(Page 2 of 2)
“The place where the greatest concentration of people exists with the most healthcare problems and fewest solutions is nursing homes,” he says.
Leismer says most people perceive a nursing home as a dead end—loved ones send someone there not expecting him or her to return.
“My goal is to help flip that and have someone return home healthier and stronger than before they arrived,” he says. “Let’s get them back on their feet standing and walking independently again.”
In addition to senior centers, VibeTech sees health systems’ physical therapy departments and sports medicine facilities as potential customers.
In 2014, after the company filed paperwork with the FDA allowing it to market VibeTech One throughout the U.S., it started selling the device. Over 1,000 10-minute rehabilitation sessions have been performed on VibeTech One, Leismer says.
Organizations who accept Medicare patients and purchase one of the machines are eligible for reimbursement, says Leismer. An average-sized nursing home can expect to recoup its investment in 12 to 18 months, he says.
Private pay is also an option, he says, with a price tag around $50,000 per machine.
To date, VibeTech has raised about $1 million from research grants, state loans, awards, and partners who have become investors.
VibeTech hasn’t taken any money from venture funds or angel investors, says Leismer, and crowdfunding could prove to be a better route for obtaining financing because companies don’t have to surrender as much equity. CFO Ed Morgan says the company is planning a “major fundraise” later this year using new provisions that allow a Wisconsin business to raise up to $1 million from state investors through crowdfunding portals.
Leismer says VibeTech’s main competitors are companies that make aquatic therapy pools and robotic equipment designed to hold people upright as they walk on a treadmill. Both require a rehabilitation facility to invest $300,000 or more, he says.
Figuring out whom VibeTech can and should sell to is a focal point of the Healthcare Innovation Pitch program, which will culminate Dec. 4 when the 13 participating startups present before a panel of venture capitalists at the UW-Milwaukee Innovation Campus in Wauwatosa. The top prize is $50,000.
Between now and then, Leismer says his company will go through a similar, albeit shorter, program that teaches startups key elements of customer discovery. It’s known as I-Corps, part of the National Science Foundation’s National Innovation Network. Brian Thompson, president of the UW-Milwaukee Research Foundation, says he hopes other companies selected for the pitch program will complete the five-week accelerated version of I-Corps, which is being offered in addition to principal I-Corps programming.
Leismer is VibeTech’s sole full-time employee—he says six others, including Morgan, are “involved on a regular basis”—and he believes the startup programs will help the company as it attempts to scale up production. Less than one week into the pitch program, he says he’s seen the value of getting feedback from “fresh sets of eyes.”
“We’re looking at it from the perspective of, ‘What holes exist now, and how do you go about solving those and filling those voids?’” he says. “We’d rather approach things from a critical perspective because we know there are hurdles ahead of us.”