Priska Diaz, M.S. is the Founder and CEO of Bittylab, makers of Bare® Air-free feeding system. Priska moved to the U.S. at the age of 17 from her native Perú. Winning against the odds, she graduated top of her class from The City University of New York with honors. Later, she returned for a Master’s degree from Pratt Institute. She is an expert in design, engineering, manufacturing, and quality control.
Priska started her research after learning that her baby was part of the alarming national statistics. According to the NIH, two-thirds of infants suffer from severe gastroesophageal reflux GER/GERD symptoms. She learned that baby bottles were causing her baby’s feeding problems. The mom-inventor sat at her kitchen table day after day to design and engineer her idea. After six and a half years, her single-handed, self-funded efforts resulted in a hand-made working prototype. Then, a crowdfunding campaign paid for short-run manufacturing. After that, the social media cult following testified for proof of concept, customer validation, and high demand. Last, a pilot clinical study proves efficacy for GERD symptoms mitigation, a condition affecting 66% of the infant population. Her customer-based R&D ecosystem led to a pivot in the Pediatric feeding industry.
Bare® Air-free has a patented technology that feeds baby air-free milk, in upright position & lets baby control the flow and pace of feeding. These three advancements led to breakthrough clinical findings: Bare® Air-free significantly reduced GERD symptoms in 75% of babies in the first two weeks. Bittylab is now seeking FDA approval on a medical device submission for preemies and full-term babies to treat and prevent infant GERD. For more information visit www.bittylab.com
Where did the idea for Bittylab come from?
My first son developed GER (reflux) symptoms shortly after supplementing breastfeeding. Seeing my baby cry for days added feelings of maternal failure to the ongoing sleep-deprivation, headaches, pain from c-section, and exhaustion. Months of my research showed that air in the baby bottles caused the problem, so I was set to design and engineer a solution that eliminated air and air-ingestion.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days are never the same. However, there are tasks that need to be done on daily basis, such as process orders, organize expenses, pay bills, answer emails, etc. which get done first thing in the morning. By around 10am the excitement begins. Every day is a different day and I get to do different things. One day is product design, the next day is website coding, the next is meet the head of a giant corporation and talk about my innovation, the next is make a live video on Youtube, etc, etc. Entrepreneurship is never boring!
How do you bring ideas to life?
My ideas are usually a solution to a problem I have experienced and I don’t find a solution in the world. Then I do more research to understand if there are more people with my problem, which will turn into my market size. For example, my obsession to help my baby with horrible, painful symptoms from GER, is helping millions of babies in the US and millions more around the world. In my case, getting rid of a problem that happens in the majority of a population, such as infant gastroesophageal reflux, (which affects 66% of full-term and 80% of premature babies) is an invaluable advance in the world of Pediatrics. GERD is the single-handed catalyst for other life-threatening diseases. For example, common interventions for GERD treatment, such as prescription drugs and formula thickeners have been shown to cause necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants. Our solution can help infants with GERD without causing these side effects.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I see an upcoming trend with diversity leaders raising like foam. We recently, and very proudly, received the WBE and WOSB certification this year. This “officially” confirms our diversity status. Bittylab is also one of the very few Latinx-led and founded MedTech startups. It is very exciting to see the opportunities that are quickly unfolding in our industry.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Organization. Being organized, and sometimes –of the chart organized— has helped prevent expensive mistakes, gain amazing opportunities, and stay on time with responding to opportunities. Among other habits, entrepreneurship forces you to exploit every drop of talent, creativity, grit, resourcefulness, perseverance, learn how to negotiate, persuade, get over your fears, be the best at public speaking, memorize presentation, develop great social skills, don’t miss networking events, figure out how to learn things fast, test and measure, and know how and when to make decisions.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t let the nay-sayers get to you! There will always be negative people in the world and one has to learn how to ignore them. Whether intentionally or not, negativism can affect your mood, your motivation, and your decisions. It is important to identify the toxic moments/people in your life and stay away from them.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m not lucky, I work hard to make things happen.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Learn to be super organized. I mean beyond anyone’s imagination. Remember that as an entrepreneur you will wear a million hats and most likely, you will have unfinished business on the different responsibilities you are trying to fulfill. Organizing files, notes, emails, etc. help you take complicated, long tasks in a systematic and easier way that normally will require hours to complete.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
A strategy the has helped grow Bittylab is backing up our marketing claims with scientific evidence. Being transparent about our product and claims resonate with most parents. Although feeding a newborn is an essential, almost instinctive task, there are products out there that can cause negative effects on the baby’s health. Our decade-long research and science explain the innovative technology in the Bare® Air-free feeding system, which incite other researchers, doctors, and institutions to join us in learning more about our unprecedented device.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In the beginning, communicating my product, the technology and its benefits was very difficult. My elevator pitches were terrible, and as a result, I lost a lot of opportunities. That got fixed quickly, I took courses on public speaking, business management, and accounting. I even got selected for the 10,000 Small Business by Goldman Sachs and Tory Burch scholarship, which strengthen my education and became much more confident at pitching my product and company.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
You know the concept of baby showers, where the mom-to-be creates a list and the invitees buy an item on the list? A good business idea is to create a site where a person registers one item (for birthday or holiday, etc.) and all the invitees (most likely relatives) add a cash amount towards that gift.
I recently ran into an issue with birthday gifts for junior teens. My niece turned 13 and was very difficult getting her a gift she’d like. So I asked her what she wanted, hoping at the same time I can get more of what she wants for my 12 and 13 y/o whose birthdays were in the next consecutive months and also for Christmas which is around the corner. She responded, “I want an iPad.” Ok, that’s not going to happen. So I thought, what if we can all chip in. Instead of getting her several small gifts she’ll hate, she can “register” into a site and all the relatives and friends can contribute to the single registry item. I searched everywhere and didn’t find a site that could provide such a service.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 spent was on social media ads. The ROI can be several times its initial investment. Reinvesting that revenue turns into a little engine that grows sales.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use FileMaker for everything. It is a modular database that you can customize for any needs. Through this single software, I process orders, follow up with automated emails to customers, export P&L, etc.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. I think the message of this book is repeated in many other ways throughout history. “The power of broke” by Daymon John tells the same message. Lately, it seems this is the default strategy for many startups. Bittylab’s “MVP” (minimum viable product) has positioned the company for growth. We have achieved: proof of concept, over 100k units tested and in use, Pediatrician endorsement, and clinical validation as 75% of babies no longer had GERD symptoms after 2 weeks. Bare® Air-free is a money saver for parents, hospitals, and insurance companies.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you can’t help me, get out of my way. I’m doing this with our without you” ~Unknown