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AZ Tech Beat | October 22, 2018

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Startups Get Saucy

Startups Get Saucy
Tishin Donkersley

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The startup community is thriving in Arizona. With co-working spaces, entrepreneurial workshops and educational outlets popping up all around the state, why not drink the Kool-Aid and pursue your dream. AZ Tech Beat talked with a few local founders whose products are in the early stages and concepts are aimed to help families overcome potential challenges. Introducing Founder Chris Wilson of Late Living from the ASU Venture Catalyst Edson program, and Founder Kristi Murphy of SaucyKids—winner of Bon Appetite Food Innovator Award and recently highlighted on Forbes.

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The idea of Late Living came about for Chris Wilson while he worked as a photographer shooting video for wedding venues to give their potential customers a preview of the site. His friend, who worked at Fulton Homes at the time, came up with the idea to make video tours for model homes-and Chris switched over. Meanwhile, Wilson was in the process of searching for an assisted living home for his mother who was falling ill. He recalled spending hours and hours searching online and taking numerous live tours around town-making sure he made the right decision for a loved one. He then put it together-why not create video tours for assisted living homes and a service that makes the process of finding a home for loved ones easier on the family members? Late Living was created.

Wilson created a platform easy for a person with any level of online experience to search and preview assisted living facilities for their loved one without leaving their homes. The Late Living website offers complete video walk-through tours, information from the facility about room availability, Facebook integration and direct contact information for the family. Individuals can view the entire facility without scheduling an onsite appointment until they are ready.

Wilson says the greatest challenge with Late Living has been balancing his life as a father of three, a husband, and owning his own business while launching a new startup.

“You want to devote your heart and soul into something when you see the amazing potential it has,” Wilson said, “but if you don’t devote time to the ones who love you the most, you will be left alone to face your challenges-and I’d rather face them with my best friends and biggest fans.”

One thing he wishes he knew before launching was how to find the right co-founders. That person has to hack the late nights, blood, sweat and tears of growing something from nothing, so you aren’t stuck with extra problems later Wilson said.

“It takes a different kind of person to build a small business and it takes someone very special to see it through to the end when the big pay day comes.” Wilson said.

Unknown  SaucyKids founder Kristi Murphy was inspired to enter tech after she witnessed how many of her younger sisters’ friends were overweight and had unhealthy diets. Murphy decided to create an app for kids with a gaming aspect to help kids make good choices about food.

“I have 9-year-old sisters, and I was shocked to see the poor health habits of their friends,” Murphy said, “I wanted to make this something that will actually change behaviors, and directly tie to the real world.”

SaucyKids is a food journal app geared towards mothers and children with a gaming aspect to educate them on healthy eating. Children will gain points for eating healthy, and the points will change to real prizes like coupons they can use at various retail locations. SaucyKids plans to use parent verification of the healthy choices to hopefully manage any fibbing from participating children. Fibbing or not, Murphy’s goal is to “…create awareness about healthy foods [and] we just want them to incorporate healthy habits into their diet in moderation.”

Healthy eating has always been important to Murphy. She learned it from her mother. Murphy shared the story of her mother being pregnant with her and being diagnosed with cancer-her mother had to make a choice, continue to full-term or move forward with treatment, loosing Kristi. Making a full recovery, her mother attributes her healthy diet to beating cancer.

With Murphy’s background in psychology, and understanding the psychological changes needed to shift ones’ behavior, she has partnered with psychology researchers in childhood obesity at The University of Notre Dame to put some data and brainpower behind SaucyKids. Most recently Murphy won the Bon Appetite Food Innovator Award, providing her some seed money for SaucyKids and featured as one of Arizona’s startups in Forbes.

Murphy says her greatest challenge has been finding the perfect gaming app developer, and making sure she uses every penny wisely. “We’re in our research phase, with help from the researchers to understand if the changes will be useful,” Murphy said, “right now, we are looking for a developer who has previously worked with kids’ games.”