“Nowadays, everything is all about digitalization -and we do believe this is an essential component of technological progress- but we still believe in the potential of matter and material exploration.”
Read this interview with the great team of MotorSkins and learn more about their ideas and great vision behind it!
Give us your 30 seconds elevator pitch. What is it that you are working on? And who are the masterminds behind your idea?
MotorSkins develops soft-robotics solutions for human-machine interaction, using fluid-driven textile-based devices to assist and support human locomotion. We harvest the potential energy in a person’s gait and use each step to power the next one. We also have a great team with combined expertise in the fields of industrial design, chemical engineering, business development, soft robotics, biology, medical devices, material science.
How did you find each other (cofounders) and what was the final moment, when you decided you’re going to found a company together?
Facundo and Juan met during their master’s in open design at Humboldt University Berlin (HU) and the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA). MotorSkins itself derives from Facundo’s bioinspired design concept for assistive technology and Juan’s vision for the project as a business. They pitched the project at a competition, where they lost, but which would eventually lead to them meeting their last co-founder, José. He fell immediately in love with the idea and joined the team, bringing engineering and materials expertise.
Why did you decide to start working on a hardware idea?
Facundo is an industrial designer and José a chemical engineer. Nils loves to make bio-inspired soft robots. Even Juan, the business guy, did a few semesters of engineering: we are intrinsically hardware people (:
Nowadays, everything is all about digitalization -and we do believe this is an essential component of technological progress- but we still believe in the potential of matter and material exploration. We like to explore the possibilities of a given material and the properties that emerge when arranged in certain ways, making textile-based materials into metamaterials, looking into natural and biological shapes and principles for inspiration.
Why did you choose the city of Berlin to found a company? Do you think the city has an impact of how successful your project will be?
It’s not so much that we chose Berlin, but rather that it chose us. We came here to study, with no idea of whether we were going to even stay here or not. As it turns out, the rich startup scene of Berlin was the perfect soil for MotorSkins to flourish.
If you could have one additional skill in your team, who would get it, what would it be and why?
We are very proud of the mindset and the variety of backgrounds inside of our team. The next team member will be a physician. So far we’ve always received medical advice from mentors and our extended network. We want, however, to have this input in the loop of our design flow. In this regard, we are already talking with someone. The other expertise that we could use is fashion design for sportswear construction.
What do you want to achieve with your startup apart from getting money and fame? 😉
MotorSkins aims to become a lab for soft robots that enhance human movement. We want to make the world a more inclusive place, bringing people together through movement. We
see ourselves as an R&D-based company, keeping the user at the center of our design and thinking out of the box in the pursuit of disruptive yet simple solutions.
What was your biggest fuck up during your startup career?
We had many fuck up stories, and they tend to follow a pattern: we dream big! However, that means that sometimes we get ahead of ourselves. When the timing is not right, opportunities can fall through and it can end in disappointment. However, we stand by our decisions and believe in taking risks. Otherwise, how will you grow?
Which is the part of running a startup, that scares you the most and which is most fun?
The unknown. Manpower is a limited resource in a young startup. That means everyone has to take on different roles, which in turn means a lot of the time we face new challenges we’ve never faced before. It’s like skydiving for the first time: you take a leap of faith, then you freak out and wonder why you are even doing this, before gaining control of your descent and enjoying the smooth ride to your target. It was scary, but fun, and you can be proud of what you’ve achieved.
Would you rather have one real get out of jail free card or a key that opens any door?
That’s easy: the key! With the right key, you will get in and out!
When was the last time you really celebrated a success and what was it about?
Last Friday, we had our first real party, to celebrate that we obtained the Exist-Gründerstipendium and the incorporation of our company.
If you could change your life with every person in the world right now - would you do it? And if yes, with whom?
General rule of thumb: no, we are in the path we want to be. That being said, we would like to be in the shoes of Elon Musk for a couple of hours. Then we could visit MotionLab, get to know MotorSkins and invest heavily in them.
Why are you at MotionLab.Berlin?
You know that moment in every relationship when you take it to the next level by bringing your toothbrush over? That’s what it’s (literally) like. We feel at home, now, thanks to an amazing team that has supported us since the very beginning and to a great network of experienced and highly motivated members always willing to give a hand or a piece of advice. On top of that, we have access to all the machines we need for inhouse development, which immensely speeds up our fail-and-improve cycle.
Would you rather have the skills to see 10 minutes into your future or to reset what happened in the last 10 minutes?
Ten minutes into the future, for sure. We are always working to make the most out of the opportunities that present themselves to us, actively seeking them out. What better way to stay on top of things than seeing something before it happens? Information is key!
What is your favorite song, that motivates you and brings you through a tough working day?
What is the current status quo of your company?
We’ve developed what we call a demonstrator -an alpha version, if you will- for our gait assistance product, which we want to certify in the long term as a medical device. Now, we are momentarily pivoting to a lifestyle product, which we can bring faster to market. Both products are related, so co-development is possible. What we need to do now is to test the market and verify our assumptions for this new product. We are validating our market fit and our go to market strategy.
Are you currently looking for something specific? Investors, specific knowledge or positions?
We will open for private investment at the end of this year. We are looking for cooperation possibilities with producers of medical garnements or sportswear right now, as well as suppliers of technical textiles and later in the year partners for production.
And also looking for, keep our organic growth through funds.
If the 14 year old you would read this interview, what is the one thing you want him to know?
Dreaming is good, doing is better.
Even our most random walks and paths make sense when we look behind, as they’ve brought us where we are. Patience and intuition, Junge.
You will be right where you dreamt of.
Who is probably the proudest person in your circle of what you have achieved in the last years?
It’s hard to say… Everyone is so supportive in our network! Aside from our families, we can definitely name Anastasia Zagorni. She is the program coordinator of DesignFarm Berlin, the design-in-tech accelerator of the Kunsthochschule Weißensee in which we took part. She has seen us grow from DesignFarm to recipients of the EXIST-Gründerstipendium, where she is also liaising with us. She really has shared our successes and our defeats, and always pushes for more, because she knows we are capable of it!
When was the last time you got really sick of what you are doing and why?
As a startup we often have to work under great pressure to meet a deadline. This generally results in small marathons of working 12hs per day for several days in a row. Afterwards, you are just tired. Even though it’s part of the game, we’re getting better and working hard on management and organization so that it happens less and less often.
If someone invested 1 million euro in your startup tomorrow, what would you use the money for?
Team, team and team. We want to scout the most talented, crazy and motivated people to have a cross-disciplinary team that can address complex problems and provide new
solutions. We would also invest in machines, infrastructure, business development, production, marketing,… oh, wait, did we only say 1 million?