Exero Technologies AS – Sports equipment for the disabled

In 2018, when the Exero project was awarded STUD-ENT funding, the team consisted of Solveig Christensen (24), Mathias Berg (24), Nicoline Saarisilta Bergh (26), Bendik Fon (27) and Andre Johnsen (24). The project is affiliated with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Solveig Christensen has experience in eCommerce from Get Inspired and participated in a summer entrepreneurship programme in Boston in 2017. Mathias Berg has worked with product development at NTNU’s Centre for Sport Facilities and Technology and Nicoline Saarisilta Bergh has worked in sports equipment sales for 10 years on top of her experience as project coordinator with Climate Launchpad. Bendik Fon served three years in the military and has management experience. Andre Johnsen has experience in extreme sports and manufacturing new products from a period working in China with Anne Inc., part of the Copyright BlockChain Alliance.

What is the customer problem and how can it be solved?

For people with reduced functionality, it can be difficult to carry out daily physical fitness activity. The equipment available is large, heavy and hard to use without assistance. The inactivity that results can pose a severe problem, as these individuals need to exercise to maintain their overall physical health. Exero seeks to develop new solutions that make it easier and safer for individuals with reduced functionality to engage in daily physical activity. Our solution is Spike, a new concept in outdoors sports equipment that enables users to manoeuvre in rugged terrain. Spike can be adapted to individual users, it is easy to handle without assistance and combines design and function with a sporty look.

Why did you choose entrepreneurship and Exero?

We chose to pursue entrepreneurship and this idea because we really want to develop a scalable company that can have an impact on a market where there is major potential for improvement. By bringing new, smart solutions and design-driven innovation to the market, we are helping to develop new products that will make a difference in the daily lives of people with disabilities. We are driven by the desire to solve problems in new ways in an interdisciplinary team where we are constantly developing and learning something new. Our team is broad-based, and made up of individuals who are always looking for answers, are willing to acquire new knowledge and skills, and who share the common goal of making a difference for the people we meet.

What will support from the Research Council mean for you?

The Research Council’s support plays an essential role in enabling us to raise the company to a new level, and it makes it possible for us to introduce our product onto the market. The funding allows Exero to kick-start the commercialisation process towards becoming a viable enterprise. The funding also enables all team members to work with Exero full time after graduating, which is crucial to our success in the current phase.

What knowledge does the project build on and how is NTNU involved?

The project came about in response to a problem the Centre for Sport Facilities and Technology at NTNU shared with us. The problem was that the sit skis currently used for exercise by people with disabilities have inadequate steering and braking systems. Exero was founded to solve this, with a team comprising business developers from the School of Entrepreneurship and the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at NTNU to work with product development and manufacturing. User-driven product development has helped to advance the project, and doctoral fellows, lecturers and the project partners have all been actively involved. Continuous testing and feedback from end-users, the university and our partners now has our product ready for launch for a paying customer in Norway, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration’s Department of Assistive Technology.

Over the past two years our team has gained extremely valuable experience in both business development and product development through NTNU’s School of Entrepreneurship and the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. NTNU also helped one of our team members to spend a semester at Tsinghua University, making it possible to look into different potential manufacturers of the final product. The STUD-ENT funding is supposed to kick-start the commercialisation of Exero’s first product, Spike, which entails a lot of uncertainty in terms of production, market acceptance and scalability. The support, competency and experience Exero gains from the Centre for Sport Facilities and Technology, the School of Entrepreneurship and its alumni network, the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and St. Olavs Hospital will be critical to our success during this period.