The team at Grush, and their smart toothbrush, has won TBS’ “America’s Greatest Makers” reality competition show, taking home the $1 million grand prize.
Grush makes brushing teeth – one of kids’ least favorite tasks and one of their parents’ most common pointed questions at bedtime – into a fun game. The toothbrush comes bundled with an interactive app, where your child brushes all of the dirt from a monster’s teeth.
The toothbrush sends motion to the mobile app in real-time, aiming to keep the brushing kid’s attention for a few minutes. Parents are able to look at the results and see if the child missed some teeth or did not brush enough.
“We’re very excited,” said Grush co-founder Ethan Schur about the big win. “Being on the show was a fantastic experience, it gave us a chance to take our concept into American homes.”
Grush solves a big challenge for many parents
And Grush is one of those rare connected devices that actually should have a home in every house in America, or at least every house with kids.
Grush’s founders – gaming expert Schur along with Dr. Yong-jing Wang and pediatric dentist Dr. Anubha Sacheti – discovered the problem: kids see brushing as an unpleasant chore because they can’t see what they are doing inside their mouths, and so have a lot of trouble to seeing how effective they are. In short, it’s all boring pain for no real gain.
But as some parents will love to point out – ok, mine sure did – the kids don’t pay the dental bills in the house. In fact, it was the resulting dental bills from co-founder Dr. Wang’s kids that spurred the idea for Grush.
Grush aims to transform that chore into a fun and interactive game. An advanced Bluetooth motion sensing toothbrush, coupled with interactive and instructive mobile games, guide kids’ brushing and lets parents track the results.
The connected toothbrush uses these fun and games to ensure a dentist’s idea of a perfect brushing every time – 30 seconds per mouth quadrant, with the proper brush angle toward the gum line – by counting and rewarding every brush stroke
The idea was a hit and the show certainly helped. Schur said that became apparent when they attended the Maker Faire and they discovered Grush was clearly getting the right kind of traction. “We found out a lot of our fans were under 12 years old,” he said.
“It’s no shocker they were crowned the winner,” said Kyle Ellicott, chief of labs at Wearable IoT World Labs, the accelerator that helped Grush get started. “It’s been amazing to witness – and be a part of – (their) storied journey over these past two years. They’ve accomplished some great feats and delivered an industry changing product.”
The startup plans to add a smart toothbrush for parents, focused on providing a more analytical service that warns when you don’t brush enough or miss spots. Grush is also planning to add multiple levels, which may contain microtransactions, to keep kids interested.
The maker community is also key
Schur said having great mentors on the show, including Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and Massimo Banzi, co-founder/CEO of Arduino, maker of the popular development boards and a maker himself, helped with the business side of inventing. In the end, it’s not just about the prototype, he said.
Ultimately they had to convince judges who were essentially acting like investors normally would. “They asked very astute questions,” he said.
And setting a baseline of using show sponsor Intel’s Curie module meant that projects as diverse as those found on the show, from Grush’s toothbrush to “good vibes” wearable VENN, all had a common starting line.
“Every team may have had a different project,” Schur said. “But they all have the same resources and the same time.”
But he added that highlighting the inventor community – both the one created by the contestants and the one attracted to watching the series – was one of the greatest impacts of the show.
“(In) the maker community, we support each other,” he said. “We’re there helping each other, soldering, coding. That’s kind of the point.”
Second season in the works now
A second season of America’s Greatest Makers has been commissioned by TBS. So inventors of the world, get your applications in.
And Schur emphasizes you don’t need to be scared away by a perceived lack of ability to code or build things. You could use Intel’s Curie module with its existing code package right out of the box, for example – it’s easier than many people think.
Finding the right idea, and then putting together the right team, like Grush’s, is the path to success.
“If you find a problem big enough (to solve), you can prototype quickly,” he said. “There’s help out there. The maker community is there.”
Disclaimer: Grush was one of the alumni in our parent company’s accelerator, Wearable IoT World Labs. But that doesn’t mean we can’t give them a hearty congratulations, too!