Halifax-based Axem Neurotechnology is attending the HAX Accelerator in Shenzhen, China, where it plans to complete the prototype of its device, which enhances mental training for athletes.
The company’s co-founders, Tony Ingram and Chris Friesen, are now at Hax, the world’s largest hardware accelerator, as they prepare to begin beta-testing in Canada.
The two PhD students in neuroscience from Dalhousie University are building a wearable device that measures brain activity to help athletes improve the mental aspects of their game.
“We’re also exploring the rehabilitation market,” Ingram, the CEO of Axem, said in an interview. “We think it would provide a lot of value, like for stroke rehab and many other types of rehab, mostly neurological because we measure the brain.”
Axem’s device sits on top of your head, almost like a headband, and records brain activity and function. Its purpose is to allow users to “mentally train” for physical tasks and improve motor function. The device will also connect to a mobile app, which is being built at HAX.
It will still be a while before Axem has its device ready for manufacture but the 14-week accelerator is helping it rapidly develop the prototype.
“In Canada, when we were working on our prototype it would take a couple of weeks to get something like a circuit board,” said Ingram. “It was just a bottleneck. We’d try to fill our time with other stuff, but here it’s just better for rapid prototyping and iteration. You get through more tests and get answers quicker.”
For companies developing complex hardware and software, like Axem, China is the ideal place.
“If you need a part, you don’t need to order it. You basically just go downstairs and find it. There are vendors all over the place.”
HAX is backed by SOSV, a global venture capital firm with $300 million under management. The accelerator offers up to $100,000 in seed funding, mentorship and office and lab space for its participants.
Taking part in HAX builds on the momentum Axem gained in 2017. Late last year the startup was awarded $50,000 as winners of Innovacorp’s Spark Innovation and also became a resident company with Volta Labs in September. Ingram also said Axem received funds from the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program.
Ingram says Axem will tackle markets in sports training and is penning letters of intent with professional sports teams, though he declined to name them. In the fall, Ingram and Friesen plan to be more focused on raising investment.
“We got our working prototype running before we got here,” said Ingram. “The Halifax ecosystem was instrumental in that, and has been so supportive of us.”
“While we’re here in China, we’re not just doing product development; we’re meeting people and doing businesses development.”
Ingram said Axem is looking into the clinical applications of the technology and the subsequent regulatory requirements they would have to meet in the medical device market.