Young entrepreneur Lucca Riccio, Founder of Lucca Ventures, is developing an attachment to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks that enables better communication with patients and caregivers.
The startup was one of 10 finalists at the 2017 CTNext Entrepreneur Innovation Awards, a Shark Tank-style pitch event in which Connecticut-based entrepreneurs and startups pitch to a panel of expert judges for a chance to win up to $10,000.
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: When and why did you start your company?
RICCIO: My grandmother had been in the hospital in March of 2015 and had to wear a CPAP mask. It was very difficult to understand her. The doctors and nurses struggled to understand what she needed and she was very frustrated. It was difficult for us to not be able to understand her as well.
She had much to say to us but couldn’t express it. Her body was dying but her mind was sharp. She died frustrated and with a lot that went unsaid. When we were driving home from the hospital, I asked my mom why they don’t put a microphone in the mask. Then I decided to research that and do it as my project-based learning assignment for a science class.
IDH: Tell us about the process of launching your startup.
RICCIO: I won the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo Most Marketable award. The annual event honors K-12 inventors and entrepreneurs from across the United States and takes place in Washington, D.C.
When I got back from D.C., people from the Connecticut Invention Convention started to help me and put me on the right track by having me do more research, get a patent, make a working prototype, and now, bring my product to market.
IDH: Describe your product.
RICCIO: Lucca Ventures produces an attachment to CPAP masks that has a Bluetooth noise-canceling microphone in it connected to an Alexa-like speaker in the hospital room. This attachment enables patients to communicate with their caregivers and loved ones without having to remove the mask—since removing the mask causes patients to struggle to breathe. It amplifies their voice but eliminates the sound of the CPAP machine.
IDH: Why did you get involved in the CTNext Entrepreneur Innovation Awards?
RICCIO: Danny Briere CEO, of The STEMIE Coalition, Inc. (which hosts the Connecticut Invention Convention) brought me to the Entrepreneur Innovation Awards in May to see if I would be interested in participating. Then, this summer and fall, I worked with others from reSET to help me put the presentation together. I realized I needed this funding to get my idea to market.
IDH: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a startup?
RICCIO: For me and my family, the hardest thing has been the financial strain and the time commitment required to get this off the ground. It is very expensive to start a company and get a patent. Also, juggling school and this business venture has been very challenging and I need a lot of support from my team.
IDH: Where do you see your company in the next few years?
RICCIO: My goal is for this attachment to be on every mask in every hospital for every patient who struggles to breath and needs a CPAP machine within two years. I don’t want anyone to struggle to express themselves with their caregivers and loved ones and possibly not get the care they need.