Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. It’s five times more common than asthma and four times more common than early childhood obesity, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
A team of three innovators is on a mission to reverse that trend with an innovative gaming toothbrush called Grush. Equipped with sensors, Grush records every stroke a child makes while brushing his teeth and creates a real-time game he can see on his mobile device. “The Monster Chase” game, for instance, allows kids to wipe away strategically-placed monsters in areas of the mouth that haven’t been brushed. The game ends when the mouth is fully clean, and from there, the data is sent to parents.
The Grush team, which includes engineer Yong-Jing Wang, gaming expert Ethan Schur and pediatric dentist Anubha Sacheti, just got a million-dollar boost to further develop their product. The trio won the top prize in the season finale of America’s Greatest Makers Tuesday night. A collaboration between Intel (INTC) and TBS, the weekly reality TV show featured 24 teams of high-tech makers who competed for a $1 million prize. The judges included Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, entrepreneur Kevin Pereira, and investor Carol Roth.
In being featured on the show, Grush received mentorship from business leaders as well as TV exposure, but the team’s most valuable takeaways came from the judging panel.
“Carol [Roth] taught us a lot with the questions she asked,” says Schur. “We spent about 10 hours on each 10-second question.”
One such example is when Roth kept asking the team about their competition: What was stopping large toothbrush companies from coming after them? Schur says the company’s biggest differentiators are its proprietary technology and low price point of $59.
Its data repository is also unique and valuable. Grush collects data on when and where the toothbrush is being used. It’s also testing an adult version with biomedical sensors to detect temperature, which means it could draw conclusions about when a person is getting sick. The company will be able to look at brushing patterns and fitness data to make deductions about a user’s general health.
Roth noted it was the problem the contestants were solving that ultimately led them to win the prize. “From the beginning, they had a lot of things we were looking for – a tight presentation, a creative use of the technology and solving a real problem in a unique way,” she says.
Grush is hardly alone in trying to solve a problem using high-tech on reality TV. Remember entrepreneur Charles Michael Yim who made Shark Tank history when he convinced all five investors to invest a million dollars in his breathalyzer app, Breeze? He came out with a new breath-monitoring device last year that measures oral health indicators using custom sensor technology.
With shows like ABC’s Shark Tank and CNBC’s West Texas Investors Club, Billion Dollar Buyer and The Profit, it seems like the obsession with reality TV investing is at an all-time high. Roth says this is not a fad; there’s plenty of space for more shows spotlighting innovation.
“I think there’s always been a fascination with entrepreneurship because people get to see individuals find solutions to problems we face every day,” she says. “People love to see the American Dream come to life.”