UV startup eyes China's strong baby care market
A Silicon Valley startup hopes to commercialize its digital ultraviolet (UV) light technology by breaking into China's booming baby care market.
Yitao Liao, chief innovation officer and co-founder of RayVio, a Hayward, California-based health and hygiene company, sees a gap in traditional baby bottle-sterilizing methods.
The company's new product, a portable UV sterilizing pod, can kill 99.9 percent of harmful germs and bacteria in 60 seconds without the need for boiling, steaming or harsh chemicals, he said.
The sterilizer "Ellie" has been launched on the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform. The production is expected to start in April, with the first batch scheduled to ship in the US and China in the same month.
Ellie was the world's first consumer sterilizer using digital UV LED technology, said Liao, who has a PhD in electrical engineering from Boston University, where he co-developed "Truviolet", RayVio's core technology.
In addition to baby bottles and pacifiers, the product can be used to sterilize numerous infant-care products including breast pump parts, baby toothbrushes, spoons, bowls, teething rings and small toys, the company said.
In fact, UV light is widely used in hospitals and laboratories to eliminate bacteria and viruses, but most existing UV solutions feature mercury lamps, which are bulky and fragile.
Truviolet, on the other hand, is a microchip that can kill not only germs like E coli and staph but also superbugs such as MRSA, by breaking their DNA, according to Liao.
Steaming and microwave also can kill 99.9 percent of germs, but the biggest risks are new and emerging viruses, like superbugs, that can't be killed by traditional methods using chemicals or antibiotics, he said.
"The benefits of this breakthrough are virtually endless," Liao said. "We aim to make a breakthrough with the baby care market, especially in China."
Experts predict around 2.5 million more babies will be born in China each year since the second-baby policy was announced in October 2015.
The baby boom is expected to boost the value of maternity and baby products purchased to more than 30 billion yuan every year, (about $4.4 billion), according to a report on 2016 China's maternity and baby-product consumption by the 21st Century Institute of Economy, and JD.com, a major Chinese e-commerce company.
RayVio has received many inquiries from mothers in China through the crowdfunding platform, Liao said. "We will soon launch our Chinese-language website. A branch has been set up in China to provide technical support," he said.
RayVio has a manufacturing site of UV LEDs in Silicon Valley, but Liao said the company was in talks with LED contract manufacturers in China to introduce the technology there.
"We expect the cost to come down with volume increased. Our vision is to have the UV sterilizing technology reach the people who most need it, including those in the remote areas in China, India and Africa," he said.