Medical assistance technology is notoriously expensive. Mobility aids can cost anywhere from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars, with electric wheelchairs coming in between $1,000 and $50,000. For a lot of people, that isn’t a feasible option.

ABBY by GOGOTECH is a powered mobility device designed to be both high-tech and affordable. We spoke with founder John DeBenedette about his approach to accessibility as well as his designs and plans for the product. 

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Funding Round Details

Security Type: SAFE
Valuation: $10,000,000
Min Investment: $100
Platform: Wefunder
Deadline: Mar 23, 2023
View Deal

In your own words, how would you describe your company?

ABBY is a new personal electric vehicle for adults with reduced mobility. ABBY is loaded with advanced features, including machine vision, IoT infused semi-autonomy, smart push rim technology for power-assisted self-propulsion, and much more. Plus ABBY will be easy to purchase directly online with “buy now, pay later” financing available for around $3,000 (that’s less than half of anything comparable). 

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

Using wheelchairs on and off since an accident in 1985, I know firsthand how difficult manual wheelchairs are to use independently. Unfortunately, powered wheelchairs are heavy, expensive, based on decades-old technology, and distributed through complex healthcare bureaucracy. The more inexpensive mobility scooters are unstable, and handlebars make them hard to maneuver in an indoor home use setting. If you have to be wealthy or well-insured to get a high quality powered mobility device, it means the system is broken. We want to disrupt this status quo and make high-function power chairs safe, advanced, and affordable for everyone who needs them, regardless of income or insurance.

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

I met my co-founder Dr. Clarence Tan, formerly a Singularity University Asia Pacific ambassador, while I was living in Thailand and he introduced me to our lead engineer, Wei Wen Jing, in Shenzhen, China. Wei has designed and built battery electric vehicles for more than a decade. We are a lean but uniquely qualified team and we all share a passion to help democratize powered mobility.

How is ABBY transforming the wheelchair industry?

Our approach to the $7 billion wheelchair industry is an expansion play, geared to disrupt the notion promulgated by the incumbents that powered mobility devices are a privilege reserved for only the wealthy and the well-insured. We plan to accomplish this through a combination of product, business model, and market timing innovations.

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

We look at competition on several indices. When designing ABBY, we started with the most versatile form-factor, a traditional rear-wheel drive with push handles and 24-inch main wheels that are capable of self-propulsion. Then we added smart-push rim technology for power assist, and then a smart controller with machine vision and IoT. 

According to your most recent financial statements, you have $110,000 in cash and dozens of pre-orders with 1,000 on your waitlist. Do you think you will be able to deliver your product on time?

We started the research and development on ABBY in 2018. Prior to launching our community round on Wefunder, we completed the hardware molds and tooling, frame jigs, and our printed circuit board masters (for motor drive and joystick controller), so the most capital intensive aspects are behind us.

Can you tell us about your business to business channel plan? Have you had any conversations about potential partnerships?

We are launching direct to consumer. Onboarding our pre-order customers successfully ourselves is a critical milestone for us. Over time (and we’ve already been approached by some leading channels), we absolutely will look to expand our reach — at least as far as order placement is concerned.

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

We’ve met our first goal already, which means we can produce our first 100 units. We’ll use these 100 units to complete some of the destructive test cases in ISO7176 conformance, a test that determines wheelchair stability, and to fill and onboard selected pre-orders as pilot users, keeping the balance for launch inventory. We need to continue raising to make a few key hires, establish our US warehouse, and continue work on the software before we’ll be ready to begin taking orders to ship from inventory in the first half of 2023.

As you think about the business five to 10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

In the first two years we’re going to stick to our knitting and make sure ABBY is meeting our customers’ needs and we have a working formula before expanding geographically to the top 15 power chair markets and then the rest of the world. We have a rich product road map that increases the versatility both on the hardware and software and robotics side as well as regulatory clearances (so we don’t have to turn away insurance coverage). We’ll balance where we invest in geographic expansion and product road map as we go. We want to live in a world where everyone who needs powered mobility has access to safe, advanced, affordable assistive technology, regardless of income or insurance. We’re focused on launching and growing the business, but it’s no secret that this industry is concentrated and mergers and acquisitions are common. We’ll see what happens.

We look forward to seeing where John and his team take the company. ABBY by GOGOTECH is currently raising on Wefunder.