The Making of a Modern Aging Startup : MOVINC
This is the second article in a three part series about the experiences of the winners of Modern Aging Singapore 2017, featuring Kimberlyn Tjipto, co founder of Movinc. Movinc creates convenient motorized aids for seniors.
The Movinc team’s foray into mobility aids started in their university years when one of its members visited the Handicaps Welfare Association and realized how most mobility aids, such as motorized wheelchairs and scooters, were not user friendly – they were bulky, heavy, and expensive. Using what they had learnt from a module on assistive technology, they eventually designed what is now called EMMA – Electronic Mobility Motorized Aid. This light, add on device can be attached to a normal wheelchair to instantly motorize it.
Reflecting on her team’s experience participating in the Modern Aging program, Kimberlyn shares that they benefitted from Lean LaunchPad, a business education program they had access to when their application was shortlisted; it helped them test their assumptions and validate their ideas through collating evidence from seniors, occupational therapists, and wheelchair users. Prior to the program, the team had worked with senior activity centres for their user experience trials, where their designs were not well received. They soon realized that such centres were not very keen on motorized aids, since they are quite expensive to purchase without the financial support of donors. Under Lean LaunchPad, the team was able to identify their target market and expedite improvements in product design through intensive rounds of market interviews.
The team also faced their main challenge when obtaining interviews with potential customers – current wheelchair users. Kimberlyn shared that they found it quite awkward to interview wheelchair users in the streets and ask them rather personal questions, such as where they had purchased their mobility aids from. However, the team had to get over their initial apprehension quickly as there was no time to waste – they had to complete interviews with a different target group each week. Looking back, she credits Movinc’s success thus far to having a strong team and good team dynamics. “Losing one of my team members would have been like losing an arm”, she explains.
For Kimberlyn, working on the Electronic Mobility Motorized Aid was eye opening as it pushed her to step out of the bubble created by her social circles and gave her the opportunity to see how seniors in Singapore live. Prior to that, she only understood the experience of aging through her grandmother’s perspective. She also learnt more about how different seniors view mobility issues. While a sizable proportion of seniors aged seventy to seventy nine usually needed wheelchairs and would stand to benefit most from the Electronic Mobility Motorized Aid, she soon learnt that younger, more mobile seniors also showed substantial interest in the product. These seniors valued their ability to travel independently in a comfortable manner and were thus amenable to using products like mobility scooters. She also witnessed how upsetting it was for seniors to lose their ability to walk properly. For some seniors, the stigma that comes with using mobility aids deters them from purchasing one.
Kimberlyn’s experiences have also informed her perspectives on aging. On a personal level, she feels that she will use mobility aids more readily as a senior. She also recognizes that not everyone is as open to using mobility aids as she is. As such, she believes that a shift in perceptions toward mobility aids is necessary for more individuals to start using them.
Kimberlyn’s entrepreneurship journey was not without its fair share of personal challenges. She wishes she was more mentally prepared for the extent of uncertainty that surrounded cofounding Movinc. Coming from her background as a studious individual who was rather “textbook oriented”, it was difficult for her to deal with unpredictability and a situation where there was “nobody telling you what to do, but many people telling you what you should do”. That is why she views an ability to stomach uncertainty as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs. Besides that, she shares that learning to recognize and capture opportunities is also critical to the success of one’s startup. In a similar vein, her advice to budding entrepreneurs is to not be afraid to approach potential customers for interviews or feedback.
Currently, Movinc has a prototype of the Electronic Mobility Motorized Aid that is ready for testing; the team will be working closely with potential customers in the coming months for their user experience trials.
Come join this ecosystem of businesses in the elder care space and bring your solutions to the market – apply at http://modernaging.sg/accelerator/ by June 30, 2018!
Written by Tng Pei Ling
Edited by Jananie Audimulam