The founders of a South Africa-founded healthtech start-up, Augmental Technologies, spent three years studying the needs of parents with neurodivergent children before launching Tracto, “a digital companion app”, to support them.
Herman Lintvelt and Michael van der Linde’s start-up is now set to also launch in the United States. This, after receiving investment of an undisclosed amount from New York-based StartUp Health in May 2022. The investment places them in Startup Health’s league of extraordinary healthtech founders known as Health Transformers.
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Earlier, the founders also raised $130 000 through angel investors.
“We understand what parents go through all too well,” says Lintvelt, chief executive and co-founder of Augmental Technologies. “We created Tracto, our digital companion app, to empower parents in their child’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) care journey.”
ADHD and ASD are both medical conditions linked to neurodiversity, a scientific concept arising from brain imaging. A number of brain studies have shown that people with learning or thinking differences are “wired” differently than their peers. In other words, some children are born with brains that think, learn and process information differently than others.
Lintvelt says they soon realised that an ADHD or autism diagnosis was not only a bitter pill to swallow for the diagnosed children, but their parents too. Parents often feel helpless and alone when raising a child with neurodivergent conditions. Support is limited, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find trusted information and resources to help such children to thrive.
Tracto is not to be confused with a digital therapeutic solution, adds Van der Linde, co-founder and product head at Augmental Technologies. “By combining technology, parent training and coaching, we are able to support and empower parents in their important role as caregivers of children with ADHD and/or autism.”
As a digital companion, the founders like to think of Tracto as a tool for parents created by experts in the field of paediatric mental health who understand how families work best. It offers relevant support that is customised for each family’s needs. Parents can elect to share the data gathered by the app with their healthcare practitioners.
“In 2018, we started talking with parents, teachers, healthcare providers and other experts to figure out how we could empower parents and care teams to help children diagnosed with ADHD and/or autism,” says Van der Linde.
“We wanted to see their families thrive. We were overwhelmed with the stories we heard, and the need expressed by parents to get better support; to be more empowered to have a positive impact on their children’s health journeys.”
A year later, Augmental Technologies was born with a vision of offering family-first integrated mental healthcare. The start-up was bootstrapped in the first three years with both founders working on their start-up as a side-hustle.
At the time, both founders were working for companies in South Africa, says Van der Linde. “We spent our evenings coding and launching pilots in South Africa and North-America with about 200 parents.”
In this time a number of prototypes were built and tested to help define a product that would provide actual value to parents, and thereby improve the health outcomes of their children.
“One of the most efficient ways to improve health outcomes for neurodivergent children is by equipping parents to manage the child and their behaviour at home,” explains Van der Linde.
A busy year for Augmental Technologies
Fully grasping this turned into a game-changer for Tracto, which turned into the first product launched by Augmental Technologies. This year also saw the start-up give birth to a number of online courses and an early-access virtual parent coaching platform, both presented under the Tracto brand.
“Caring for a child with ADHD or autism is an overwhelming responsibility for any parent,” adds Lintvelt. “A digital companion like Tracto can help parents understand their child’s ongoing care needs, grow their parenting skills to support their relationship with their child at home, simplify the complex responsibilities related to managing their child’s care and find a like-minded community.”
Meanwhile, StartUp Health media director Logan Plaster says, “We’re proud to back a start-up that is so obsessive about listening to providers and patients and solving real-world problems.”
Augmental Technologies has just kicked off a new fundraising round to, ultimately, establish a presence in the United States, enhance Tracto’s AI-enabled care insights engine and build its network of parent coaches.
“The support from StartUp Health will enable us to further improve our offering for parents, and health insurers, and drive our commercialisation strategy in the US,” says Lintvelt.
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