At age 16, Chang Hun Lee was obese. In fact, at 185 pounds, he had already been diagnosed as prediabetic. Fortunately for Lee, he got his health back on track before it was too late. As a senior at the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business, his mission was to make sure others could be proactive about their health as well.
“A lot of people don’t receive their important health information until they’re sitting at a clinic, and it’s too late,” Lee said. “What I discovered is that too many people rely on their body mass index (BMI) or step-counters like wearable devices. These are the wrong indicators of a person’s true health. Two people can have totally different body compositions, but have the same BMI.”
What Lee developed could revolutionize personal healthcare. In 2016, he founded a startup called OneSoftDigm (OSD) and in 2017 released a product called One Smart Diet – the first pocket-size device that measures body fat, skeletal muscle mass, basal metabolic rate (BMR), BMI, body water, heart rate, body temperature, stress index, calorie intake, and daily activity. One Smart Diet uses bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) along with infrared (IR) and photoplethysmographic (PPG) sensors to measure and analyze the data with 95% accuracy. That data can be monitored through an IOS or Android mobile application, which makes it easy to understand the results, analysis, and recommendations.
“With one handheld device, you can now measure your important numbers, track your progress, and you can also send that data to clinics and receive remote counseling,” said Lee, who already owns 10 patents for this technology. “This gives them one affordable device that can help people be proactive about their health.”
The journey for Lee and One Smart Diet hasn’t been easy. After his sophomore year, he moved to Silicon Valley and pitched his product, which is the size of a USB flash drive, to 50 investors. He was rejected 49 times, but the 50th and final investor shared Lee’s vision and contributed $50,000. That helped get One Smart Diet off the ground.
“When I went to Silicon Valley, I thought it was all about good technology,” Lee said. “There was much more networking than I realized. I decided I needed to earn my degree, represent Gies College of Business proudly, and hopefully, down the road, I can be a resource for other Illinois students and help pave the way for them.”
Lee completed his bachelor of science in accountancy in 2019, seven years after he first arrived on campus. In addition to his year in Silicon Valley, the Korea-native also returned home to complete two years of mandatory military service. His love remained for Illinois, though. It was the only university he applied to – mainly because of the school’s pristine international reputation.
“For me, the University of Illinois means more than just doing well in academics. Gies Business has provided great resources like faculty and fellow students that will help me succeed in life,” he said. “I needed the courage to pursue my passion for improving healthcare, and my time here has empowered me to do that.”
Lee’s journey with One Smart Diet has taken him around the world. He was selected as one of the top 35 startups out of 1,000 applicants at Plug and Play Health Batch 7 in Silicon Valley. He has participated in conferences such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Mobile World Congress (MWC), and the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX). At the GITEX Dubai Expo 2018, he won first place out of more than 200 startups and was awarded $10,000. His product was also accepted into Target’s Open House, the big box chain’s retail space in San Francisco that serves as a model smart home to demo up-and-coming, innovative products. While One Smart Diet is not on store shelves in the US yet, it is available in retail stores in Europe and the Middle East. It has been a whirlwind since One Smart Diet’s launch in 2017, and it’s one Lee says he couldn’t have done without the foundation he has developed at Gies Business.
“We do have great academics, but what I’ve found most valuable is group collaboration with other students with such vast diversity in culture and ideas. That’s the true value here,” he said.
It’s now full steam ahead for One Smart Diet – and his latest version, Fitrus+, which also measures oxygen saturation, skin temperature, stress index, heart rate, and more. Lee sees a wealth of opportunities outside of the actual product. He envisions gyms, senior healthcare facilities, schools, and insurance companies using his business-to-business health management service to provide the most comprehensive, customized healthcare plans for their clients. The future lies in the big data possibilities, a frontier his accounting degree is helping him prepare for.
“What’s great about Gies Business is that you don’t have to stick to one subject,” said Lee. “There are such great extracurricular opportunities, where I was able to explore so many other fields of business and develop a well-rounded background.”
His hope is that people everywhere will be healthier and happier because of the products he develops – and that the 16-year-old version of himself is something no one else has to experience.
Read more about Gies on our Partner Publisher page.