Key Stats: Ramp USA on NetCapital
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The last significant innovation in wheelchairs occurred in the 1950’s with the advent of the electric wheelchair. Since then there have only been minor innovations.
The US will experience a rapid increase in people using wheelchairs as baby boomers age and veterans return from war with wounds which prevent them from walking. The market is expected to grow approximately 6% a year, reaching over $6 Billion worldwide by 2022.
Manual wheelchairs have gotten lighter and easier to handle with innovations in metals and plastics, however they still have limitations. Unfortunately, if the chair-bound person must cover a long distance and/or non-pavement terrain the options are limited. Electric wheelchairs start at over $8,000 and typically weigh over 300 pounds. This requires the user of an electric wheelchair to have a vehicle with a ramp to accommodate the heavy chair. If the user wants to travel on non-concrete surfaces, the options are narrowed even further. Off-road electric wheelchairs start over $16,000 and are heavier than a standard electric wheelchair.
Ramp has the solution. Ramp has created the necessary wheelchair components to transform most manual wheelchairs into a lightweight electric wheelchairs. Ramp replaces standard wheelchair tires with durable, large, off-road tires attached to electronic components which enable the chair to move and balance over obstacles. The electronic portion is designed to maintain the balance of the wheelchair no matter the terrain or incline.
Ramp caters to any person in need of a wheelchair. Ramp’s initial target market will be disabled athletes. Ramp has already partnered with the US Olympic Shotgun Team in the wheelchair division.
The next phase of customers Ramp plans to target is veterans. Denver, Ramp’s home base, is also the location of the VA’s newest, cutting-edge, Spinal Cord Injury hospital. According to Ramp’s information, VA reimbursement is more flexible than Medicare or other insurance, plus there are non-profits who are willing to help veterans.
Finally, Ramp will target the rest of wheelchair users. The Ramp Team reports that manufacturers have challenged them to get their price point to sub-$5,000. Ideally, they could get pricing to $4,000, which would force competitors to exit the market or dramatically slash profits.
Ramp’s main competitors are large electric wheelchair makers. There are quite a few players in the electric wheelchair market including Golden Tech Drive, Invacare Corp and Hoveround Corp. A quick glance at these market leading manufacturer’s websites reveals there has been little challenge to the market share dominance. These are only a few of the handful of companies which emerge as market share leaders. There is no dominant player in the market, thus the market is ripe for one player to properly address customers’ needs and capture dominance.
Melvin Du – Founder and CEO – is the energetic and determined leader. Du was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident when he was 14. By 16, Du began his first wheelchair engineering internship. Du’s mission is to create a wheelchair which will enable him to have an active, independent lifestyle. While Du is only 22 and has little experience, he has surrounded himself with people who are experienced.
Amro Eltayeb – CTO – is early in his career. He is a mechanical engineer who founded Ramp with Du.
Why We Like it
- Founder: Melvin Du has the type of charisma and drive that is key to success. Though Du is young and inexperienced, his personal drive to create the type of wheelchair he needs to have the quality of life he desires is powerful and he understands the market from an inside perspective. Du’s determination to create a lightweight, off road wheelchair has already earned him accolades from innovation titans such as NASA and the Thiel Foundation. It is likely that his ability to gain attention from leading innovators will continue.
- Need for Innovation: In the 1930’s, two mechanical engineers created a lightweight, steel, collapsible wheelchair; it became a must-have innovation for disabled people. In the 1950’s, the same duo launched the first electric wheelchair. Since the 1950’s there has been little innovation to the wheelchair market. The industry is ripe for disruption. Most of America is walking around with a computer in their pocket, and little has changed with the wheelchair in over half a century.
- Advisory Board: Advisory Board members include Yannick Roux, Fmr. Tesla Director of Manufacturing Engineering and Todd Hargroder, Fmr. CEO of ADI Wheelchairs. While, Du and Eltaveb are inexperienced, if they continue to surround themselves with veterans in the field, they will learn enough to be successful.
- Distribution: Ramp is pursuing a B2B strategy for its innovation. According to Ramp, the company is already in talks with the nation’s biggest wheelchair companies and distributors to add Ramp components to current offerings.
The Rating: Deal To Watch
Ramp is a Deal To Watch. It is a young company with a big idea and the determination to disrupt the stagnant wheelchair market. At this point, Ramp is not selling mechanical wheelchair products, nor does it have a signed distribution deal. Ramp reports it is close to launching sales of the product, as well as signing contracts to distribute the components.
Ramp’s clearly stated mission is to end disabilities through robotics. The electric wheelchair is the first step. However, there are many steps left before Ramp gets the first of its wheelchair components to market and the team is still far from establishing a successful distribution channel. Thus far the founders have made strong progress towards these goals and will likely continue.
About: Meridith taylor
Meridith Blank Taylor has spent the past two decades providing strategic guidance to early stage businesses. Meridith has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago.