MoTrack Therapy Wins 2017 Summer Award for Undergraduate Entrepreneurs
Three major issues limit the effectiveness of at-home hand therapy: adherence to a tedious rehab regimen, incorrectly performing exercises and a lack of quantitative data for therapists to evaluate.
Though MoTrack Therapy is developing a solution that modernizes the long stagnant physical therapy industry through machine learning, gamification and computer vision, the close of the 2017 spring semester threatened to send the five Johns Hopkins University biomedical engineering majors who co-founded the company hundreds of miles apart.
Fortunately, MoTrack received the Summer Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Award. The award, first offered in 2016 through the generosity of anonymous donors, supports one undergraduate startup each year with $10,000 along with space and mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders in order to work on their startup over the summer.
“We were unsure about the best way to continue our patient testing and to maintain a lean and cohesive team,” says Rahul Yerrabelli, the company’s CTO and a rising junior studying biomedical engineering. “The Summer Award allows our team to work full-time on MoTrack Therapy over the summer so that we can continue our clinical testing, and pursue our business product development efforts.”
MoTrack aspires to develop a computer program that modernizes the physical therapy space and will ultimately increase patient adherence to rehab programs, expedite patient recovery with live corrective feedback and quantifiably show therapists their patients’ progress. The technology the team is developing currently focuses solely on rehabilitation from hand injuries, including wrist fractures and carpel tunnel, but it has the potential to be used for other parts of the body as well.
“Physical therapy is a field that has seen many new devices over the years but that has been untouched by the newest advances in computer science like computer vision and machine learning,” Yerrabelli says. “These advances will dominate the future in almost every field of health imaginable, and we want MoTrack Therapy to be at the forefront of their revolution on physical therapy.”
One of MoTrack’s goals for this summer is to move its clinical testing beyond Johns Hopkins and into other health care providers around the country. Additionally, they will look to their mentors for guidance on how to solidify their business model and how to identify new ways to provide value to employers, insurance companies and other intermediaries associated with patient care.
“With the money we received from the Summer Award, we can finally fund our growth to these other clinics, helping us with the logistical, transportation and time costs,” Yerrabelli says.
Interest in the Summer Award nearly tripled as JHTV received 35 applications in 2017 compared to 13 last year. From those nearly three dozen student ventures, three members of JHTV’s FastForward team ranked 10 finalists based on their in-person pitches. The anonymous donors chose the winner based on how much value they felt the startup would receive from the award.
“There was an extremely strong pool of applicants and selecting the winner was not easy,” says Kasim Ahmad, JHTV’s venture coordinator for student projects. “What set MoTrack apart was their level of commitment, the diversity of skill sets on their team and their plan for executing pilots.”
Last year, Fusiform, a startup led by Param Shah and Alex Matthews that set out to revolutionize the orthotics industry, won the inaugural Summer Award. Shah and Matthews used the funding and mentorship to develop more designs of its revolutionary orthotic, move its enterprise software into two clinics and eventually pivot their business to make it commercially viable in markets outside of orthotics. In January, Forbes named the pair to its 30 Under 30 list.
“Receiving the mentorship of world-class entrepreneurs and advisors at an early stage brought significant confidence to us as founders and to our team,” Shah says. “Additionally, funding from the Summer Award gave us the ability to tangibly grow our company.”
The team at MoTrack sees the Summer Award as only one of the latest ways that Johns Hopkins is supporting student entrepreneurship. Yerrabelli pointed specifically to a new space on the Homewood campus designated specifically for student entrepreneurs and the Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund, which helped MoTrack grow this past year.
“Johns Hopkins has a lot of talent—especially in the life sciences and health arena—and programs like the Summer Award help fill the gap between excellent research in the lab and products that actually make it to market,” Yerrabelli says. “It gives undergraduates the opportunity to think big and stay committed to their own ideas full-time over the summer.”