to create the first viable shape their entrepreneurial dreams will take.”
HabitAware got its start two years ago when Aneela Idnani Kumar and her husband, Sameer, set out to use smart-wearable technology to treat an impulse-control disorder known as trichotillomania that involves pulling out one’s hair. She has had “trich” for more than 20 years and tells her story on the company’s website.
They developed a bracelet-like “awareness” tracker that uses motion detection technology to sense that a person is engaging in behavior they would like to control, such as hair-pulling, thumb-sucking or nail-biting. The bracelet sends a vibration to the wearer to encourage him or her to stop.
The bracelet, called Keen, is the first product in the world to track subconscious behavior, HabitAware says.
Aneela Kumar, originally trained as a CPA, said HabitAware has raised more than $600,000 in capital.
This year’s division finalists in the Minnesota Cup competition, in addition to HabitAware and Carrot, were CD3 in energy/clean tech/water; Nordic Waffles in food/ag; NoSweat in general; Recovree in impact ventures; Plyo in student; Cedar Labs in education and training and Sudioso in the youth category.
Division winners receive $30,000, and runners-up receive $5,000, with the exception of the youth division.
Dan Mallin, a veteran Twin Cities marketer and a founder of Minnesota Cup who worked at 3M before starting his own company, said the prize money has grown from about $50,000 in 2005 to $450,000 over the years.
Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist/reporter since 1984. His work has been recognized by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.