These are great times for those involved in Startups in Italy. Lively days. Days filled with new stories, of successes that open up new and unexpected opportunities. Fabrizio Perrone, for example, received 180k in funding for Buzzoole, a product that I witnessed grow month after month. And, just an hour later an Italian Startup that I didn’t know about, CoRehab, won an important European competition. While I was returning by train from Milan to Rome I had a chat with the founder, David Tacconi, who told me his story, transmitting all of his passion regardless of the means of communication that separated us. I will transcribe it here below just as it occurred, with all of the typical chat abbreviations and jargon included.
“Hi Riccardo! Nice to meet you.”
Congrats! Where are you? I’m on a train…
“Well, thank you… How can I tell you my story? I’m in Budapest”
If you want we can continue chatting here… Let’s start from the end. What did you win?
“The EIT Awards. That is, a competition between European startups in the ICT sector”
Yes, yes, I know, is it important? What is the prize?
“They give me economic and mentorship support so I can meet whoever I want and go where I want in order to increase my business in Europe. They couldn’t give me cash so they created this solution”
Why did you decide to participate in this competition?
“Look, we have had an international business since the start and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to expand in Europe with good support”
Let’s go back a bit. Age, native city, experience (I think you do research and software design, right?)
“34 years old, from Florence. Background TLC engineer and PhD + an experience in The States + Telecom + at a startup as CTO
Then I made the jump…”
That’s a lot
“I don’t know… everything was definitely useful”
Why did you jump? Impassioned by the idea? A desire to get out on your own?
“I got an idea that came from a bad experience. I wanted to play soccer but I just kept getting injured, the classical injury-prone player, and, thus, lots of rehab and I saw how it could be better.”
I understand, me too
I have the physique of a poet, as they say in my parts
“Ha, I’ve never heard that before but I like it… anyways, as an engineer I thought of how technology could help me and that’s how CoRehab was born: about 2 years ago, plus a year to get the funding to start and then it was time to begin. From October 1, 2012, well, actually, we were already at a fair with all of our products on September 24”.
What is the basic idea, the innovation of this project?
“Riablo is the product and it serves as a time multiplier for physiotherapists and as a control tool and motivator for patients
1. the therapist has a web app and chooses from over 50 available exercises by putting in the parameters of the patient
2. the patient wears inertial sensors and uses a pressure platform and plays video games that “persuade” him to do the exercises correctly, that is, how the therapist has decided
3. the therapist sees the “detailed results” on the web app
therefore the patients can no longer pretend to have done the exercises and, at the same time, they always do the exercises just as the physiotherapist has decided.”
Can I say it? Cool!
“Well, it seems that it is”
Does it cost a lot?
“The product is beautiful, useful and fun: and it is for medical use”
You mean it is not for the public, it has a cost geared towards medical structures?
“From 3000 to 11000 euros. We sell them to physical therapy centers to use there but we have also created cases that the patient can rent and take home in order to continue remotely in an asynchronous way… Anyways the product is a success: we already have about 15 orders worldwide and about ten distributors worldwide, one of which (US) is our financing partner. Obviously, it does not work without a physiotherapist. It is a niche product as is commonly said”
Congratulations! You spoke of financers. What money did you initially start with and who has sustained you along the way?
”Well, I put my own money in which I found through public financing from the Province of Trento: 450K. Behind the other 550K€ there are private partners (true entrepreneurs who help me every day). And a financial investor from Trento. We have hired 5 people and together with me is Roberto Tomasi (CTO) who is also my co-founder”
450k Province of Trento, with Trento Rise?
“No, no, industrial research: you make a project and business plan and they evaluate it and decide whether it deserves financing. Nothing is given away, I assure you, it was a real trial to get that money, but ‘hand-kissing’…”
So, 1mln euros. But for such an important and scalable thing you need a round now?
“Probably so, but I want to create a bit of traction first, that way we sell better”
Bravo! Next step?
“In sales terms we want to sell 100 pieces and find the first 15 distributors within one year. Technically, we are integrating new sensors and expanding to other pathologies”
Do you think you’ll stay in Italy?
“Well, yes, as headquarters, yes, but then we have two offices. Austria (German market and other opportunities) and the US for what I talked about earlier. But it is going well so why not continue to do things the Italian way, in the positive sense of this term?
Last one: are you happy?
“Am I happy? Well, yes, very happy, my idea has become a product, they give us awards, they buy it… Yes, I am happy! But I also know that, as one learns in the Trentino region, behind every mountain is a higher one, so relaxing is not allowed!”.