For our Startup Spotlights, Times of Entrepreneurship scouted the most successful startups that spun out of top university competitions and programs. The impact of such awards can be many years in the making, especially in the DeepTech space.
Startup: Little Moochi
A mobile app that encourages children to form healthy eating habits through an AI virtual pet.
Interviewee: Summer (Qinxian) Xia, co-founder and CEO at Little Moochi, who graduated in spring 2020 from Carnegie Mellon University
Startup Competition: Little Moochi has won a number of competions, including first place and audience choice awards in 2019 in the Forté Power Pitch Competition sponsored by the MBA Women’s Leadership Conference, an international competition held each year as part of the Forte MBA Women’s Leadership Conference. This is a competition open to women founders who are also attending MBA programs in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Little Moochi also won second place in the Carnegie Mellon University McGinnis Venture Competition. This multi-round competition for Carnegie Mellon students kicks off in early January, starting with two virtual rounds and culminating in a final live round celebration at CMU Swartz Entrepreneurial Center. LittleMoochi won 2nd place in the Graduation Track which came with a prize of $15,000. And, Little Moochie won first place and most marketable solution in the Chinese Association of Science and Technology 2019 Global Innovation Summit’s competition in 2019.
What is your elevator pitch? Today one in three American children are overweight or obese. This rate has more than tripled since the 1970s. Healthy eating patterns are key to improving children’s health and quality of life, but how do you teach children to choose healthy foods? LittleMoochi can help! LittleMoochi is a mobile app designed to help children develop healthy eating habits by raising an AI-powered digital pet. During mealtimes, children take a picture of their own food to feed their pet. Our AI engine recognizes the ingredients in the photo, analyzes the nutritional value, and provides kids with personalized recommendations to help Moochi become stronger, smarter, and healthier. LittleMoochi launched early this year and as of June 1st it had more than 500 downloads. User engagement improved 15 percent in the past three months as more families stayed home to cook and eat together.
Join us to help our next generation eat happier and healthier!
What should we know about you?
The idea was inspired by LittleMoochi CEO Summer Xia’s “sweet trouble.” Her five-year-old daughter, Yoyo, is a picky eater. Xia found that getting Yoyo to eat broccoli was even harder, she said, than her MBA capstone project. When Summer looked for ways to motivate her daughter to eat better, she found some applications focused on calorie counting and weight tracking for children. However, she was concerned these applications might cause eating disorder problems. Summer found three co-founders in her network, Zhuyun Dai, Yi Xu, and Julie Qin, when all of them were studying at Carnegie Mellon University. The team knew each other before they started LittleMoochi: Xu and Xia worked together at Hewlett Packard for nine years, Dai and Xia came from the same high school, and Qin and Xia were CMU Tepper classmates.
What are you looking for?
We just launched LittleMoochi V2.0! We are exploring ways to broadcast the message so that more families will get to know LittleMoochi and enjoy using our app. We are also looking for B2B partners (Grocery stores, healthy food brands etc.) that share the same vision in children’s healthy eating.
Why should someone invest in you?
Proven market: USDA annual expenditure shows household spend $140 on education technology. The market size is more than $4Bn.
Proven business: Kurbo, who targets in the same industry, was acquired by WeightWatcher in 2019.
Proven team: We care about the problem – Childhood obesity is a severe social problem, and we believe we have the right solution. We have a perfect skillset mix to solve the problem: We are a CMU start-up with a diverse background spanning artificial intelligence, business/finance, and software development.
Evidence of success?
In January 2020, LittleMoochi launched in both the App Store and Google Play. Since then, and without much publicity, it’s been downloaded by 800+ users. It comes in handy under quarantine. The average number of photos taken every day increased by 15 percent after the stay-at-home order was issued. Our solution has been endorsed by experts including Amy Wishner, program director of the Pennsylvania Children Obesity Prevention Program.