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With help from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, a successful app developer suffering from severe allergies developed a high-tech health management platform to help patients with similar conditions.
Javier Evelyn is one of 220 million people worldwide who suffer from severe food allergies. As a result, Javier has seen firsthand how inconvenient Epinephrine Auto-Injectors—more widely known as EpiPens—are for patients. They are expensive, hard to carry and easy to forget when leaving the house in a hurry. What’s more, managing multiple severe allergies—and effectively communicating those allergies with medical personnel when suffering an episode—can be difficult.
After leading the sales and management efforts for an independent insurance agency, Javier made the bold decision to abandon his career and start working on a food allergy management platform. Setting out to help sufferers of food allergies like himself, Javier founded Detroit-based Alerje in 2016.
Looking for business development support, Javier turned to TechTown Detroit—an MEDC SmartZone. Javier met with the team to further develop the idea through mentorship, introductions with key investors and experts and help with pitch programs. Once the initial business plan was created, Javier used the resources provided at TechTown to apply for a $7,000 Business Accelerator Fund (BAF) grant, which helped him secure the startup’s first IP.
“It was incredible how eager the team at TechTown was to help a green entrepreneur like myself who was completely new to the high-tech industry,” Javier said. “Receiving the BAF grant was the first time I had even come close to securing any sort of grant, so $7,000 felt more like $7 million at the time.”
After creating a solid foundation for Alerje, Javier began working with Ann Arbor Spark—another MEDC SmartZone—and Invest Detroit to prepare for the 2017 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition (AMIC). Both organizations provided Javier with invaluable support and resources, helping him refine Alerje’s conception story and perfect his pitch. With the help of Ann Arbor Spark and Invest Detroit, Alerje took third place at the competition, winning a $50,000 grant.
After his success at AMIC, Javier continued working with Invest Detroit to enhance and refine the company’s financial model and spreadsheet. The organization also introduced Javier to key angel and early-stage investors that were critical to helping Alerje make a splash in the high-tech industry.
Today, with help from resources provided by MEDC, Alerje has created a comprehensive and convenient food allergy management platform to help improve the quality of life of patients dealing with severe and life-threatening food allergies. The app includes resources for living a healthy and safe lifestyle and offers allergen-safe recipes and a food label scanner. Patients can also use the app to keep track of when EpiPens and medications expire.
“It’s encouraging to see angel and early-stage investors, and organizations like the MEDC, take the time to invest in high-tech startups that have a chance to influence health outcomes for millions of people living with severe food allergies,” Javier said. “We’ve experienced so much success already thanks to the ecosystem that exists in Michigan, and I’m excited to see where Alerje can go from here.”
In the summer of 2021 Javier and the team at Alerje were granted a patent for a detachable medical device system, The Omniject. This smartphone attachment stores an epinephrine auto-injector, giving users a convenient and safe way to be prepared incase of an anaphylactic reaction. When paired with the app, the case will send alerts to 911 operators, family members and caregivers if the injector has been removed from the case.
Are you participating in an upcoming investor matchmaking session? Javier shares 3 Takeaways for how to prepare in the video below.
Every day, the MEDC is helping high-tech startups like Alerje take their products from ideation to commercialization. To learn more about the programs and services offered by the MEDC, visit michiganbussiness.org/entrepreneurship.