Sloane Tilley’s life took an unexpected turn in 2016 when a severe accident transformed her outlook and ignited her entrepreneurial spirit. This life-altering event led her to create Dia, a startup that aims to save lives by utilizing the untapped potential of wearables.
Seven years ago, Tilley was living an enviable life—pursuing her doctorate at UNC, training for her first half Ironman, and returning from her honeymoon. However, a devastating bicycle accident left her with a broken back, leg, and torn knee ligaments. The accident forced her to reassess her priorities, ultimately changing her doctorate program into a master’s degree and sparking her entrepreneurial journey.
The Raleigh-based company, now known as Dia (previously E-Sentience), is dedicated to exploring the full potential of wearable technology. Tilley believes that the human body offers an extensive surface area for collecting valuable, life-saving health data. She envisions a future where patients can easily monitor biomarkers at home, similar to measuring temperature and blood pressure.
As Tilley recovered from her accident, her innovative idea continued to evolve. Her experience working at companies like BD and GeneSavvy helped shape the concept further. Finally, with the support of her partner and an initial $20,000 SAFE (simple agreement for future equity) from Duke Innovation Studio, Tilley and her co-founders raised approximately $600,000 to seed their idea.
Dia’s mission is to develop noninvasive sensor technology that utilizes sweat or saliva to measure biomarkers. The startup’s initial focus is on creating an arm sleeve wearable that can monitor cortisol levels, primarily for military personnel operating heavy machinery or undergoing training. Another application in development aims to measure biomarkers like potassium, creatinine, urea, and glucose, which can help physicians monitor patients with conditions such as kidney disease, hypertension, and heart failure. Tilley envisions a tabletop unit that allows users to provide saliva samples for home monitoring. Although the device must undergo a regulatory process, she hopes to secure breakthrough status to expedite the timeline.
Currently, Dia is collaborating with the Army, having received funding to advance the prototype. If successful, the arm sleeve product could move into phase 2, which may include producing the unit and testing it for military use.
Dia has been a North Carolina LLC since 2021 and officially incorporated in early 2023. Tilley understands that success takes time and dedication, much like training for an Ironman competition. Despite her accident, she persevered and completed a full Ironman, qualifying for the World Championships. Currently, she is training for her second full Ironman, set to take place in Lake Placid, New York, in July.