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August 29, 2022 Startups, Technology & Innovation

Entrepreneur has sights on Hartford area with hiccup-curing startup

HBJ PHOTO | SKYLER FRAZER Meter Health founder M.J. Kievman is the creator of Hiccupops, a lollipop that offers a remedy to hiccups.
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Coming on the heels of her company’s nationwide launch of a hiccup-treating lollipop, a 24-year-old entrepreneur is betting on Greater Hartford’s potential as a startup hub.

Meter Health co-founder and CEO M.J. Kievman, 24, is relocating her Boston-based company to the Hartford area because she thinks Connecticut is cultivating a strong environment for startup companies and young entrepreneurs like herself.

Meter Health, a privately-held biotech firm, recently announced the launch of Hiccupops, a lollipop that cures occasional hiccups within seconds by essentially resetting the body’s hiccup response.

M.J. Kievman

“There’s such a tightly-knit network of people — whether that be in the investing and fundraising space, or through things like the Connecticut Invention Convention — I find that in Connecticut, everyone is willing to help and be supportive,” Kievman said of the state’s environment for startups.

Solving the hiccup problem

Kievman, a Manchester native, gained national attention more than a decade ago as a 12 year old, when she made an early version of the lollipop that stopped her three-month bout with hiccups.

“I didn’t even know at the time what chronic hiccups were, but that led to trying a lot of my own home remedies, and that’s what eventually led to our consumer product Hiccupops,” Kievman said just two days after her 24th birthday. “I’ve officially been in the hiccups-space for half my life now.”

Kievman said chronic hiccups were her first example of the “severe unmet clinical need” regarding the condition. After bringing her idea for the remedy to the Connecticut Invention Convention, people reached out to her to share their stories of severe hiccups following treatments for other conditions such as chemotherapy.

“There’s this whole other side of it that can upend people’s lives,” Kievman said.

Kievman briefly sold Hiccupops directly to customers in 2016, before co-founding Meter Health with scientist Bartholomew Bacak in 2017. Bacak is a hiccups researcher who works as an ear, nose and throat surgeon with the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Bartholomew Bacak

The two recently reformulated and relaunched Hiccupops in response to interest in the product, which can be bought online at, or at one of CVS’ 864 HealthHUB stores. Research by the Mayo Clinic said the product can halt occasional hiccups in seconds for many people.

Kievman said she wants Meter Health to be known as “the hiccups company” as it continues to attack the condition with a full spectrum of potential products.

Other than Hiccupops, the biotech company is working on a pill to treat chronic hiccups, which the company said affects 1.5 million people a year. Chronic or significant hiccups can be a side effect of chemotherapy and other drug treatments like anesthesia used on more than 130 medical conditions. The hiccups can last for significant periods of time and cause debilitating pain and even significant injury.

“While most people think of hiccups as just a silly, stupid, minor annoyance that go away with time, for so many people it can actually be devastating or even life-threatening,” Kievman said.

Why Greater Hartford?

To bring her young career full-circle, Kievman said she recently joined the board of the Connecticut Invention Convention, a Hartford-based nonprofit that produces invention and entrepreneurship programs for K-12 schools and hosts an annual invention competition with awards and prizes.

She said she thinks her company’s Greater Hartford origins offer it good connections to others in the region. While Meter Health’s nine employees are fully remote, most of them live in the state; Kievman said she plans to open a Greater Hartford office soon.

“There are a lot of other companies here that are growing at the same time,” Kievman said. “There are so many people that I’ll meet at one event in Hartford for something then see them again at an entirely different event for something else.”

She also mentioned Hartford’s proximity to other business and startup hubs like Boston and New York City that offer companies an option of where to locate. She said she thinks Hartford and other municipalities in the state, are focused on growing a strong startup base.

“There are a lot of places in Connecticut that are focused on startups right now and building a business ecosystem here,” Kievman said.

She said incubator programs and pitch events are ways Hartford can continue to attract young entrepreneurs.

Meter Health just closed a multimillion-dollar seed fundraising round to support the company’s retail expansion and chronic hiccups experimental pill program.

In addition to getting the pill treatment off the ground, Kievman said her long-term goal is to develop a remedy for intractable hiccups, a subset of clinically significant hiccups that occur nonstop for months or years.

“What makes them so difficult to treat is the fact that doctors are unable to pinpoint an underlying cause a lot of the time,” Kievman said. “That’s 100% my end goal — to deliver the first treatment for that.”

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