Aardra Ambili’s (MS ’14) path to success

Aardra Ambili graduated from UGA less than 5 years ago and is already making waves in the technology field. The UGA Alumni Association recently emailed Aardra about her recent entrepreneurial success with Raybaby, a non-contact sleep and wellness tracker for infants.

What advice would you give to a current UGA student who wants to start their own business?

The journey is definitely long and hard, but not impossible. I would certainly advise aspiring entrepreneurs to expect a certain level of hardship and expect to build resilience over time. I have found it helpful to surround myself with friends and family who are encouraging and supportive. Entrepreneurs live an isolated life especially in the early stages of the company and for people who aren’t  accustomed to not having a social life- they might find it uncomfortable. Entrepreneurs really are a different breed because you end up living in a distant future that might never materialize. As a culture, we also need to celebrate failure- that we as individuals can experiment with different outcomes of our decisions and some of them might be wrong, we need to begin to accept that culture fully. As UGA students, I would strongly urge them to connect with their community – you are in the midst of like-minded people who believe in innovation and collaboration. You might even be eligible to receive funding and grants as a UGA student and they usually go a long way in helping one pave one’s entrepreneurial ambitions.

What are some of your fondest memories from your time at UGA?

My fondest memories at UGA were spent studying at the UGA library, working on different projects. Not kidding. I was studying for my master’s in artificial intelligence and it was a tough program. I remember spending hours either alone or with my friends solving problems – they were never easy and you could never expect to breeze through them. But I loved challenging problems. I remember walking through campus in the fall; it was so beautiful, a perfect time for meditation on the million thoughts that were running through our heads. I remember being inspired by a fellow doctoral student who had been an entrepreneur, and being genuinely inspired by the enthusiasm, initiative and energy. I think that we often underestimate our potential, and we keep forgetting about human resilience and capability, we need to keep reminding ourselves of our human civilization’s inclination towards greatness.

What was the inspiration for Raybaby? 

We met a lot of mothers and fathers who are extremely worried about their children’s wellness, whether they were sleeping well or breathing well. It so happened that one of the founder’s parents was having a conversation on electronics and how they are all powered by lithium ion batteries, and how they all  inherently carry a safety risk. And he asked a thought-provoking question: “How can you place a lithium ion powered electronics device on someone who is sleeping?” The conversation has evolved to where it is now – and we are extremely proud of what we are creating- a non-contact alternative to the current vital monitoring solutions, which is a much safer option. Parents shouldn’t have to choose between vital monitors and video cameras- they should have both in one product.

Currently, doctors track respiration rate by placing their hand on the babies chest and counting breaths manually, which is inefficient. Our solution doesn’t require any kind of electronic device on the baby’s body, a huge relief since parents can now sleep safe and not worry about exploding lithium ion batteries. 

Our product, Raybaby, notifies parents/caregivers/daycare centers:

  • when your baby rolls over
  • when your baby is awake
  • when your baby is sleepy or sleeping
  • or even when your baby is running a fever

We are supported by Johnson & Johnson and HAX as part of their joint consumer device health accelerator program. J&J is helping us create a more market ready and baby friendly product. We use clinically-tested and FDA approved components.

How did your time at UGA prepare you for your career?

While at UGA, I published some papers in applied machine learning – applications where we use artificial intelligence to solve real world problems. But I realized I wanted to make a difference and it took some time for me to realize the way to do it might be to take a break from academia (I had initially planned to apply for a doctorate degree) and work in the field. I went on to work in a few startups and I believe that the time I spent at UGA really helped me to think critically about problems and how to solve them. It made me realize the importance of a community and how communities tackle tough problems. As individuals we are often short-sighted and are trapped in biases and in small mindsets, however when you have a team with varied experiences they bring in their own set of rich expertise and perspective and that makes all the crucial difference when solving problems. Serendipitously, I soon met Ranjana and Sanchi, my fellow founders, who are as excited and as passionate as me, we are strung together by the desire to make a deep lasting impact on people’s lives.

You can learn more about Raybaby and Aadra’s work at Rayiot.org