Skolkovo resident startup ExoAtlet, which makes rehabilitation exoskeletons that help disabled people to walk again, has raised $5 million in investment to expand its business to Europe and beyond.
The funding is being provided by the Korean company Cosmo and Company, which previously invested $1.2 million in ExoAtlet’s development in Asia. Now ExoAtlet is opening an office in Luxembourg, from which it will conduct its operations across Europe, as well as offices in China and the U.S. – all within the next two months.
ExoAtlet's Ekaterina Bereziy shakes hands on the deal with Ahn Sung Duk, CEO of Cosmo and Company. Photo: ASI.
“Today we have signed an agreement that marks the start of a new stage in the development of ExoAtlet on European markets,” Ekaterina Bereziy, cofounder of ExoAtlet, said at a signing ceremony at the Agency of Strategic Initiatives (ASI) in central Moscow on Monday.
“Cosmo is investing in certification, marketing and everything else essential to bring ExoAtlet to European markets. The next steps are the U.S. and China,” she said.
“We are going to open the European office in Luxembourg before the end of June, so that will be the centre for Europe,” Ahn Sung Duk, CEO of Cosmo and Company, told Sk.ru on the sidelines of the signing ceremony.
“We are also going to open a U.S. office in Washington at the end of June. We have already opened in Japan and Korea and are currently also opening in China, so those five will be our major offices for the global market,” he said.
Representatives of ExoAtlet, Cosmo and Company and Skolkovo line up for a photo after the signing ceremony at ASI on Monday, together with the Korean ambassador to Russia and other colleagues. Photo: ASI.
ExoAtlet Global, the new company set up under Monday’s agreement, chose Luxembourg as its European headquarters because the small country is very convenient for global medical companies in terms of logistics, certification and also taxes, said Ahn.
ExoAtlet plans to obtain CE marking (a benchmark of compliance with health, safety and environmental protection standards within the European Economic Area) for its medical exoskeletons, which will mean they can be sold within the 28 member states of the EU, as well as in Norway, Turkey, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. R&D and exoskeleton assembly will remain in Russia, using components that are 80 percent made in Russia.
Last year, ExoAtlet set up a joint venture with Cosmo & Company to enter the Japanese market. ExoAtlet Asia expects to obtain certification for its exoskeletons in Thailand and Singapore by the end of June, and is opening an office to coordinate China sales in Shanghai next month, its director general Oh Joo Young told Sk.ru on Monday. Next year the company plans to expand to India, he said.
Ahn Sung Duk, CEO of Cosmo and Company (left) and ExoAtlet Asia director Oh Joo Young. Photo: ASI.
“We will put all of our efforts into making ExoAtlet number 1 on the global market,” he said at the signing ceremony.
ExoAtlet enables people who have lost the use of their legs to stand up, sit down, walk and go up and down stairs without assistance. In addition to helping people recover their mobility, regular training in an exoskeleton has been shown to improve the patient’s muscle tone and a range of other heath factors, as well as their self-confidence and overall wellbeing.
ExoAtlet has been a resident of the Skolkovo Foundation’s IT cluster since 2014, when it won the first prize at the Startup Village among hundreds of companies taking part, Kirill Kaem, Skolkovo’s senior vice president for innovations, told the audience at the signing ceremony.
“Exoskeletons can also be used for industrial and military purposes, but ExoAtlet chose to develop them for medical purposes, and have overcome all the obstacles along the way. They have got through the medical registration bottleneck and are already helping patients,” said Kaem.
“It’s good technology that will be developed not only in the medical field, and they’re also a great team,” he said. “Any medical project is a long and expensive journey, and they have overcome all the difficulties with investors, registration, support mechanisms, clinical trials and so on.”
By attracting private investment, the project has demonstrated its value not only to patients and the government, but to business too, showing that it is a profitable field, said Kaem.
“I’m really happy that a project of such social significance has expanded beyond Russia. I asked my colleagues at ExoAtlet what helps them to promote their company abroad, in Korea, and they said: ‘We say it was developed in Russia, and in Korea, people think highly of Russian engineering and software.’ That’s one of the best compliments I’ve heard in a while,” said Kaem, adding that he hoped Russia’s reputation would help them in their expansion onto other international markets too.
Woo Yoon-keun, ambassador of the Republic of Korea in Russia, congratulated both companies on signing the agreement at Monday’s ceremony, noting that Korean-Russian relations are strong in the field of innovations and IT, and that Russia is putting major efforts into developing innovations and technology.
In addition to opening a slew of new offices this year, ExoAtlet also plans to study medical insurance systems across the world, which differ from country to country, with the aim of enabling patients to receive rehabilitation therapy with the use of ExoAtlet under treatment programmes funded by state medical or insurance schemes, Bereziy told Sk.ru.