A basketball injury led three Georgia Tech students to disrupt a 5,000 year old device. Partha Unnava spent a summer on crutches after he broke his ankle playing basketball. While being unable to enjoy the summer because of his bum foot, he also experienced serious under arm discomfort, a pain he found that many who have needed to use crutches also experience.
So like anyone with a stroke of entrepreneurship in their blood, Unnava set out to re-invent crutches. Unnava turned to fellow biomedical engineering students Andrew Varghese and Frankie Swindell. Better Walk set out to design a more effective crutch that removes force from a crutch user’s underarm area and reduces the amount of direct force through a user’s wrist.
After the three got together they applied to the Memphis based ZeroTo510 accelerator that specializes in medical devices.
In the previous year ZeroTo510 focused a lot on more technological medical devices. This year’s cohort took on not only BetterWalk, but ambulatory assistance device Mobilizer and a new light that allows surgeons better visibility.
Upon getting accepted into the accelerator, Better Walk received $50,000 in seed money. After wowing the crowd at the accelerator’s demo day this past August, Better Walk secured another $100,000 in funding.
Unlike all of the startups in the previous year ZeroTo510 accelerator, Better Walk went back home to Atlanta to continue working on their product.
“In Atlanta, due to the city being larger, the entrepreneurship community is simply larger. Because there is a larger community, there are more people working to promote entrepreneurship such as David Cummings, who, after selling Pardot, created the Atlanta Technology Village, a building filled with startups that creates a collaborative community for growth and learning. ” Unnava told Nibletz in an interview.
“Additionally, Georgia Tech’s biomedical engineering department (which our founding team is a part of) has begun a push to develop its entrepreneurship path with the new chair Ravi Bellamkonda who is helping to provide additional avenues for students interested in entrepreneurship other than the existing Flashpoint program and Venture Lab incubator,” he continued.
While Better Walk chose Atlanta’s thriving startup scene to continue to build, another startup from Atlanta chose the opposite path and has been very successful.
Atlanta entrepreneur’s Ryan Ramkhelawan and Shawn Flynn started looking for programs and entrepreneurial communities outside of the Atlanta area in late 2011. Without direct ties to Georgia Tech, both gentlemen felt that their startup, Restore Medical, may have better luck in a new area.
The company, which has developed a system to faster, more thoroughly and more efficiently sterilize surgical instruments, was attracted to the growth in the medical device sector across Tennessee and specifically in Memphis. When the inaugural cohort to ZeroTo510 was announced the two quickly applied and were accepted.
During the 2012 Zeroto510 demo day, Flynn revealed that they already had a $3.75M purchase order. Just months later the company announced a $2.5 million dollar seed round from Memphis based investors. They also became the first startup out of the Zeroto510 accelerator to receive their 510 (k) status, which is a fast track to FDA approval for which ZeroTo510 has it’s name.
Restore Medical just opened a manufacturing and distribution facility in Memphis and they already have orders.
“The Memphis community has truly accelerated Restore to where it is today. Zeroto510 was the first accelerator of its kind in country and it takes real commitment to make a program like it successful. Job creation is heavy lifting but all the elements exist here in Memphis to develop a self sustained Eco system that will turn the economic development engine. Restore is glad to be here and is committed to doing its part in shaping a positive economic future,” Flynn told us.