Julia Hu: Sounding the Alarm

Julia Hu was only 25, but she was tired all the time.

It wasn’t that she didn’t take care of herself. The problem was that when her boyfriend’s alarm went off every morning at 5:30, it woke her too, hours before she needed to get up.

So Hu, then a student at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, pitched a silent alarm clock to the school’s entrepreneurship competition. She scored in the top five, and though the silent alarm idea never took off, it led her to found one of the early companies in the health “wearables” category, Lark Technologies.

As smartphone technology has evolved, the company has moved away from wearable products. Last year, it unveiled the free Lark app, which tracks your sleep, fitness activity, and diet. The app is available for iPhone 5S, 6, and 6 Plus smartphones and is compatible with Apple HealthKit. The app also comes preinstalled in the Samsung Galaxy S5.

“We’ve outsourced our health to our doctors,” says Hu, now 29. “When something is broken, we go get it fixed.” Of course, Hu acknowledges the important role that doctors play in helping us stay healthy. But she believes—and research confirms—that many common ailments can be kept at bay with better self-care.

Lark aims to inspire users to live healthier lives by encouraging them to make more healthful microdecisions, multiple times a day. The app’s algorithms—developed with input from Stanford and Harvard behavioral health experts—give the user personalized feedback delivered in a conversational, text-message-like format. Macworld named Lark the best health app for the Apple platform, describing it as a kind of Siri for fitness and sleep. Lark Technologies has been singled out by Fast Company as one of the 10 most innovative consumer electronics companies in the world.

Not surprisingly, Hu is busier than ever these days. But now she’s got an electronic buddy that helps her stay rested.

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