Experienced businessman Craig Downs turned to the Innovation Programme to help bring to market his revolutionary idea – wearable tech that recommends your perfect running shoes. Inspired by a personal passion, mymo was an idea Craig knew solved a real-world problem, but one that pushed him out of his own comfort zone and into the realm of product research and development. He explains how the programme helped him every step of the way.
Explain your business in thirty seconds or less
mymo measures a runner’s gait and uses an Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm to match their running style to the latest shoes on the market. I had the idea after becoming increasingly frustrated after getting injured because I was sold the wrong type of shoes for my own training.
Why did you engage with the Innovation Programme?
I knew I’d identified a real gap in the market but as with all ideas, I knew I needed the right expertise if I was going to really make this happen. The problem is, there is so much advice out there that it can be difficult to know where to start. The Innovation Programme was a shortcut to the right people, the right networks and the most relevant support.
What did you want to achieve when you applied?
I was at the very beginning of designing mymo so I needed help to envisage the entire process of researching, developing and launching the product. Innovation Manager Gillian Middleton explored how the programme could help to maximum effect. I already run a successful communications company but I was acutely aware of the fact that my existing business knowledge didn’t extend to product design and the retail environment. Gillian made sure that didn’t hold me back.
Can you explain how you were supported?
Gillian helped me to access innovation grant funding, tap into expertise and networks and provided me with endless encouragement. Firstly, we split the project into four work packages to manage the work involved and to make the most of the support available. This work included creating a hardware sensor that collects the data, a sock which houses the sensor, an app and content management system and finally AI that translates this data into a recommendation for the user.
I was really keen to make this a product of the North East so wanted to keep any technical collaboration as close to our doorstep as possible. The Innovation Programme provided match funding so I could bring in the support of Northumbria University’s computing science department to develop the algorithm. This is where the magic really happens because it’s where numbers are turned into a practical recommendation to help runners make sense of the confusing array of products that are on the market to find a shoe that’s right for them. The project also resulted in the university publishing an academic paper on the accuracy of the work, which gives customers real confidence in our product.
What was the impact of the programme?
Simply put, it turned an idea into reality. We launched mymo at the end of October 2020 after four years of research and development. If it wasn’t for the referral to the programme from Louise Hardy at the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) then I honestly don’t know if we’d have got here! Louise and Gillian helped me to keep focused and believe in my idea and focus on the end goal. The funding really helped when trying to get a new idea off the ground and I couldn’t have done any of it without the right connections.
What’s next for your business?
We’ve gone live with mymo and the hard work really starts now! Our marketing plans are in full flow and it’s exciting to see sales coming in from runners around the UK. We also have plans to extend mymo into the USA and Europe and have started looking at how we can extend the existing technology into other sports such as hiking and golf.
We’ve just secured external funding to explore how we can adapt mymo for the healthcare market by using two sensors to assess gait and mobility of older people and the ability to identify early intervention and monitoring of any gait abnormality, pathological gait or specific gait deviations. In 2021, we will be undertaking some quantitative research with Northumbria University to work with clinicians and patients to wear our technology at home to collect gait data that clinicians would usually need to gather within a clinical setting. This will not only free-up clinicians’ valuable time but also encourages free living within the home, which aims to avoid stressful and inconvenient clinical appointment where possible. So, what started out as an extension to my running hobby is now leading to a very exciting place that has potential to change the entire direction of my career and even my life.
For more information on mymo visit www.mymo.co.uk
The North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) has received £899,250 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund for the North East SME Innovation Programme 2 as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.