The cover story of the Spring 2014 issue of Dalhousie magazine features three alumni-led startups, exploring how students' Dal experience has set them up for entrepreneurial success. We'll be publishing these stories here on Dal News throughout the week.
The athlete suffering after that one bad landing. The carpenter who spends his day lifting, bending and kneeling. The retiree whose knees creak with every movement. Problems with the knee — the largest joint in the body — are some of the most common sport-related injuries and a source of discomfort even for non-athletes.
But now, three Dalhousie alumni have developed an advanced knee bracing solution that will help those with knee injury move more comfortably and enhance performance while protecting the joint. Chris Cowper-Smith (BSc’06, MSc’09), Bob Garrish (BSc’05, MASC’12) and Shea Kewin (BMGT’13) recently launched Spring Loaded Technology, a start-up named after the unique attributes of their patent-pending knee brace.
“We’re the only knee brace that has a compact spring-loaded hinge,” explains Cowper-Smith, the company’s CEO. “It loads energy when the user flexes down and releases that energy upon extension of the joint.” That stored energy — equivalent to an individual’s own body weight — reduces pressure on the joint and can be customized to allow the knee to extend with greater force. The brace allows athletes to jump higher and dodge faster and anyone with a bum knee to move with greater comfort.
A combination of perspectives
The product’s innovation stems from the combination of diverse expertise within the group. Cowper-Smith brings neuroscience and kinesiology experience to the table. Garrish, the chief technology officer, excels in mechanical engineering and mathematics. The company’s chief business development officer, Kewin, recently completed his business management degree and is now pursuing a Masters of Business Administration at the University of New Brunswick.
The three co-founders met while taking an entrepreneurship class together at Dal in 2012. The course, called Starting Lean, was new to the Faculty of Management at the time. Kewin, then an undergrad, entered the class with the idea for a performance-enhancing knee brace and joined forces with Garrish and Cowper-Smith. By the time the course was complete, the team had an award-winning business model and prototype. Since incorporating in 2012, the company has attracted just over $1 million in financing through various business competitions and investors.
Getting ready for the market
The company plans to have a refined product on the market in 2015. They’re already seeing consumer interest from those outside their intended target market and they haven’t even started marketing yet.
“It’s not just athletes or those with knee injury. We’re hearing from the carpenter who finds bending and lifting much harder than he used to. We see this benefitting someone who enjoys gardening but can’t handle the constant bending down and standing up,” says Garrish. “For these people, it’s a device that will enhance their lifestyle.”
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