Aussie medtech startup Loop+ has secured $3 million in funding for its health tracker, which helps wheelchair users take control of their wellbeing.
The oversubscribed round was led by Yamaha Motor Ventures & Labatory, the strategic business development and investment arm of Yamaha Motors.
Other investors include Giant Leap Fund, Eleanor Venture, the Insurance and Care NSW Foundation, and a group of angel investors formed through Australian Impact Investments
A graduate of Cicada’s MedLab accelerator, Loop+ was founded by sisters Kath Hamilton and Clare Conroy.
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It’s designed to allow wheelchair users to monitor, and take charge of, their own health progress, “enabling them to see what’s going on with their body, and be able to make sustainable healthy decisions”, Hamilton tells StartupSmart.
At the same time, it serves to provide more reliable data to carers and clinicians.
Due to loss of sensation in parts of their body, many wheelchair users are not able to understand their bodies’ behaviour, or react to it.
Equally, the length of time that often goes between doctors’ appointments means it can be difficult to track progress with any regularity or accuracy.
“Visibility into movement enables action and change,” Hamilton says.
Initially, the sisters started working on the technology to find a solution for Conroy’s son Evander, now eight years old, who is a wheelchair user himself.
The family wanted something that could track his movement and progress, and help him avoid further health risks in the future, Hamilton explains.
“Nothing was really fit for purpose for wheelchair users.”
They started to experiment, working closely with doctors as well as wheelchair users and their families, to develop something that would work for everyone.
“This enables them to have really informed conversations and to really track what’s going on every day.”
Inundated with the need
Already, the Loop+ co-founders have been demonstrating the technology at various conferences, and have “a long waiting list of clinicians” in Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland.
“We were inundated with the need,” Hamilton says.
“Just the desperation for the visibility is what we hear all the time.”
This funding will be put towards manufacturing the product at scale, and getting it out to the startup’s first 1,000 customers, all while ensuring it meets the standards of a class-one medical device.
The founders will also work on accelerating partnerships and pilot programs with early adopters, both in Australia and the US.
But, at the same time, they’ve also realised there’s a bigger market here. The same monitoring tools could be applied in various markets, from workplaces to aged care, where it “can really make a significant cost and quality-of-life impact”, Hamilton says.
“This is just our first market.”
Hardware is hard
For Conroy and Hamilton, this hasn’t been an easy journey. Neither of the co-founders have experience in hardware, or in health.
“There’s a reason they say hardware is hard. Also getting into the health space is very daunting,” Hamilton says.
“To tackle both of those has meant it’s been a longer journey to get to this point.”
And as for Evander himself? As the Loop+ number-one product tester, he’s “a bit over it”, Hamilton laughs.
But in startups, it’s about persistence, she says.
“Every startup founder knows the resilience and persistence to keep going through those times,” she explains.
And, if you’re in a space you’re passionate about, and making a positive change in the world, that makes all the difference.
“For us to be able to play a role in transforming the health, wellbeing and independence of wheelchair users and their circle of care is incredible,” Hamilton says.
“We’ve been able to attract some incredible development talent, because people now want to work on something that’s going to have a physical impact in the world,” she adds.
“Hearing from clinicians and users every day of the potential that we have is what drives us.”