As part of the startup Interview series, we are going to interview Mr. Bartłomiej Wielogórski from Prodromus from Krakow, Poland, a global company providing technologically advanced rehabilitation devices for people with physical disabilities. The robots are here!
Bartłomiej, thanks for taking the time to catch up with us. Can you briefly outline the company’s story, what is Prodromus’ key goal? Who are the founders and how it all became what it is today?
In 2010 Grzegorz Piatek, a student of Cracow university got a message from a friend who asked for help for his children, two cerebral palsy 5 years old, twin brothers. Grzegorz decided to construct something that would be useful for long-term, expensive and rare therapy – a rehabilitation robot. He did it and in 2013 with Bartlomiej Wielogorski together, opened a company called Prodromus Ltd. It was founded with the assistance of VC fond from Cracow, another Polish found invested in our development. Two years later, the first Prodrobot started its work in a real clinic in Warsaw, Poland.
Grzegorz Piątek is a real passionate engineer with huge experience. He designed and built dozen of devices or took part in academic and commercial projects as a technical consultant or constructor. His background is mechatronic, so the combination of his skills is really useful in all technical challenges and problems.
Bartlomiej Wielogorski graduated from the same university as Grzegorz. He worked for a big pharma company for several years and had his own consulting company. He graduated with studies in quality systems production management and energetics. His knowledge and experience in many different fields were very useful to create and manage Prodromus.
Today Prodromus after almost 8 years of existence developed from the family garage company to a global player in robotics for rehabilitation. Our robots work in 11 countries in Europe and Asia including Germany, England or China, and Saudi Arabia. Now, Prodromus has been transferred into a joint-stock company and plans to go to the Polish stock market in Q4 2021.
What kind of products and services does your company offer?
We offer products dedicated to lowering limbs therapy like Prodrobot automated gait trainer, ProdElvis electronic visualization system, and very soon we launch Prorobot Magna.
Prodrobot is a medical device dedicated to the rehabilitation of lower limbs of children between 110 and 150 cm. It is equipped with two electronically controlled orthoses that allow controlling all main joints of legs (hips, knees, and ankles). Patient in Prodrobot can start training in sitting position and device will stand up with him to full standing position in which all exercises are performed. Now Prodrobot offers a combination of 5 exercises like: walking (according to idealized gait pattern), swings, squats, bicycle racing, and stairs walking up. All the above can be done in 2 modes: standard and for people with contractures.
ProdElvis was designed based on feedback from our customers who wanted to observe a patient during treatment in an objective way. ProdElvis consist of sensors and plates under shoes that show forces generated by a patient to a base. ProdElvis is the feedback system that shows in real-time the manner of walk of a patient. It allows to observe current results of a treatment or to analyze results later comparing data to ideal gait patterns.
Prodrobot Magna is also an automated gait trainer but dedicated to adults. The whole idea is really similar to Prodrobot, but it has some new features like control of pelvis movement, automated length of orthosis adjustment, harness which allows controlling upper body and games and virtual reality.
I invite you to our website and social media to see more on movies to better understand.
What’s the latest progress in the project, and what are you focusing on right now?
Now we are on the initial stage of certification of Prodrobot Magna. We tested all main functions of the prototype with satisfactory results. We hope to be ready with our robot to sell late this year or at the beginning of 2022.
In the meantime, we are following FDA registration of Prodrobot gait trainer in the USA to start sales there.
Our main goal is to develop more markets especially in the USA and Western Europe. We still want to activate more of our current partners in middle Europe and Asia.
What pain of your customers are you helping solve? What is your company’s offering and what kind of customers and partners are you looking for?
Our solutions are dedicated to children and soon also for adults, who are suffering from many kinds of medical problems like cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, and many other. Long-term rehabilitation needs many affords of therapists. We would like to help them by delivery of a complex solution that allows performing automated therapy with diagnostic functions combined with some entertainment for a patient like games and virtual reality.
Our products are good for rehabilitation clinics of each size, hospitals, or even at home.
We are still looking for distributors and agents in many regions of the World.
What differentiates Prodromus from its competitors?
Both of our robots were constructed following the same idea: stationery exoskeleton of lower limbs. It differs from machines with treadmills or end effectors in construction which allows offering the unique set of exercises unavailable for most of other devices. Our machines are smaller and lighter than most of our competitors. In Magna, we will introduce a new patented feature which allows controlling the movement of hips in 2 axis which gives new quality for patients and their physiotherapists.
Do you use AI technology in your product? How does it work for you?
We do not use this now, but my dream, being the co-owner of a company, is to apply it one day to our solutions. It could be very helpful in diagnostic and in real-time observation of the therapy and will suggest proper exercises to a given patient and his/her state of the body or type of disease.
Do you have any projects related to COVID-19 research? If so, can you explain how your product is contributing to a global fight against coronavirus?
We have no covid related projects now, but we adopted our product a little to make them easier to clean and disinfect.
What is your business model and how are you planning to get early customers onboard? Have you already raised money for your operations and building the platform?
We are on a market for 6 years. We still develop our selling network in many countries around the World. Generally, we work with distributors in other countries but from time to time we do direct sales to a given clinic or hospital in Europe. We do only sell our devices, but we are still observing the market and new models of sales or rent. We are analyzing them and maybe one day we will change our model to a different one.
What milestones have you had in fundraising and where are you now?
Our first VC investor joined us in 2013. It was JCI Venture from Krakow, Poland. 3 years later Warsaw Equity Management, another Polish found invested in our development. In 2020, ABAN Fund from Krakow joined. And together with our all current partners we decided, that our company is old and serious enough to try our chance in the stock market. Now we offer our shares in open offer in Poland.
TechPharus wish a very good luck on it for your team and investors!
What was it like growing your team? What are the challenges and surprises you encountered? What tips do you have for building a solid team?
Our team even now is not big – 14 people together. From my perspective as CEO, I see my team as a special force team – small but expertise, well-motivated and open-minded. As co-owners, we offer our experience to our colleagues and we are also priced by their knowledge and involvement. We try to build an internal culture for continuous development, quality orientation, and respect for our customers and ourselves. Being honest and client-oriented in all stages of our activities is the clue of building our team, our selling network and our brand is our way of building team, company, relations inside and outside of the organization.
What are your company’s plans for the future, your major dream in 2021?
We plan to start our sales in the USA, launch the new product Prodrobot Magna in 2021, and start the new stage of our company development. It is a very ambitious target, but we believe we can do this. Our small but excellent team will win.
What do you think about the business climate in Poland and in the EU in general?
The business climate in Poland is better and better, year after year. There is still a lot of administrative work which disturbing doing business especially for such small companies like us, but on the other hand, we can apply for EU funds for development in the field of R&D or sales. Central location in Europe and membership in EU gives us an opportunity to show our offer globally without any strong barriers.
To summarize our interview I would like to ask your opinion about the future of the HealthTech industry, especially considering the impact of pandemics and all this economic turbulence.
HealthTech business is one of the most perspective types of industry in general. All humankind needs more and more care because of the eldering process, more and more people can be rescued or cured by current solutions but still new and new ones are needed to improve the healing in general. New inventions in many fields are necessary to invent, developed, and implemented. Current market attendees like Prodromus can be the market leader in the semi-distance future in our part of the global market. Pandemic is only another event in humankind history that shows how weak is the human body and how many activities still must be done. Looking at economics I am optimistic. After every storm, the sun starts to shine. After every crisis comes prosperity. The thing is to take lessons from such events – individually and as humankind.