John-Paul van Heel, Victor Donker, Jori Verbeek
Author profile picture

The product itself – the ProbeFix Dynamic, a holder for making ultrasound equipment wearable – still looks (about) the same as it did seven years ago, but not the target market. Victor Donker and his colleagues first focused on the cardiology market, but now they’re aiming fully at sports medicine and physical therapy. Several top European soccer clubs have already embraced it, but eventually, Usono also wants to appeal to amateur athletes and their physical therapists.

Why this is important:

Usono’s story illustrates the ups and downs of a startup. Sometimes, scaling down is necessary to eventually reach new heights.

Shortly after completing the HighTechXL accelerator in 2016, the Usono team, which at its peak included about 12 people, was fully convinced of the most promising course of action. “The ProbeFix variant for cardiology struck a huge chord with these specialists, so then you think it’s all right,” recalls co-founder and CEO Victor Donker. “But gradually, you discover that it’s not the cardiologists who determine the investments in a hospital. We did try that for a while, but in 2019, we had to pull the plug on that whole business case.” Laughing: “At a time when everyone was talking about growing from startup to scale-up, we became a scale-down.”

Organic growth

The years that followed were typified by “organic growth”, Donker says. “Co-founder Jori Verbeek and I agreed not to rely on external funding for the time being but only to grow under our own steam.  COVID-19, of course, only made that choice wiser.” The result was an admittedly slower but steady growth – plus the opportunity to explore new targets and markets. Meanwhile, the ProbeFix was sold primarily to researchers who were producing scientific papers. There were no guarantees at the time, of course, but it worked out tremendously well: “We had sports doctors and physical therapists coming to us as a result of those publications asking if they could also use it clinically.” 

The CE listing secured last year provided the final push for Donker and Verbeek. The ProbeFix Dynamic was suddenly used at top soccer clubs such as Liverpool, Torino, Villarreal, Espanyol, and Necaxa. “There was clinical evidence, there were customers as far away as Mexico, so then we became more and more convinced that a new phase had begun.” That meant approaching potential investors again for the first time in years. Rabobank plunged with the Rabo Innovation Loan of up to €150,000. “This agreement reflects our confidence in Usono’s team and vision,” said John Paul van Heel, Care and Innovation Advisor at Rabobank. “We have full confidence in their ability to drive meaningful innovation in the healthcare landscape.”

Usono plans to use the money as additional support to better approach the market. It is now clear that it is large, but more is needed to materialize that potential. Donker: “At the top of our wish list is attracting a clinical applications specialist who can help us bring in knowledge and expertise. Think of a physical therapist or sports physician.”

Formula 1

For Van Heel, the renewed focus has also been important: first, the top sports arena and, from there, to the world of recreational sports. “I sometimes compare it to Formula 1; many solutions are developed that eventually come in handy in a regular passenger car. Usono’s current playing field is the top level, but the goal later is that the ProbeFix can start to be rolled out much more widely and that it can also be used for amateur athletes.”

The Spanish-speaking market seems to be the most interesting at the moment, so it is no coincidence that three Usono colleagues will be at the Isokinetic conference at the Atletico Madrid stadium in the coming days, thanks to an invitation from GE Healthcare and Prim Physio. “Can you imagine this: the largest medical company in the world is our partner and is helping us roll out an appropriate network. We will engage with the crème de la crème of soccer medicine and rehabilitation in Madrid!” For example, an appointment is already scheduled with the medical specialist of the Colombian Olympic Committee, who has just purchased the ProbeFix and will be using it with their Olympic athletes.

That expanding network, by the way, is also one of the benefits of the commitment to Rabobank. “Of course, the money is very welcome, but Rabobank’s expertise and network, both financial and medtech, will help us tremendously. Not only among primary users but also with healthcare providers and hospitals.”


Van Heel points out another benefit of the Rabo Innovation Loan: “What we see with startups that we have helped before with such an innovation loan is that thanks to the visible trust we give them, they also find it easier to approach other investors.” Which is precisely Donker’s intention. “We would like to find an investor to help us through this period with a few tons of growth capital.”


This story is the result of a collaboration between Rabobank and our editorial team. Innovation Origins is an independent journalism platform that carefully chooses its partners and only cooperates with companies and institutions that share our mission: spreading the story of innovation. This way we can offer our readers valuable stories that are created according to journalistic guidelines. Want to know more about how Innovation Origins works with other companies? Click here