Roura — A Wearable Women’s Health Product
By Nidhi Bhatt
Interview with Vlasta Schutzenhofer and Abi Szabo, founders of Roura, a wearable device that uses heating and massage to alleviate period pain. Vlasta and Abi are Penn alumni and developed the idea for their product through their Engineering courses.
Tell us a bit about Roura — the product and mission.
Vlasta: So I had really bad cramps in middle and high school, and it really frustrated me that there wasn’t really anything active that I could do about them. It was always just take ibuprofen or use a heating pad and wait. You had to stop your day and just wait to not be in pain anymore, and so we are creating a wearable device that you can take anywhere. It is a belt that can be worn under clothing. It’s fully battery-powered and it uses a combination of heating and massage to soothe your cramps. It’s also able to be worn under clothing, so no one else has to see it.
What’s your timeline and what are your plans for the near future?
Vlasta: We’re still pretty early stage, we have a rough timeline. At the moment, we are focused on usability testing and then we are thinking of raising capital some time in the fall or winter, and then getting ready to sell some time mid to late 2022.
Can you tell us a bit about the testing and development process?
Abi: We started this as our senior project in Engineering at Penn, so a lot of the original ideation came during Senior Design, like trying to design metrics, doing initial testing of what people liked and didn’t like, asking them about their current habits. After we graduated the two of us decided to keep working on this because we love it and think it’s a great idea. So we transitioned into doing more in-depth user reviews, 30 minute interviews about people’s habits to solidify what types of things theoretically people would want in their belt, and the next stage was getting rough prototypes on to people and seeing how it fit them and how they would use and interact with it.
Vlasta: We are currently focusing on making it fit people very well and fit into their lifestyle over the next few months. With a wearable device, you’re asking people to put something on their body, not just to use it, so people need to feel really comfortable. We want it to fit close to the body and be sleek.
What is your vision for selling your product eventually?
Vlasta: We definitely would like to start out focusing on e-commerce because we think we could have a stronger position going into retail maybe later down the line once we have a strong customer base.
What were the resources at Penn that you used?
Vlasta: We are part of the VIP-C community, now rebranded as Venture Lab, and they were really helpful in terms of business resources and connected us with great advisors. Additionally, last fall we went through the Penn I-Corps program, which is focused on user research and making sure you are focusing on the user’s needs. Rather than building a product that you think is cool, you’re building a product that consumers want and will respond to well. Since it started as a Senior Design project, there were many resources at Penn Engineering that we used, especially our professors.
Do you have any advice for Penn students looking to start their own companies?
Abi: I would say that if you have an idea right now as a student, go for it because there are a lot of things inside the Penn ecosystem that want to help you explore what you’re doing and there is a lot of funding for Penn students. Even if you have an inkling of an idea, start working on it while you are at school and see what you can do with it.
Vlasta: I agree, I think that there is a lot of funding out there and now that we are not students we are not eligible for it. I definitely wish I had known about that more. I would also say that if you have an idea, talk to who your customers are. You are trying to solve a problem for someone, so you have to get to know that person. If you have a problem you are aware of that needs a better solution, start talking to people and thinking about it and go for it.
Abi: Reach out to professors. A lot of them really want to see you succeed and if it has anything to do with what they are doing, they are super excited to talk about it and people love to talk about their own research. Definitely reach out, because people want to help. He’s a very busy guy, but a great resource is Professor Babin. He did meet with us a few times and always had super helpful things to say.