Will ExoSOLS give a maker of 3D-printed foot care products a boost in scaling up?
On Thursday, New York-based SOLS introduced a new app, revised website, and ExoSOLS, the chief product in its new “science of comfort” line.
When we first got introduced to SOLS, its focus was on 3D-printed medical orthotics and custom insoles for people’s shoes. CEO Kegan Schouwenburg says now the company is trying to prove its mettle as an innovator of technology and mass customization. Backers of SOLS include Founders Fund, Lux Capital, Tenaya Capital, and New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony’s fund, Melo7 Tech Partners.
ExoSOLS is a custom orthotic—the first in a planned rollout this year of new products from the company—designed to reduce shock in the feet, help distribute pressure, and improve one’s stride. People can order ExoSOLS by first taking several photos of their feet using the company’s app, then submitting the images so the orthotics can be customized to their dimensions.
What is different with the ExoSOLS product, Schouwenburg says, is an emphasis on comfort first and support second. “It’s not enough to just put a cushion under your feet,” she says. “Let’s create something that people put on and have that immediate relief feeling.”
This is part of the latest evolution at SOLS, which has seen some changes as it tries to scale up.
Schouwenburg says her company grew its medical base over the course of 2015, with some 1,400 doctors who use SOLS to prescribe orthotics for their patients. But there have been some bumps and turns in the road for the company. In January, reports surfaced of layoffs at SOLS, with 20 percent of the staff being let go—along with hints of a new product on the way. There has been a bit of a reorientation at the company, though Schouwenburg says SOLS will continue to operate in both the consumer and medical markets.
“We are thinking about how we can operate in the medical sector in the most capital-efficient way to grow that side of the company,” she says, hinting at more announcements to come along those lines.
Schouwenburg says the company developed ExoSOLS over the course of six weeks, which she says also shows how 3D printing can accelerate the introduction of products through mass customization. “You’re going to see us move towards a much more rapid pace of iteration,” she says, “and hopefully step outside of our foundation as an orthotics company and become the technology company we’ve always said we are.”
In the meantime, Schouwenburg is trying to educate, if not evangelize, others with the new app and website about why foot care with custom orthotics is important, particularly when people are on their feet much of the day or have medical conditions that require such products.
SOLS, she says, has always been about making foot care affordable and accessible to the world through technology. “Looking forward through 2016, you’re going to be seeing continuous and more rapid product launches from us,” Schouwenburg says. She also mentioned the company could broaden its offerings, given that users will have scans of their feet on file, which may lead to other custom product purchases. “It could mean orthotics, it could mean insoles, sandals, other footwear,” she says.