“We will launch sales in the US soon”: How the startup Esper Bionics is working during the war
Esper Bionics is a Ukrainian hardware startup developing IoT devices in the field of prosthetics. Among the team’s products is the bionic self-learning hand prosthesis Esper Hand. Esper Bionics relocated its production facility after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the startup is continuing to operate. The team is now accepting applications to fit Esper Hand from Ukrainians, plans to raise additional funding, and launch sales in the US. Anna Believantseva, co-founder and chief operating officer of the startup, shared more about how Esper Bionics is working during the war in an interview with AIN.Capital.
“We had to relocate the Kyiv workshop.”
We did not believe in war, but we still had an evacuation and relocation plan. Each of us had a list of all the necessary phone numbers, addresses, and routes. We knew where we would gather on the first day and where we would go next.
We realized that no one had the right to put the lives of our team and loved ones at even minimal risk. That is why we worked through the various options in detail. To understand what options for relocation were available, we decided to visit a team of partners from Berlin and see their equipment and facilities. It so happened that most of the team flew out on February 23, and the war broke out the next night.
Before the war, our team consisted of twenty people. We had a prosthesis assembly workshop in Kyiv, with a capacity of 200 units a year. Unfortunately, we had to move it: partly to Berlin, and partly — to Lviv. However, we managed to be able to pay salaries and continue operations.
“We are making a list of injured Ukrainians.”
The war brought additional costs for relocating facilities, teams, and their loved ones. It also destroyed the home and two cars of one of our engineers. But the biggest detriment was the postponement of prosthetic production itself, as we continued to incur fixed monthly expenses.
We are manufacturing prostheses, launching sales in the United States, and at the same time, we are collecting a list of injured Ukrainians who need prostheses. We are trying to help them get their prosthesis and restore their ability to work and live a full life. This is not a quick process because it takes at least six months for the wounds to heal after an amputation.
We now invite everyone who wants to get a smart prosthetic hand. To do this, you need to fill out a form on our website. Because of the huge number of victims, we now have a special mission in Ukraine. If you know people whom we can help, please share the link.
“We will launch Esper Hand sales in the US soon.”
As of May 2022, Esper Bionics has three offices — the headquarters in New York and two R&D centers in Europe. The Kyiv office was partially relocated to Lviv and Berlin.
We are planning to launch Esper Hand sales in the US soon. We do not disclose the price yet. However, we can say that in the United States, insurance companies will cover the cost for the prostheses. And in Ukraine, our goal is to have it fully covered by the government or donors. We are working on it now, including with representatives of state authorities.
We plan to finish assembling the prostheses in Berlin and start fitting them to users in the US (New York). After the first batch, we plan to start working on getting the next round of funding and start the large-scale assembly of prostheses in Europe.
“We plan to develop a smart prosthetic leg.”
In addition to our intelligent arm, Esper Hand, which has won several awards, we have also developed Esper Control, a non-invasive brain-computer interface for collecting muscle movement data, and Esper Platform, a cloud-based platform for improving control of the arm and other prostheses.
We also plan to develop an intelligent prosthetic leg in the future. And the main goal is to improve the prosthetic industry to create the necessary infrastructure for electronic implants that will help people beat disease, gain additional abilities, and live longer.
“We are going to raise additional funding.”
The latest investment allowed us to triple the size of the team, turn the MVP into a marketable product, and enter the US market. This is a tremendous step forward. The prosthetic arm control technology itself fully emerged after the investment. Before that, it was just an idea.
We are going to raise additional funding. In the summer of 2022, we will start fundraising activities. We will turn to professional investors to get financing.
The business vector did not change much after the investments and after the start of the war. We are working according to plan. But we had to speed up due to the war and solve many problems which we hesitated to solve before. We feel that the team is not in a comfort zone, and each of us is more active than usual.
“We are hiring engineers from Ukraine.”
Regarding our plans to stabilize the business after the war, we did not have time to wait for the end of it. We had to adapt quickly to a new environment and not slow down. Many thanks to our team for that!
We are building a company in the US and EU markets (we deliberately do not mention Ukraine because we believe it will be part of the EU soon).
Even now, we are still actively hiring engineers from Ukraine. We invite everyone to cooperate, for example, in Lviv, Frankivsk, and Kyiv.