Michigan native and Warmilu CEO Grace Hsia describes herself as an “accidental entrepreneur.” As a college student, she imagined herself working at a national lab or John Deere, but her course in materials science engineering at the University of Michigan inspired her to imagine a career solving real world problems. “From day one, we didn’t start off thinking we’d be a global medical device company. We just knew we wanted to spread warmth to help babies,” said Hsia.
Warmilu is a non-electric, warming device company that uses their US-patented heat technology to power warming pack solutions for adult pain management and comfort in heated stadium seats, but Warmilu’s flagship product is the IncuBlanket, designed to warm premature infants in resource-scarce hospitals. Hsia’s inspiration came from talking to over 100 doctors and nurses who shared a staggering statistic – each year over one million infants die due to hypothermia and hypothermia related causes. While some hospitals experience electricity outages that cut off power to incubators, others are forced, due to resource scarcity, to crowd from three to six infants into an incubator designed for one. The IncuBlanket is inexpensive when compared to traditional incubators and it does not require electricity to work. As Hsia said, “It’s advanced technology making a difference.”
Incubating a Tech Company in Ann Arbor
After being impressed with the Warmilu’s ability to stay warm for so long, even eliciting doctors to comment that Warmilu’s blanket works like “magic.” While six years of tireless research, development, and testing isn’t magic, being rooted in Ann Arbor with the right team of women, access to mentors at both the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor SPARK, and the right resources is pretty magical.
Warmilu got its start in Ann Arbor, where its all-woman production team manufactures its products with the raw materials from start to finish. Hsia remarked, “We were able to have mentors who could see that passion, see that drive, and move us forward. Having mentors who could see where we were going was amazing and assist with milestones like clinical trials, first sales, and continued business model development.” Additionally, conducting clinical trials in Ann Arbor was affordable. “The folk in the Midwest have a sense of giving back and helping a generation of entrepreneurs and scientists. There’s a medical device expertise in Michigan you don’t see it elsewhere in the country.”
Accolades and Future Growth
Looking back, Hsia has many accomplishments to be proud of: Warmilu has won scores of awards, Hsia was named to Forbes 30 under 30, and the company has flourished in her beloved town of Ann Arbor. However, Hsia is most proud of the impact Warmilu’s blanket has made on the lives of infants and the positive feedback she gets from doctors around the globe. “I’m so excited to be saving babies and spreading the warmth to others.”
Looking forward, Warmilu is currently applying for FDA approval for adult warming for post-operative procedures. Currently, blankets from a warming oven at a hospital hold heat for only 20-30 minutes, while Warmilu’s product lasts for 3-8 hours—a game changer when surgeries last for several hours and patient’s pain and discomfort can last for days during the inpatient hospital stay.