Five minutes with... Kay Rathschlag, founder of Wearable Life Science, Nuremberg
Bavaria's economy is full of life – and the people who live and work here particularly make the biggest contribution to this. In our monthly “Five minutes with...” section, we introduce an interesting person from business and research. This month, we talked to Kay Rathschlag, one of the founders of Wearable Life Science. The start-up has reinvented muscle training via electrical impulses and offers wearable electronics with its ANTELOPE® active sportswear.
WLS was set up in March 2014 and has already won a host of prizes. That sounds like you got off to a great start on the market!
The three prizes were a big thing for us, and they still are. Not least because each is significant in a different way. For example, winning the Weconomy start-up prize awarded by Wissensfabrik and Handelsblatt gave us the chance to present ANTELOPE® to Germany's top managers – including Jürgen Hambrecht, Chair of the Supervisory Board at BASF, and Roland Berger, Chair of the Supervisory Board at Burkhard Schwenker – during a networking weekend. You don't get an opportunity like that every day. We were also able to impress the expert judging panel at the ISPO BRANDNEW Awards. This enabled us to get a good impression of what experts think of our idea. In contrast, winning the ISPO Public Choice Award showed us that we also appeal to a wide audience.
The core idea is a full-body suit with integrated electrodes. What exactly is so special about this innovation?
ANTELOPE® is essentially a further development of electrical muscle stimulation (EMS). This is an extremely time-saving and highly-effective training for the whole body that has its roots in physiotherapy, although it is being used more and more in the lifestyle segment and by professional athletes. However, existing systems are extremely expensive and can only be used in fixed locations, as the athlete has to be connected to a control unit via cables. We have developed EMS further and are launching a new era in the training sector. For the first time, we have succeeded in integrating textile electrodes into high-quality compression clothing, which feels and looks exactly the same as conventional functional clothing. The impulses are triggered by an electronics unit the size of a smartphone – the ANTELOPE® Booster. This is worn on the side of the body. The system is controlled by an app on a smartphone or tablet.
What is fundamentally new about it – and how does it benefit the user?
We can now design every training session more effectively. With a suit that feels just like any normal sport clothing, we are taking EMS out of the gym and into the great outdoors. Any training location is now possible. This absolute freedom of movement means that ANTELOPE® can be integrated into any training session, in any sport. The user can achieve an even greater improvement in performance in an even shorter time – and at just a tenth of the price of a conventional EMS device.
How do you think the technologies and applications in the field of wearables will develop in general over the next few years?
Wearables are not only being used in the sports sector as healthcare is also a huge market. Just take a look at the history of mankind: people have been running, jumping and fighting for thousands of years. For many in today's society, however, doing regular sport is a real struggle, even though their bodies are capable of doing it. Thanks to our technology, we are not only providing active help for athletes in their training, but are also fighting social diseases such as obesity, arthritis and back pain. This means that absolutely everybody (old or young, sporty or unsporty, fat or thin) can benefit from training with our active sportswear. But development in the field of wearables is generally still in its infancy. Up to now, it has either merely analysed data, such as using tracking devices, or provided active support for athletes like we do. In future, textiles will become even more intelligent. One of our visions is to combine these applications, so that electric muscle stimulation can be controlled automatically using previously recorded data and, above all, accurately.
What support has your company received so far, how did you choose Nuremberg as a location and what are the next steps you have planned in your development?
One of the other founders comes from Nuremberg, so the decision was easy. In addition, Bavaria offers extremely good conditions for start-ups. As well as financing from our own capital and business angels, we also received funding in the form of an investment voucher from the state of Bavaria, for example. In future, we want to concentrate even more intensively on researching the effects of EMS. The studies are being conducted by GLUCE (Global Understanding Center of Electronic Muscle Stimulation). We are one of the founding members of this brand-new interest group, alongside the EMS studio chain FAST FORMS and other experts. Our co-founder Philipp G. Schwarz represents us there.
Would you let us in on your own favourite places in and around Nuremberg?
In Nuremberg, I especially like the old town and the area around the market square and castle. The nearby Rothsee lake is also very pleasant.