The founder of a lightweight powerchair designed to cater for more active lifestyles says he needs three more rounds of investment totalling £1.2m before he can bring his product to the market.
Glasgow-based Alex Papanikolaou, who is himself a wheelchair user, founded Freedom One Life five years ago after becoming frustrated with traditional powerchairs on the market which lacked sufficient battery life and tyre wear to suit his active lifestyle.
Papanikolaou hopes to raise the £1.2m in three stages of £250,000, £350,000 and £600,000. The first tranche of £250,000 he hopes to raise via a crowdfunding site called Syndicate Room.
The first set of funding will allow the company to sell “a few chairs” while the second round will allow Freedom One Life to scale throughout the UK. The final £600,000 will be used to bring the powerchair to Scandinavian and US markets.
Papanikolaou told The Herald: “This round is very much the last hurdle to getting to market – we even have customers lined up waiting to buy.”
A number of private investors have already been involved in funding the project for the last few years, including former Scottish and Southern Energy chief executive Ian Marchant, who said the Freedom One Life’s “deep understanding of the customer need and issues with the current products on the market is the company’s biggest strength”.
Papanikolaou has been using his powerchair consistently over the last few years and claims to have already covered thousands of miles in it. The company recently completed the fourth version of the Freedom One which has given it “a more integrated design and look, a tilt function for pressure relief and customisation seating options”.
Last year developers took a prototype to a housing development in Edinburgh for tenants to test out. The focus group consisted of elderly and disabled residents of Abbey Court and got to trial the powerchair and offer feedback so that modifications could be made before it enters the mainstream mobility market.
The company hopes to increase user testing with the money it aims to raise.
“Starting the user trials depends on us securing this funding so that we can progress the development of the chair to a state ready for many different users,” Papanikolaou said.
“We have however engaged with several users and have a constantly increasing waiting list of people that can’t wait to try our chair.”