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Sabine Elsässer
Sabine Elsässer is founder and chief editor of the StartupValleyNews Magazine. She started her career at several international direct sale companys. Since 2007 she works main time as a journalist. While that time she learned more about the Startup Scene, what made her start her own Startup Magazine the StartupValleyNews.

Exoneural Network: Exopulse Mollii Suit for patients diagnosed with a stroke, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia

Please introduce yourself and Exoneural Network to our readers!

My name is Nicolas Loren Abboud, and I did my undergrad and grad school at MIT and started my career as a Management Consultant.  I thereafter became CEO and led companies on growth paths in a wide variety of sectors, including in the packaging, construction materials, telecom, engineering, FMCG and luxury sector.  I later joined INVESTCORP as the Managing Director of a $1.2Bn, sector-agnostic private equity fund.  My daughter, who is born with cerebral palsy, and had a life-changing experience after she met Fredrik and started using the EXOPULSE Mollii Suit.  This unexpected encounter completely changed my life.  And I now want, more than anything, that people with disabilities like her, benefit from the unique effects of this medical device.  This has become my motive in life and the reason I cofounded Exoneural Network.

How did you get the idea of Exoneural Network?

Fredrik Lundqvist is the founder of Exoneural Network and inventor of the Exopulse Mollii Suit.  He started his career as a chiropractor and became the caregiver to Dr Jurek Romanski, who had a very progressive diagnosis in multiple sclerosis.  Together, they experimented with pathological reflexes, and achieved breakthroughs that led to neuromodulation patterns to reduce spasticity, improve muscle activation and relief chronic pain.  Regrettably, Jurek passed away in 2007, but leaves a legacy of medical proofs of concepts behind.  Our research continued-on, and I soon became a KOL in neuromodulation.  It is my drive to make these innovations accessible to all that led me to invent a suit with imbedded electrodes – the Exopulse Mollii Suit.

Malte Binting is our third key-men.  Since a very young age, he has been passionate about computer science and sports.  He started as a pro-basketball player at the age of 14, and unfortunately broke his back during a bad fall.  He was paralyzed from chest down, and started an experimental treatment involving intensive electrostimulation.  As a result, he was able to regain the use of his legs and return to pro-basketball.  Following this life-altering experience, he pursued an engineering degree in computer science, and invented one of the first electro-stimulation gym suits.  He later founded his own company, which was acquired by Exoneural Network, before joining Fredrik and I in his capacity of CTO, to form a perfect trio!

Why did you decide to start with Exoneural Network?

We all three share a very personal experience with people with disabilities, and as corporate citizens, feel it is our duty to share and make accessible this breakthrough across the world.  And who better than Ottobock as a mother company, with its reach, expertise, dedication and values in order to accelerate the deployment as well as reimbursement of the Exopulse Mollii Suit!

What is the vision behind Exoneural Network?

The vision behind Exoneural Network is to launch neuromodulation garments that treat in a first wave spasticity, weak muscle activation and chronic pain for patients diagnosed with a stroke, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia; and in a second wave back and shoulder pain, overactive bladder, feet edema, restless-legs, and pressure ulcers.  The realm of possibilities with neuromodulation garments are endless!  And in the case of the Exopulse Mollii Suit, we aim in a relatively near future to embed motion sensors, contract muscles safely, and ultimately generate and control movements with our neuromodulation garments at a fraction of the cost of an exoskeleton.  

The word “Exo” comes from the fact that our products are non-invasive, non-pharmacological, and thus external.  The word “neural network” is because our neuromodulation garments act as an external nerve system to bypasses neurological liaisons at the brain and spinal cord level, while leveraging the body’s functioning muscles and skeleton.

How difficult was the start and which challenges you had to overcome?

The start was very challenging, in part because the medical sector generally has a low propensity to a fast adoption of medical breakthroughs that involve new medical proof-of-concepts.  This means that acceptance will only come after enough clinical studies have been published, considering that a study will on average take 3-4 years from the ethical approval to its publication.  Then you must rely on private pay, which is rather challenging in the case of more costly medical devices, as the process to obtain state or private insurance reimbursements is an additional lead-time, and differs considerably from country to country, and even sometimes by regions. This means that you must be resilient and ensure sufficient capital funding over a relatively long period of time, before attaining breakeven.  

Who is your target audience?

Our target audience are patients diagnosed with a stroke, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and most forms of chronic pain such as for instance Fibromyalgia.

What is the USP of your startup?

Nicolas Loren Abboud

The Exopulse Mollii Suit reduces spasticity, facilitates muscle activation and reliefs chronic pain, and at the same time is non-invasive, non-pharmacological and has none of the side-effects of other known treatments and medical devices have for spasticity.

Can you describe your typical workday?

My typical workday starts with short coordination and follow-up meetings – often virtual- , with each department head to discuss coordination matters and the progress status of important workstreams.  They are often followed by content meetings for instance to discuss in HW and SW developments matters, clinical research, or client prospecting.  We are a small team, which means that everyone is quite hands-on, and of course, multi-disciplinary, starting from the CEO.  The typical day also often includes managing board and shareholder reporting as well as governance, since fund-raising remains a key lifeline for start-ups. 

Where do you see yourself and your startup Exoneural Network in five years?

Our objectives are: to grow and establish our neuromodulation garments as flagship products in Ottobock’s neuro-mobility product portfolio; to expand the current diagnosis treated from spasticity, muscle activation and chronic pain to also include among others incontinence, edema, restless-legs, and pressure ulcers; and above all secure state and private insurance reimbursement to ensure equal and fair access of our EXOPULSE products to people with disabilities.

What 3 tips would you give to founders?

  1. Make sure to surround yourself with a like-minded, equally qualified, highly motivated leadership team that covers all the key areas of expertise required for your start-up to succeed.
  2. Carefully pick shareholders who share your vision on how your product or service will positively impact society in the long-term, have deep pockets and are in it for the long-run, and do not seek to flip their investment for short-term profits.
  3. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize!  This means focus on tasks that will at the same time have an immediate impact and take you closer to your long-term objective, and more importantly, stop doing everything that is of lesser importance, even at the cost of having a less than perfect organization.

Titelpicture Malte Binting

Picture Sources: Exoneural Network / Ottobock

Thank you Nicolas Loren Abboud for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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