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Redesigned Crutch Developer Gains $450K in Early Funds

Partha Unnava and President Obama

Partha Unnava and the Better Walk crutch with President Obama at the White House Maker Faire in June 2014 (Better Walk Inc. and whitehouse.gov)

17 February 2015. A company developing a more comfortable alternative to standard underarm or forearm crutches, secured $450,000 in its first venture funding round. Financing for Better Walk Inc., a spin-off from Georgia Institute of Technology and based in Atlanta, is led by MB Venture Partners, a Memphis-based venture capital firm.

A broken ankle playing basketball provided the inspiration for Partha Unnava to invent a more comfortable crutch. After suffering six weeks of pain and fatigue from walking on traditional crutches, Unnava used his biomedical engineering education to design an alternative. Better Walk crutches have plates supporting the torso and that users can lean on, putting less pressure on armpits or forearms, especially when in a resting position.

Unnava started Better Walk in 2013, while still a biomedical engineering student at Georgia Tech, with fellow engineering students Frankie Swindell and Andrew Varghese. After completing his studies last Spring, Unnava became the company’s full-time CEO. He raised $150,000 in seed funding, and joined the Zero To 510 medical device accelerator program in Memphis. The company since relocated to Atlanta.

Better Walk adapted modern design and management techniques to get the new crutch into development and production. The company uses lean start-up principles to quickly build and evaluate prototypes, combining product development and market testing to accelerate a product to market with less waste. Better Walk also made its early models with 3-D printing that enabled the company to exhibit at trade shows and get feedback from customer prospects at a fraction of the cost of earlier techniques.

The company’s founders were named Georgia Tech’s biomedical engineering outstanding entrepreneurs in 2014. Unnava also took part in the White House Maker Faire in June 2014, and was named to this year’s list of Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30.”

“The funding will help us to continue down the path of manufacturing and distributing the Better Walk crutch to patients who need it,” says Unnava in a company statement. The company plans to start limited production of the new crutch this spring, largely for hospitals, and scale-up up production from there.

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