An Armenian start-up has developed a unique weight-tracking insole, using smart technology to monitor weight and physical activity. Now, with the help of EU4Business, the company is targeting EU markets for export.
According to co-founder Nare Gevorgyan, Embry is unique because it is the first smart insole in the world that automates weight tracking: “Unlike existing activity trackers and smart insoles in the market, with Embry’s patent-pending technology, the start-up allows its users to make all of their existing shoes smart at once, and not just reach their desired weight, but keep it too,” she explains.
In 2017, Embry received an EU-SMEDA Innovation Matching Grant (IMG), funded by the European Union under its EU4Business initiative.
Embry’s team consists of nine people: three co-founders, two hardware engineers, and four software developers.
According to Nare Gevorgyan, the idea was born at a party, where she noticed that while women were weighing themselves, there was a woman who got very upset that she had gained 12 pounds and had no idea about it. This is where Nare thought there was a gap for a smart solution to help with weight management and keep you in the desired weight range.
“As these thoughts were cooking, we accidentally ran into Liana, our third co-founder, a 15+ years experienced nutritionist, who fell in love with the idea and joined the team. She knew that daily weighing is essential in weight loss and that people have a problem with maintaining weight loss based on working in US and Armenia with overweight patients,” said Nare.
As a result, the team started making user interviews, trying to find out reasons for weight gain, people’s attitude towards daily weighing, talking to people in health cafés and to trainers and nutritionists at gyms and health centres.
“Our interviews and research proved that there is a problem with weight loss maintenance and that people benefit from daily weighing, yet forget or subconsciously avoid daily weighing,” Nare added.
Getting an Innovation Matching Grant in 2017 was a huge boost to the company.
“Due to the IMG we were able to hire a team and establish operations in Vanadzor and Yerevan. With IMG money we hired a patent attorney and got a utility patent pending for our weight detection technology. The IMG increased our company’s investability and so we were able to get further investments from SmartGateVCs and Angels.”
The whole idea of running a successful start-up in Armenia at first seemed very unrealistic for the founders.
“Entrance into a global market was only a dream. However, as we began to research and work on developing the idea and the product, we came to realise that Armenia is full of various competitions in the IT sector, grant opportunities, pitch sessions, conferences, angel investor networks and even local VCs. This helped our team to raise money, register our company, build expertise, grow, expand, network and have a global lens to be competitive,” said Nare Gevorgyan.
For the start-up, the EU is one of the main potential markets.
“Anywhere where an overweight epidemic and obesity are prevalent, there is a need for Embry. Also, the EU market is saturated with numerous shoe companies, which are our potential customers for embedding our technology in future. In addition, Embry was the winner of HyeTech Europe 2018 in July in Paris. We expanded our network there and are now looking for collaborations,” she concluded.
The start-up’s team is working day and night, and soon Embry’s weight tracking insole will be ready for production. The company has already started getting pre-orders for Embry. The goal is to reach 500 pre-orders in the first quarter of 2019 and ship the early birds in the second quarter. After getting feedback and fixing any issues, Embry’s next goal will be launching a crowdfunding campaign and to open access to Embry weight tracking insoles globally.
Since 2017, the ‘Support to SME Development in Armenia’ (EU-SMEDA) project, which is funded by the European Union under the EU4Business initiative and implemented by GIZ in cooperation with the Enterprise Incubator Foundation (EIF), has been supporting Armenian startups with two types of grant – Innovation Matching Grants (IMG) and Science and Technology Entrepreneurship (STEP) grants.