This week in our Startup Spotlight blog series is our 2023 XTC @ CES Digital Health Category Winner – Munevo!
Six Questions for Claudiu Hidas – CEO and Founder of Munevo of Germany
Claudiu Hidas graduated from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and founded munevo in 2018. munevo is an assistive technology company that uses smart glasses to enable more independent mobility and living. Claudiu was nominated as Forbes “30 under 30“ in the category Science & Healthcare. In 2018, he joined the Global Shapers Munich, an initiative by the World Economic Forum, to support local social projects, where he was invited to speak about disability and inclusion at the Annual Meeting in Davos 2020. Claudiu also serves on the board of the hopelovescompany, an NGO to support children of parents with ALS.
1. What problem is Munevo solving and how?
Due to degenerative diseases like ALS and MS or spinal cord injuries, a lot of people are severely limited in mobility and consequently use power wheelchairs. Many people also can’t control their power wheelchairs with their hands, for example supported by a joystick. This means that there has to be a different solution, which can be either quite unhygienic such as mouth controls, or bulky like different head arrays – altogether conventional head controls are quite tricky to operate. They limit a person’s movement and are often stigmatizing.
We solve this dilemma with an alternative head control system: Munevo DRIVE uses smart glasses to catch the wheelchair driver’s head movements. The smart glasses are flexible and light-weight. They can be worn just like any normal pair of glasses. Supported by the smart glasses, wheelchair drivers can control their power wheelchair hands-free with their head movements.
It’s possible to change the seating position as often as a person wishes or needs to: all it takes are a few seconds of recalibrating the smart glasses and the power wheelchair driver is good to go again. And it gets even better: our head control system is also working with mobile devices, a robot arm and whole smart home systems. You can drive your wheelchair, call your loved ones, take pictures, switch channels on your TV, turn the lights on and off hands-free, just to name a few examples. There are many possibilities, giving severely mobility-impaired people a lot of independence and personal freedom!
2. What is your background that led YOU to founding MUNEVO?
As a business and computer science student at the TUM, I took the opportunity to engage in an innovation project about enhancing mobility supported by smart glasses. The other research groups focussed on urban mobility and automotive, whereas we’ve had a teammate who had worked with people with disabilities and mobility impairments at a care facility during his civilian service. He saw there first hand which issues arose and knew about the demand for assistive technology, especially alternative controls. This is how we came up with the idea to re-invent mobility for disabled and impaired people supported by smart glasses.
The experience also nurtured my deep desire to help people, and I felt like I could do this even better by engaging in the assistive tech field. Xpreneurs was an accelerator: we took the chance to work with experts on the idea of our hands-free head control system, taking it to the next level supported by several studies we conducted and the great benefits our investors and advisors brought in. Consequently, we finally founded Munevo in 2018. And we’re all still driven every day by the original idea of empowering people.
3. What is unique about your technology and what is the validation status?
We are a startED up company, working on this for over 5 years now. Over that time, we have cleared a sizable patent portfolio and managed to obtain both CE and FDA approval for Munevo DRIVE – the wheelchair control platform. We have built partnerships with major equipment producers and over 30 distributors in Europe, and participated in several successful clinic studies of effectiveness.
Currently we’re entering the US market. And the system evolves as well: besides operating and driving electric wheelchairs, our users can control their mobile devices, robot arms and smart home systems with their head movements. We just recently implemented voice control and will continue to develop the system as THE go-to solution in terms of assistive technology.
4. What are your Go-To-Market ideas and traction received so far?
Munevo is mainly a B2B play. We will be producing and licensing our components and tech to end-device as healthcare providers who can reach out to patients. As noted above, we’ve already started down that path and have booked over €1M in revenues in 2022, 3x what we booked the prior year.
5. What’s next?
Well, for a long time the answer was raising money, but happily we just closed a €3M round of funding a few months ago, which I feel, especially in today’s markets, is a great validation. This is now going to allow us to aim specifically at two things:
6. Tell us about your experience with XTC and what were the benefits/takeaways?
There are so many competitions for flashy little apps and quick wins! That’s why we always appreciated XTC’s focus on deep-tech that will have a more profound impact on people’s lives.
Initially, we heard about XTC back in 2020 when you re-launched with the UN SDG focus. Then we applied to XTC 2020, but we were still at such an early stage! The nice thing is that once you apply, you’re always involved in XTC’s community – something we’ve always strived on whilst working on our validation, patents and funding. We also saw XTC partnering with UnternehmerTUM for some engagements last year and that closed another loop.
Then, just as we got our funding to expand into the U.S. we were invited to apply for the CES competition and the timing was just perfect. The exposure to XTC’s elite worldwide judging pool was great for us. Being able to pitch in Las Vegas even more so, and we were delighted and humbled to actually WIN the digital health category. I feel the publicity and validation alone will really accelerate our market launch into the USA this year.
Interviewed and edited by John Martin
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