Initiated by E52 and High Tech Campus, the 10 most promising startups-to-watch from the Brainport Eindhoven region have been announced for the fourth consecutive year. On July 12th they received a Gerard & Anton Award. The winning companies are highlighted one by one in an interview. Today part 2: ATO-GEAR and the smart insole ARION.  Read the whole series here.

Name: Andy Statham
Startup: ARION by ATO-GEAR
Year of establishment startup: 2015

What is the goal of your business?

“ARION is a next-gen wearable that will transform your running technique”

How did the idea come about for your startup?

“Originally a research line was stimulated at TNO thanks to questions from athletics running coaches in the Netherlands who wanted to be able to quantify running technique or running biomechanics and to be able to implement advice for runners that could help increase performance or reduce injury risks.”

Has there ever been a change of focus, a pivot? Can you tell us something about the cause and the result?

“Since we have so many potential applications in various sports such as cycling, skating, weightlifting, etc. and in health for rehabilitation, podiatry and other domains such as gaming, health and safety in the workplace etc. our biggest challenge has been to choose and maintain focus, we began way too broad and have become gradually more and more focused on a relatively uncompleted sub-niche within the running market. This has helped us to be much more efficient in our marketing and selling efforts, to prioritise our product feature developments and make choices on how best to spend our limited time and resources. One of the hardest things to do is to let go of opportunities, but its something you need to get used to, to properly focus and priorities efforts.”

I’m sure there was a moment when you lost faith in your startup.

“I really like a quote from Spencer Fry (co-founder of CarbonMade) who said “No more romanticizing about how cool it is to be an entrepreneur. It’s a struggle to save your company’s life – and your own skin – every day of the week.” Since it is the most accurate representation of the experiences of many entrepreneurs that I have heard, almost no week goes by where something comes up that could put our company at risk, and many times when we have only found solutions at the most critical moment, its just a matter of continually persisting to be creative in problem-solving, reaching out to your network and not giving up until you find a way around the challenges in front of you.”

Where will you be with your company in 5 years’ time?

“In 5 years time, we aim to be a profitable company selling in major markets internationally, able to support a stable workforce, with a product portfolio in multiple sports and health applications, all based on making cutting-edge exercise and movement sciences accessible to all our users.”

What does Eindhoven mean for your company?

“ARION has been born out of the Eindhoven ecosystem with the first steps made at TNO on the TU/e campus, with our first live tests performed at the Eindhoven Marathon and multiple partnerships from the region supporting our development many of which have come from our involvement with the Startupbootcamp HighTechXL accelerator program at the High Tech Campus.”

And for yourself?

“Eindhoven is where I landed for the first time as an Englishman in the Netherlands, I have found interesting work, people and challenges that have helped me grow as a person. Redeveloped areas of Eindhoven such as Strijp-S, where our offices are currently located, have brought a new dynamic to the city, not only professionally but also culturally. I’ve certainly enjoyed learning some of the nuances of the Dutch language and cuisine, and whilst I’m fully converted in the ways of pannenkoeken, kroketten and herring, I’m not sure I’ll ever be on board with Frikandellen.”

What is the startup climate in Eindhoven like?

“For technology companies like us, Eindhoven offers a unique environment and infrastructure that has helped us find talented team members, supply chain partners and inspiring office environments with regular and valuable events throughout the year where we are able to meet and connect to potential partners and in some cases investors.”

Do you feel a part of it?

“Whilst we are still a small company with limited resources, we have got a lot out of the being part of the Eindhoven startup community and try to make sure we give back something to the region through our contributions at events.”

How could the Eindhoven startup ecosystem improve itself?

“There are many opportunities in Eindhoven, and plenty of support where you need it in the way of professional advice and services, but the bottom line often comes down to funding and investment to be able to drive a business to the next level, and any ways in which the Eindhoven Startup ecosystem can help more actively engage and connect companies to investors willing to step up and take the plunge to support those with a genuine chance of high returns on their investments would be very welcome.”

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About the author

Author profile picture Frans van Beveren leads IO on a daily basis. He is fascinated by everything related to technical progress, innovation, sustainability, and industrial design.