Women In Innovation Success Stories: Dr Chen Mao Davies, LatchAid, South West
Dr Chen Mao Davies is developing a pioneering breastfeeding and early parenthood support app, LatchAid, using 3D and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. It provides: 3D interactive animations to help mothers learn breastfeeding skills intuitively from 3D avatars; virtual support groups to connect mothers to a close-knit, peer-to-peer support network, and an AI-powered virtual supporter chatbot.
When Chen won Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Award in March 2021, LatchAid had already won two Innovate UK grants: the COVID-19 Fast Response Grant and the Sustainable Innovation Fund, which enabled them to develop the LatchAid Beta product. The Women in Innovation award has allowed Chen to give up her day job as a visual effects R&D specialist (winning Oscar & BAFTA awards for best visual effects when working on Gravity and Blade Runner 2049) to finally focus on growing LatchAid full-time.
UK and global success
Key milestones include successfully setting up pilots with 12 NHS Trusts, in four large UK regions – involving 5000 new mothers. Of other LatchAid milestones, Chen said: “We now have active users from 73 countries across six continents, and LatchAid peaked at Top 30 in the Apple Store’s medical category, with five-star reviews. We have also been approached by the FemTech giant Elvie, for potential collaboration.”
LatchAidand Chen’s start-up journey have also been featured in over 40 press articles, and one BBC News video went viral with over 400,000 views.
LatchAid has attracted around £500,000 investment from 17 high profile business angels, led by the former Head of Google UK/Ireland, and are in discussion with a number of Venture Capital firms. They joined the KQ Labs accelerator programme and put in an application for an Innovate UK Innovation Loan.
The App boasts proprietary R&D in AI and 3D interactive technology, and the company is collaborating with top infant-feeding and maternal health experts. The AI neural networks have interacted with thousands of users and can triage/answer 70% user enquiries robustly without connecting users to real-life experts.
As for winning awards, Chen said: “We won the MSDUK Innovation Challenge (Health & Wellbeing category), were recognised as Start-up Business Award Finalist for the Business Leader Awards, reached the finals for AI Innovation of the Year Digital Leader Awards, and were a Health Tech Award Finalist for Tech Southwest Awards.”
The app as a prescription
In the coming 12 months, they are looking to expand the team from three to 10 employees. Chen said: “We aim to sell into 12 NHS trusts in the coming year so our app can be prescribed to women antenatally and postnatally. We also plan to build B2B partnerships with corporations for their employee benefit packages and with insurers for health insurance offerings.” In the next five years, LatchAid is looking to become the global market leader and go-to breastfeeding and early parenthood support solution, with an expanded team of over 80 employees.
Chen said: “I have gained leadership, fundraising and business development skills, and my confidence and credibility are so much higher. I have enjoyed becoming a role model speaking at schools, universities, podcasts, and KTN / Innovate UK events, and I have also appeared in a number of high profile Innovate UK case studies and blogs.”
She continued: “I have the passion, resilience, and humility to be a successful entrepreneur, business leader, and role model, and I am bravely breaking barriers and using innovations to change the landscape of public health. We believe that all mothers deserve support and empowerment to give their child the best start in life.”
The support from Innovate UK Edge and the Innovation Champions have been invaluable to Chen. Her Business Mentor, Simon Thorpe, is the chair of Cambridge Angels. Chen said: “He helped me evaluate and improve my business propositions, polish fundraising materials, practise my pitches as well as giving me a lot of encouragement.”
She continued: “The Women in Innovation cohort is wonderful. I drew a huge amount of inspiration and strength from the other winners, even though we are all at different stages of our start-up journeys.” Chen’s advice to future potential award winners is: “Be as actively engaged with the programme and other WII winners as much as possible. The more you engage, the more you will benefit from it!”
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Latch Aid closes £1m in equity investment and a £510k Innovate UK Innovation Loan to scale up its revolutionary breastfeeding and early parenthood support
Dr Chen Mao Davies, founder of LatchAid and Women in Innovation Winner, has secured £1,000,000 of equity investment from leading business angels and a £510,000 Innovation Loan from Innovate UK.