“This Product Really Sucks” – How my student’s breast pump startup made the NY Times

“I want to rethink and reimagine the breast pump.”  That’s what my UC Berkeley Haas MBA student Jeff Alvarez told me on the first day of our “Workshop for Startups” class. That was several years ago, and Jeff has stayed in touch with me and my co-instructor John Danner ever since, as he has pursued this vision.  And it has come with plenty of challenges, as confronts almost every startup.

That’s why it was so gratifying to pick up the Sunday NY Times and see Jeff – along with his wife and company co-founder Janica –  featured in a article about how this market segment and the products in it were indeed being being reimagined by entrepreneurs and new ventures such as their startup Naya Health.

Jeff – a medical device engineer pursuing his MBA at Berkeley Haas – had enrolled in my entrepreneurship workshop class for a three month intensive course in learning what it takes – and then doing so in real time – to launch a startup venture.  He and Janica have three young boys, and they – especially Janica as the mom and official “milk provider” – recognized the need for a fundamentally better breast pump for active and working mothers (and for mothers of all types, everywhere!). It turns out – as Janica discovered – that breast pumps had remained largely unchanged for several generations: large, loud, institutional-looking, and not user-friendly. And Jeff said “we can do better.”

I recall Jeff presenting an early prototype in our class at UC Berkeley that was a makeshift collection of tubes and spare parts. Even then – as pieces detached and the prototype barely functioned – Jeff was enthusiastic and optimistic. The proof of this vision and optimism can now be seen in Naya’s sleek, small, quiet, well-designed product, getting ready for launch. It also connects to your phone (now), smart baby bottles (soon), and more.

And they just announced their first round of institutional funding: $4 million, raised late last month.

Its still early for Jeff and Janica – and Naya Health – but I love to see the early vision and ongoing perseverance and determination turn into something real and meaningful!  And love seeing them getting the recognition they deserve.

Click here for the NY Times article…


Jeff and Janica Alvarez Naya Breast pump

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