Interview with David Tacconi - EIT Venture Award Winner 2013

Anyone who has experienced physiotherapy knows that it's often a difficult and painful process, lasting for weeks, months or even years. When faced with such an uphill battle, it can be easy for patients to lose focus and motivation, which compounds the problem by slowing the rate of recovery. But what if there was a way to make physiotherapy more engaging? To make it less of a chore and more of a challenge? Riablo, the brainchild of David Tacconi (pictured right) and his company CoRehab, aims to be the answer to those questions.

So what exactly is Riablo? In a nutshell, it's an innovative rehabilitation product that allows patients to perform their usual physiotherapy exercise by playing a video game. The gaming aspect helps to keep patients engaged and distracts them from physical discomfort, while the precise motion sensors help them to focus on their movements. With the added benefit of physiotherapists being able to track their patient's progress remotely, Riablo offers a complete rehabilitation package that could make a real difference to patients' lives.

"We have had tremendous national and international exposure thanks to the award"

The EIT agrees and chose David and CoRehab as their Venture Award winner for EIT ICT Labs in 2013, a move which has brought some great benefits to the company. "We have had tremendous national and international exposure thanks to the award and this was simply great for a start-up company like us!" David shares. "Also thanks to EIT support we have grown, and are still growing, as a company, and have developed business relationships with a network of international partners."

The EIT support he mentions was provided through the EIT ICT Labs Co-location Centre in Trento, Italy. "We have certainly been helped at a local level," David says when asked about his experience there, "but, since the beginning, being part of an international network has made us extend our boundaries. Together with our business developer we are trying to find a path that allows us to scale faster, especially looking at the overseas market where EIT ICT Labs has accompanied our first steps."

"We have been really lucky with our investors…they are really involved in our company on a daily basis"

Even before the 2013 EIT Awards, CoRehab was generating a great deal of interest, securing an impressive €1 million worth of investment. But having investors on board is about more than just capital to David. "We have been really lucky with our investors, Andrea Cappelletti, Vittorio Dusini and Daniel Moran, because they are really involved in our company on a daily basis, and this is a great help for me as a manager and for the whole team," he explains. "Since the beginning, they have helped us to see ourselves as a real company and not just as a start-up. We have constantly tried to understand market needs before investing time and resources in development, in order to better meet those needs and not create great products that there isn't a market for. Our investors have also helped us to access banks and alternative funding sources with competence and professionalism."

Understanding your market and audience is an essential part of any business and an area that CoRehab has paid particular attention to over the past few years. "We made a great effort to meet the needs of our customers and to expand our market by talking to them, understanding their problems and using our skills to solve them," David says. "This way, Riablo has grown pretty fast and we, as a company, are now a team of 11 full-time equivalent employees between Italy and Austria (where we have a subsidiary). We have also expanded our offer with other products like Back in Action, a test for post ACL surgery which is aimed at elite athletes.’’

"Listen carefully to everybody, but stay focused and act fast!"

In terms of their future plans, David remains coy. "In addition to the constant upgrade of our products, at the moment we are working, in a concrete way, on the development of a product which improves the user's approach to home rehabilitation – but I can't tell you more than that!"

Whatever this mysterious product may be, it's clear from the continuing success of Riablo that CoRehab is in a great position to deliver further innovative solutions in the rehabilitation area. Reflecting on his journey so far, David has some interesting advice to those who want to follow in his footsteps: "When your idea starts becoming a reality, everybody has great suggestions for you. But you have to remember that you are the entrepreneur and the founder of your company, and too many good ideas can be confusing and distracting. To summarise, I would put it like this: listen carefully to everybody, but stay focused and act fast!"

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