Regina Vatterott is no ordinary 23 year-old. The only lady in the quartet that makes up the Elliegrid team has proven herself an invaluable member of the entrepreneurial scene in Houston, but also as the sole woman of a 4-man team and co-founder of smart pillbox Elliegrid. She is a rare find in someone in the under 25 year-old mark who has achieved so very much and continues to devote her time to promote this product that will continually give back to the health and wellness of those who use it.
Illness, weakness, strength are all friends or adversities to the human condition at one stage or another of our long lives - and whether you’re an under-the-weather, overworked college student or a 70-year-old retiree - we can all forget to take our vitamin D or daily med. Elliegrid intelligently pairs with an app on your phone to notify you when to take your vitamins and prescription medicines, as it would to wake you up everyday - easy as pie. It also looks nice - almost like a futuristic gameboy with no screen, and a sleeker finish.
The heart-warming story behind the concept derives from Vatterott’s co-founder Abe who found his grandfather in a less than desirable condition after forgetting to take his medication for multiple days in a row due to how complicated and intricate his routine had become. According to Vatterott, Elliegrid was thus born out of Abe’s drive to help his grandfather and those like him to keep up with their medication. The product's immediate popularity has now spread to those millennials who work and play too much to remember their own daily doses.
"It’s really hard to find medical supplies that don’t make people feel like they’re a patient."
Vatterott’s personal relationship with the box comes from the passing of her aunt from cancer. While she acknowledges that of course the help of a simple pill box would not have saved her aunt from the disease, she posits that perhaps her last months would have been less painful and stressful with the aid of something such as Elliegrid.
One of Vatterott's goals, in fact, is to create a new patient standard for those going through medication-heavy conditions like cancer. This drive to help others in a similar situation to her aunt or Abe’s grandfather has lead the team to enormous success, with a campaign driven by empathy.
“There were other smart pillboxes on the market - we’re certainly not the first, but they were all very complicated and very expensive.”
Having received an offer early on for $1 million for half the company - Vatterott and the team decided they would make the money themselves keeping ownership of the product. Today Elliegrid’s initial Indiegogo goal of $40,000 has been substantially surpassed and continues to grow, as the initiative has caught the eye of some big industry names. Athletes like Venus Williams, who have a requirement of more than a few medical aids or vitamins have come out openly to back the product, are perhaps the most noteworthy. Along with this star-studded support, the box has received attention from all aspects of the entrepreneurial and tech industries, with accolades in the past year like placing in the TechCrunch Pitch-Off 2016, the Health 2.0 Takeda Challenge, and the Regional Hardware Cup hosted by AlphaLabs.
"It was always just really hard to organize the medication - I remember just boxes upon boxes. At that point it was very critical. I’ve always wondered whether we could have made that process more efficient"
Vatterott sounds almost astonished at how successful her Indiegogo campaign has been - having vacillated about what platform to launch Elliegrid’s crowdfunding from in the beginning. Indiegogo’s receptive and encouraging team aided Vatterott and her teammates who never once had to outsource for their campaign - all of the graphics and campaign detail were done by themselves. Among co-founders Regina, Abe, Nicolas and Hieu, the group appears the perfect millennial amalgamation of tech, marketing, logistics and engineering - and having grown Elliegrid from nothing but sticky glue and an idea.
It is perhaps one of the most desirable qualities attracting investors and awards to the product - the team’s ability to utilize its capital efficiently and with great effect. There are perhaps no limits to the fierce foursome’s capabilities given what Vatterott refers to as their ‘cockroach’ nature - being able to survive on so little for so long.
What’s next for Elliegrid? Vatterott says a pink version is in the works - meeting every girl’s smart pill box dream.
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.