An idea at the crossroads

This month 1MillionCups hosted a pair of inventors with a great idea and an unclear path ahead. Hal Koch, a hiking devotee, and William Haskett, a local maker, presented their Personal Assistive Lift. This device, which Hal demonstrated for the audience, gives those vulnerable to falls the gift of enjoying the outdoors, even rough terrain, secure in the knowledge that they will be able to get up again by themselves. Their lightweight prototype (7 lb) can be carried easily across the back in its sack, just like a folding chair you might tote to a sports event or barbecue. With the aid of a small but mighty motor, it provides the power for someone with strength issues with the boost they need to get back to their feet independently. The deceptively slender lift can support a load of up to 300lbs, as many as four times off one charge.

The team is eager to get their creation to everyone whose life would be improved by it. Right now the plastic parts are 3D printed – a handy technology for innovating but demanding large amounts of time to build the components. They would need to find an avenue to mass produce their invention. But after several other successful business launches, Hal and William are at a point in their lives where they don’t want to spend the time or the energy to start another one without a serious outside boost.

The duo would prefer to manufacture the lifts locally. They also feel strongly that they want to keep the price down, to the point that they do not want to make a profit. This creates some challenges in finding just the right partner who would take the idea and run with it, without a higher sticker price or having it made cheaply in an overseas scenario. As the invention is in a grey area (is it a medical device? sports equipment?) there are also headscratchers involving product liability and testing, but the pair has secured their patent.

While no one in the group had a quick and easy solution to mass production and distribution in a not-for-profit model, our caffeinated crew had several suggestions for national entities that might take an interest. Another audience member strongly suggested Hal and William reconsider offshoring the mass production, arguing that keeping the product affordable should be the number one concern.

1MillionCups would be very interested in receiving an update presentation from these innovators to learn which of their issues they have worked through and what the new landscape looks like.

1MillionCups Central NH meets the first Wednesday of every month to help businesses connect with their community! If you’re an entrepreneur looking to talk about what you’re doing and get feedback and ideas from an audience reach out to us at info@makingmattersnh.org to set up a time to present.

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