Company Profile: Rowheels, Inc.

Company: Rowheels, Inc.

Products: Rowheels, Inc. is poised to revolutionize manual wheelchair propulsion with new and disruptive technology. Rowheels’ patent-pending product design reverses the standard motion and corresponding forces required to propel a wheelchair forward by allowing users to “pull” rather than “push” the hand rim.

Location: Madison

Employees: Rowheels is a start-up company with two founders, one employee, and early-stage business acceleration services provided by Madcelerator LLC.

Founded: Rowheels, Inc. is the result of a joint venture that began in October 2011 between Madison-based Madcelerator LLC and Florida-based inventor Salim Nasser. Rowheels’ Co-Founder Rimas Buinevicius became passionate about the product idea when he spent nine weeks in a wheelchair due to a leg fracture and suffered the kinesthetic disadvantages caused by standard “pushing” of manual-wheeled mobility. After finding Nasser, who is a NASA mechanical engineer and wheelchair-bound quadriplegic, Madcelerator successfully brought the Rowheels concept to Madison.

Madcelerator is a business accelerator that works directly with select entrepreneurs to guide rapid business development by offering extensive management skills and sourcing working capital to fast-track innovations and create new jobs in Wisconsin.

Leadership: Rimas Buinevicius, chief executive officer; Salim Nasser, inventor & chief technical engineering officer; Jan Moen, operations director of Madcelerator LLC; James Dias, product strategy and marketing director of Madcelerator LLC.

Operations/Market: Rowheels’ strategic business development is progressing rapidly, the alpha and beta prototype stages are complete, and the company is working diligently toward manufacturing roll-out.

The worldwide market opportunity for Rowheels is significant and growing. According to a 2012 WinterGreen Research report, the market for manual wheelchairs was $1.8 billion in 2011 and will reach $2.9 billion by 2018. Wheelchair use in the U.S. is approaching two-million users. Market growth will result from “marked improvements in technology that provide patients and caregivers with better wheelchairs.”

Business Successes: Rowheels is the grand-prize winner of the 2012 Governor’s Business Plan Contest. Rowheels’ first provisional patent applications were filed in April 2012. The company was incorporated in July and began raising angel capital in October. By November, Rowheels hired its first employee and moved into leased space at 2100 Winnebago Street in Madison where R&D, prototyping, manufacturing and assembly operations are now housed. The company is seeking additional funding opportunities and preparing for independent product testing and validation by Georgia Tech’s premier Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheeled Mobility.

Rowheels, Inc. was recently certified as a Qualified New Business Venture (QNBV) under Wisconsin’s Act 255 Early Stage Business Investment Program by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, assisting the business in raising working capital by granting state tax credits to eligible investors. Rowheels has raised over $500,000, with additional tax credits available to qualified investors until March 31, 2013.

Wisconsin Business Environment Benefits: The Madison-based founders credit their early success to leveraging business development expertise here at home — and a tangible product idea. They are working with local vendors and design/manufacturing consultants to refine their products and expand their manufacturing network. They experienced firsthand the collaboration between the private and public sectors in Wisconsin and are active participants in the state’s entrepreneurial networks.

To learn more:

(January 2013)