“HighTechXL is pretty heavy”, Menke Steenbergen, founder of IPOS, one of the start-ups that are currently in the HighTechXL-program, says. Since she joined the program last November the company has switched names and its founder has put her house in Den Dolder up for sale. “Moving to Eindhoven makes a lot of sense to me now.”
IPOS, which was called Centaur only a month ago and was called Teugeldrukmeter before that, uses sensors to improve communication between a horse and its rider, focussing on the horses well being. Among other things, the sensors report the amount of pressure that the rider applies to the horse through Bluetooth.
In the current model, that information will go to a coach or a trainer, who in turn will tell the rider what he needs to do. In the future, IPOS might try to use Google Glass, to give the rider a visual display with data.
In fact, we are now riding blind.
The idea for IPOS hails from Steenbergens time as a veterinarian, where she often dealt with injured horses. According to her, about 50 percent of the horses have injuries due to the imbalanced riders. “Sadly, the problem is often the one sitting on the horse instead of the animal itself.”
This might seem weird, but it really isn’t. “People who work with horses trust their instincts while they ride. But they shouldn’t forget they are commanding a horse which often ways over 500 kilos. In fact, we are now riding blind. That’s where IPOS comes in. For the first time, someone is actively measuring what happens to a horse when a rider leans to far to one side or pulls the ropes too hard.
The development of IPOS was already going quickly before they entered HighTechXL. Steenbergen already sold about a hundred products in over 15 countries. The products were sold for 800 euro, according to Steenbergen.
“At first, I aimed to sell at a lower price”, she says. “But the world of horses is one where people have a lot to spend on their animals. So there definitely was room to get that price up. Eventually, it will go down again, once we go to larger production scales. We are working towards a number around 650 euro per unit.”
The biggest challenge ahead for IPOS lies in trying to market the product to a broad audience of horse owners. “The first betáseries of the product has already been sold so that horde has been taken already. Now we need to reach a bigger crowd with IPOS.”
“People can be a little bit hesitant when it comes to our product. I can understand that. It can be quite confronting to see what the way you ride does to the horse you’re sitting on.”
It’s a challenge Steenbergen wants to tackle in her time with HighTechXL. A time in which her company transforms in many ways. Besides changing the namen and moving from Den Dolder to Eindhoven, her team has grown from 1 member to 7 and the lookout for where the company should go has been broadened.
“Before this happened, I was working from my home, on my own, now we are looking to get an office here in Eindhoven. It also became clear to me that the investments I had were not enough. They’ve told me that for the first year I would need at least halve a million Euro. HighTechXL is quite the bizarre program, everything moves so fast.”
No matter how fast IPOS is developing, the world the company wants to sell to moves slowly. “It’s a traditional world where nobody has ever used anything like this before. It’s almost as if I’m triying to introduce the mobile phone for the first time. A lot of people don’t see the benefit of usin IPOS at first, but that is slowly turning around. The interest in our product is slowly building.” Which is often the case with true innovators.