ExoAtlet, a Skolkovo resident startup that makes exoskeletons that help disabled people to walk again, has raised $2 million in private investment and state grants in South Korea.
The funding, raised with the help of senior managers at major Korean corporations and high-profile business angels, will be spent on promoting the company in Asia, said Ekaterina Bereziy, the company’s CEO and co-founder.
A screenshot from a promotional video made by ExoAtlet Asia, showing the exoskeleton in action.
ExoAtlet obtained official certification to sell its exoskeletons in Korea back in May, having registered the ExoAtlet Asia company there last October. ExoAtlet Asia comprises a team of 10 people headed by Oh Joo Young, the former director of mobile technology at Korean giant LG Electronics.
ExoAtlet Asia has already attracted about $1.2 million in private investment for its promotion in the region. One of the investors was Kyung Soo Heo, the chairman of Cosmo Group, which is part of GS Group – the seventh biggest business group in South Korea in terms of capitalization, said Bereziy. Its business includes companies working in the chemical industry, new materials and trade and distribution.
“The trade and distribution department of Cosmo Group is involved in the search for and subsequent distribution of goods that have a high chance of conquering the market,” said Bereziy. “For example, in 2003 the company began promoting the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, which was a real hit on the consumer electronics market.”
Heo was interested in rehabilitation exoskeletons because he saw good sales potential for them in the near future, said Bereziy: the rehabilitation exoskeleton market is expected to grow an average of 70 percent per year through 2020.
“In terms of the development of rehabilitation technology, exoskeletons are the main trend in Asia right now,” said Bereziy. “They’re in demand as rehab equipment in clinics and rehab centres where people can train in them, like at gyms,” she explained.
ExoAtlet, headed by Ekaterina Bereziy (centre), has gone from strength to strength since winning the main prize at the Skolkovo Startup Village in 2014.
The company’s tasks in Korea include the creation of a high-quality manufacturing base to enter the markets in Asia and elsewhere, and the organization of the exoskeleton’s clinical trials on the local market.
Clinical trials are already underway in Korea: eight patients took part in them, and all were successfully able to walk the distance needed in the exoskeleton, and were satisfied with the results, according to Bereziy. The second stage of trials will begin in September.
In addition to demonstrating ExoAtlet at Korean clinics, Oh Joo Young presented the exoskeleton to the departments responsible for developing innovations in Korea’s regions, and applied for grants along the way. The company has so far been awarded grants totaling $700,000, said Bereziy.
Exoatlet Asia has also signed an agreement with the province of Gyeonggi under which the province will promote and support ExoAtlet Asia, and its hospitals and rehab centres will be equipped with exoskeletons.
This year, the company plans to produce 10 exoskeletons in Korea, with that figure soaring to 150 next year, and totaling 1,400 during the next five years. The company’s Russian engineers travel to Korea regularly to oversee production and train their colleagues in assembling the exoskeletons.
Korea is the first foreign market where ExoAtlet has launched sales, but it does not plan to stop there.
“When we were obtaining certification in Korea, we made the product so that it would meet all certification requirements not only in Asia, but on European markets as well,” said Bereziy.
“The next stage will be undergoing certification in China, Japan and Singapore. Our aim is to obtain all the necessary certificates by 2019.”