Necessity mother of this startup

By Liz Abbott
PBN Staff Writer

It’s 3 a.m. and your wife is at work – she’s a doctor who works long hours – and she has left you to care for your infant daughter. More

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INNOVATION

Necessity mother of this startup

PBN PHOTO/DAVID LEVESQUE
KAILAS NARENDRAN, founder of kiinde LLC, is now selling innovative products for mothers and babies in stores throughout North America and South Korea. “It’s always a confluence of stressors that results in innovation,” he said.

By Liz Abbott
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 1/6/14

It’s 3 a.m. and your wife is at work – she’s a doctor who works long hours – and she has left you to care for your infant daughter.

With one arm, you are holding a very hungry baby. With the other, you awkwardly rummage in the freezer for a plastic pouch of frozen breast milk and then try to maneuver the pouch under a running faucet so that it will thaw.

The baby continues to cry. She wants her milk.

You are a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-educated engineer who can’t believe that the process of feeding a baby is more difficult than building complex humanoid robots that cost one-quarter of a million dollars, which is what you do for a living.

So, what do you do?

If you’re Kailas Narendran, you invent a device that can quickly thaw breast milk to precisely the right temperature for feeding – any higher and the breast milk loses its nutrients. You look at the most basic of human endeavors, feeding a child, as a scientific challenge, resulting in a new company, kiinde LLC, which is now selling innovative products for mothers and babies in stores throughout the United States, Canada and South Korea.

“It’s always a confluence of stressors that results in innovation,” Narendran said, speaking from his home office in Warwick, where he sat recently by himself before three computer screens, juggling the numerous issues involved in being an entrepreneur whose company manufactures its products in China and distributes it on two continents.

In his case, the stressors included a working wife and mother, Katie Fillion, whom Narendran drily called “our compass for product development,” a decision to breastfeed their two daughters, and the realization that the products on the market for nursing moms and babies might come in every color in the rainbow, but they didn’t get the job done, at least not by Narendran’s efficiency standards.

When he first started to shop for baby products at big, specialty-retail chains, Narendran was more amazed by what wasn’t on the shelves rather than what was there.

“Everybody sells the same thing colored five ways,” he said.

As he saw it, his task was to come up with something new, something that should have been obvious to other designers and manufacturers – a warmer that is safe for breast milk – but which hadn’t been invented yet. The result is the “Kozii,” a deceptively simple appliance about the size of a small can opener that creates a warm circulating bath into which exhausted parents can place a pouch of frozen breast milk and have it ready for feeding an infant in a minute or two.

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