2019 XTC Global Winner Tango Belt:
One Year Later

April 27th, 2020

Tango Belt Photo Rebecca Tarbert DPT, Tango’s Director of Clinical Programs, with an independently living user.

Winning the Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) startup competition takes more than excelling at all the standard venture capital metrics: the startup’s team, the market size they’re addressing, time to market, time to profitability, and all the rest.

XTC success requires, in the words of the 2019 winner, “thinking big and helping people.”

Drew Lakatos, co-founder of Tango, the recipient of the 2019 XTC top prize, attributes that goal as key to Tango’s XTC win.

Tango addresses one of the great medical crises around the globe: hip fractures. Among the elderly, hip fractures pose serious health, economic, and quality of life issues. In the United States alone, 15 million older adults fall each year, resulting in 300,000 hip fractures. Hip fractures are expected to increase this year because of COVID-19, as some older adults are being moved into family residences to quarantine.

The Tango belt provides an ingenious solution to this problem, using advanced motion sensor technology and machine learning to create a smart, wearable air bag that protects a wearers’ hips before they hit the ground.

“The Tango belt was conceived on the simple belief that most hip fractures can be prevented,” Lakatos says. Preventing hip fractures not only reduces individual suffering, it also means fewer ambulance rides, ER visits, surgeries, and hospital stays—all of which carry enormous costs.

Tango Accelerates Success Following XTC Win

Since returning from the XTC Global Finals a year ago, Tango has:

  • Begun shipping its Tango belt wearable hip protection product to customers in five U.S. states.
  • Recorded praise from large post-acute providers including Genesis HealthCare, based in Philadelphia and one of the nation’s largest, and Eskaton, a regional nonprofit senior living and aging services provider in California.
  • Advanced from a pre-revenue startup to a company generating early-stage revenues.
  • Received extremely positive feedback from customers and users, who report up to 90% adherence to the use of the Tango belt and not a single case where the wearer was injured during a hip-impacting fall. Falls with major injury, a key metric used by senior care facilities, has been reduced with the Tango belt.
  • Identified additional markets for the Tango belt, notably for rehabilitation after hip or knee implant surgery—a market representing 1.2 million people annually in the U.S.

During the past year, Tango has found that people with concerns about falling or who are recovering from hip/knee surgery feel more confident about safely moving again when they’re wearing the Tango belt. As a result, they are more likely to remain or become active, which improves their overall health.

“People wearing the Tango belts in rehab after receiving hip or knee implants were walking 50% farther at discharge than those who weren’t wearing the belts,” Lakatos says. “With less fear of falling, people walk more—which itself leads to faster recovery and higher mobility.”

One user of the Tango belt—a woman recovering from a hip injury who had a goal of eventually being able to walk one mile a day—was comfortably walking two miles a day only 30 days after her fall.

How XTC Helped Tango

Lakatos believes that simply participating in the semifinals and finals of the 2019 XTC competition was beneficial to Tango.

Tango Belt Team Photo

“The XTC judges at each stage of the competition—from the top 25 through the finals—were all exceptional,” he says. “The judges all provided valuable help and guidance, and they were instrumental in shaping our business plan.”

Tango left last year’s XTC finals with several investors, a crucial step for the startup. Although COVID-19 has paused the company’s expansion plans—medical and senior facilities cannot currently receive the in-person visits necessary to distribute and fit the Tango belts—Lakatos is confident that the traction they’ve experienced so far will keep them moving ahead once the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

To startups considering applying for XTC, Lakatos has this advice: “Do it! If you have a solid business plan to help a lot of people, to do a lot of good in the world, you will do well in the competition.”

The deadline to apply is this Thursday, April 30, for the #XTC2020 Global Finals.