When life throws you a curveball, you have to learn how to adapt. Whether it’s a wrist injury that keeps you from playing your favorite sport or, say, even a global pandemic, you have to learn how to adjust in order to keep on going.
AdaptBionic, a new Chapel Hill-based startup, is hoping to help people adapt to life’s unexpected mishaps. The company makes smart prosthetics and sports wearables, and aims to help people with injuries or disabilities participate in sports and physical activity.
Founders Chas Feuss and Greg Bantista have only been working on AdaptBionic full time for a few months now, bootstrapping the company and hoping to become revenue-positive as early as possible.
In the fall, the pair was named a winner of a $10K NC IDEA MICRO grant. Receiving that funding—and the stamp of approval that goes with it—gave them validation that their idea was worth something, Bantista said.
Feuss and Bantista met during their time in the MBA program at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. AdaptBionic was not the first startup idea Feuss pitched to Bantista, Feuss said, but the first idea that Feuss saw Bantista actually get excited about.
Feuss went to undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduated with a studio art degree. He then began doing graphic design internships for startups in the area, and quickly moved into the business development and strategy side of the business and worked his way up from there.
Feuss moved to the Triangle after getting a job as a director of business development and innovation for Durham’s MindSumo and decided to get his MBA to fill in some of the business gaps, since his undergrad education didn’t exactly teach him much about things like Microsoft Excel.
Bantsita, on the other hand, worked for a tech startup right out of undergrad and his background is mostly in accounting and finance. He also spent four years working in the healthcare industry, so AdaptBionic for him is the perfect blend of all of his interests.
The two together make a perfect pair, given Feuss’s creativity and Bantista’s more analytical side.
“His finance background mixed with my startup experience is a really good combination,” Feuss said. “It’s good to have opposites on your team.”
A Friend’s Injury Provides Inspiration
The specific idea for AdaptBionic came to Feuss when a family friend broke his wrist and wasn’t able to play golf. To Feuss, it didn’t seem like a big deal because he wasn’t an avid golfer, but to the friend, it seemed like the end of the world. When the pandemic hit, the situation became even worse, because golfing would have provided the friend a safe physical activity and a chance to get out of the house, but he still was unable to play.
Feuss did some research, and ended up 3D-printing a simple arm brace for the friend so that he could swing a golf club one-handed—not knowing at the time that he would turn the research into an entire company. But, after seeing how much it helped his friend, and talking it over with Bantista, Feuss wanted to keep going.
To start with, AdaptBionic is going to be building non-smart prosthetics for golfers, mainly because golfers tend to have more disposable income than participants in many other sports, so it makes smart business sense. They’ll build fairly simple braces to help people with below-the-shoulder injuries swing a club with added support.
It’s a small-ish niche, but it’s just the beginning. Over time, the company plans to start using technology to track athletes’ progress and use biofeedback to be able to tell them things like why they’re getting injured.
In terms of competition, there’s the obvious brands like ACE Bandage, but not very many companies are doing specific brace products. And virtually no companies are adding the smart aspect to them yet. But thanks to its own ability to adapt to a friend’s problem in an innovative way thanks to a team of opposites, AdaptBionic is ready to step up to the plate.