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Published on May 28, 2024
San Antonio Startup, BobiHealth, Leverages AI to Enhance Pregnancy Safety, Draws Investor Interest Post-Pitch EventSource: Unsplash/ charlesdeluvio

In the face of ongoing maternal health challenges, a San Antonio-based startup, BobiHealth, is using artificial intelligence to make pregnancy safer while fiercely guarding user privacy. Earlier this month, without taking home the $20,000 prize at Geekdom's pre-accelerator pitch event, BobiHealth caught the eye of an investor who tapped founder Dave Esra on the shoulder, expressing a keen interest in investing. Esra, fueled by his wife Sarah's high-risk pregnancy experience, developed the BobiHealth app to address the gap in maternal health knowledge—a gap that broadened during his work on a project studying Covid-19 vaccine effects during pregnancy, as reported by San Antonio Report.

The startup's app, which launched earlier this month and has now been downloaded roughly 500 times, according to Esra, utilizes machine learning to predict risks such as preeclampsia and mental health concerns. It provides vital sign monitoring and allows for a swift response should a user's data indicate a potential emergency. Despite not winning the competition, getting noticed by investors was the main takeaway for Esra, who is strongly committed to addressing the significant maternal mortality issue where, as San Antonio Report pointed out, almost 800 women died every day in 2020 due to preventable pregnancy-related causes, according to the World Health Organization.

BobiHealth's approach to privacy is through a technology known as "federated machine learning systems with differential privacy." Data pipeline architect Suzanna Disesdi Cox highlighted that this system processes data directly on users' phones through "mini-models," ensuring that personal information does not leave the device. BobiHealth's innovation in privacy tech, according to Esra, is being eyed for a patent, and plans are underway to pitch it to the Defense Department—a move suggesting the dual-use potential of the company's technology.

While the mission-driven startup emphasizes its social impact, especially for at-risk populations, Esra has learned to balance his pitch to resonate with investors interested in the lucrative side of health data and proprietary technology. Corporate executive and business mentor David D'Annunzio and the company's medical director, Dr. Ken Marriott, have both pointed out the broader applicability of the technology, which could revolutionize caregiver support for disorders such as autism. Their insights corroborate Esra's vision and underscore the financially appealing aspect of the technology that extends well beyond its initial application in maternal healthcare.