Turning a family-inspired innovation into a global solution

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Spencer Waugh, Founder of AceAge, was inspired to launch his entrepreneurial journey during a family dinner in 2014. A casual conversation about a final-year engineering project became the catalyst he needed to turn an idea for helping his grandfather into an industry-changing product.

Waugh’s grandfather was admitted to the hospital eight times that year because of his inability to keep his drugs organized and take them as needed. Waugh discovered that up to 90 per cent of patients fail to take their medication properly, which results in 28 per cent of emergency room visits and 23 per cent of nursing home admissions.

Video: MaRS Discovery District

That revelation led Waugh to invent Karie, an automatic medication delivery system that not only ensures that patients take their medications at the right time, but it also records all the relevant data in the back end for the caretakers and researchers. Karie is improving the way clinical researchers conduct studies to improve adherence to drug dosage regimens and to relieve burdens on the healthcare system.

The improper use of medications is a $300-billion problem in the United States alone. Many have tried to solve this problem with alarms and apps, but these solutions often fall short as little more than glorified alarm clocks with snooze buttons. Karie is being hailed as a triple win by improving the health of patients while cutting costs for governments.


Soon after founding AceAge in February 2015, Waugh left his job to work on his start-up full time. Since then, the development of the company has progressed with the help of the entire ONE Network, including the Health Innovation Hub at University of Toronto and the Biomedical Zone at Ryerson University; Waterloo’s Accelerator Centre; and other Regional Innovation Centres in Ontario. Waugh has also qualified for a SmartStart Seed Fundgrant and an Ontario Social Impact Voucher from Ontario Centres of Excellence.

“The SmartStart Seed Fund grant was especially helpful as we were able to secure some early angel investment the same day we received the grant,” says Waugh.

Now, AceAge has two staff members and is starting a pilot study with the University of Toronto, with two more pilots planned for 2017. With revenue coming on-stream by late 2016, the team is now raising funds with a seed round that will help with scaling-up costs and final hardware/software iterations.

Waugh intends to grow the company to 20 full-time staff in the next two years while targeting North America and Europe as potential market entry points. Asked what has driven him to make a commercial success of his brainchild, Waugh replied:

“Being able to help people just like my grandfather is what excites me the most.”

Learn more about the SmartStart Seed Fund.

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