Editor’s note: This content is sponsored by LaunchKC but independently produced by Startland News.
Some technologies are slow to innovate.
And crutches — which haven’t changed much since the U.S. Civil War — are a prime example.
“They’ve pretty much been the same for decades,” said Liliana Younger, CEO of Mobility Designed. “Although there have been tons of optimization on the manufacturing side to make crutches cheaper, there has not been significant innovation to help the consumer feel more comfortable.”
Younger hopes to disrupt the antiquated market with her company’s product, M+D crutches, which offer an ergonomic design that relieves pain. While traditional crutches put pressure on the armpits, hands and wrists, M+D crutches moves the weight to the elbows.
Rather than focus on people with temporary injuries, Younger said Mobility Designed is targeting those with long-term needs. While “kind of a boring product,” Younger said that people around the world have been clamouring for a more comfortable set of crutches.
“For most people, crutches are something you use for a little while, it sucks and then it’s over,” Younger said. “It’s not exciting or sexy, it’s an afterthought for most people. But there’s a big market for it and a lot of people need it for long term periods. There needs to be a better option for those who want to get out of their wheelchairs.”
Based in Prairie Village, Kan., Mobility Designed was founded in 2014 by Younger and her husband Max Younger, who works as CIO. The duo wanted to show people that new ways of doing things is possible — even for something so basic.
“It’s not just a solution mechanically and functionally, it’s aesthetically beautiful.” – Liliana Younger
Younger said the company wanted to make the crutches as versatile as possible. M+D Crutches come with interchangeable feet for a variety of terrains, and customers can use built-in handles to easily rotate away for hands-free use. They also can accommodate users from 4’11” to 6’8” and up to 300 pounds.
Recently a winner of a $50,000 LaunchKC grant, Mobility Designed plans to use the capital to fulfill shipments of its products, which have garnered significant interest, Younger said. With a waiting list far surpassing their current supply, Younger said the funds will help the company grow much faster.
“Winning was huge for us personally because we were in the top 20 last year and didn’t come out with a win,” Younger said. “We are so thankful, and it is a perfect time for the influx of money to get those first orders out the door.
Part of the company’s surging growth came as a result of a viral video featuring in April.
Mobility Designed was featured in a Tech Insider video that was then re-edited and published by dozens of other platforms, garnering the M+D Crutches product with over 50 million views.
Younger attributes the video’s popularity to her husband’s engineering skills.
“It’s not just a solution mechanically and functionally,” Younger said. “It’s aesthetically beautiful.”
Mobility Designed currently sells its crutches to specialty retail stores and directly to consumers. Younger said that the company is trying to get away from the distribution model so that they can give a larger margin back to small businesses.
“As a small business ourselves, we know how important it is to buy local,” Younger said. “They are the ones touching the consumer directly — not the large distributors.”
This revenue model has allowed Mobility Designed to maintain a lean operation. While most medical device companies raise at least $1 million before beginning operations, Younger said they have managed to do “all of that and then some” with less than $500,000.
In the next year, Younger said the company plans to scale and optimize its distribution for the $500 M+D Crutch so that its team of six can shift focus to other products later on.