An AT Innovator Case Study: Amparo

Global Disability Innovation Hub, Catherine Holloway, Dr Ben Oldfrey, Dr Rhys Williams
Dec. 3, 2020
Germany, Africa

This innovation case study presents learning and insights gathered through interviews with Lucas Paes de Melo, the CEO of Amparo, to discuss the journey so far of prosthetics company, Amparo. Rather than focus on the product, this insights report provides an honest reflection of the journey to establishing an assistive technology company and delves into transferable insights. In doing so, we aim to provide insights to help current and future AT entrepreneurs to see behind the curtain of working in this space.

About Amparo

Growing out of Berlin, Germany, Amparo started in 2014 as a university project, where the goal was to create a better solution for people who need lower-limb prosthetics, particularly in lower and middle-income countries. Using a design-thinking approach, the team started by visiting prosthetics clinics and spoke to prosthetists and prosthesis wearers in South Africa to understand their needs. In doing so, they came up with the idea for an easy to fit, durable and mouldable socket. They believe a socket which can meet these needs would be able to address the demands of prosthesis prescription in low-resource healthcare systems.

For Amparo to get to where it is today, the journey has been challenging. To get their socket technology to where it is today, they have had to take the difficult path of keeping manufacturing and product research and development as close to home as possible. Flying against the conventional wisdom of external manufacturing has meant a steep learning curve, many painful mistakes, and the burden of upfront costs. However, to create a socket which is fitted in an entirely new way compared to the industry standard and to use a highly customised material, the difficult path was the right one to take.

Highlights

  • Amparo is a prosthetics company which aims to create lower-limb sockets which are easy to fit, remouldable, and cost effective over the long term.
  • The company started out in LMIC markets but struggled to develop their product and attract investment whilst being based out of Berlin. Amparo pivoted to establish a sustainable business in their home location of Germany first. They are now re-entering LMICs.
  • To get to where they are now, Amparo have had to learn the right approach for manufacturing and product development, selling to sceptical customers, and team restructuring.

Insights from this Case Study

  • For international startups who want to make a difference in LMICs, you may have to start in your local region and then return to LMICs when your business is stable, and your product is appropriately developed.
  • Innovative products and services in prosthetics may require a high-touch sales process which reaches multiple stakeholders. Product demonstrations and samples can make a meaningful difference.
  • The 'good-enough' fallacy can still be present when looking to make AT for LMICs. Preconceptions therefore can make obtaining objective product and business feedback challenging.
  • Keeping manufacturing as an internal process can help you iterate your product faster and add value to your business in terms of IP- but it won't make your life easy.
  • It isn't just about the skills of the team; team dynamics are crucial. If the team dynamics aren't right, taking the painful decision to restructure may be the only way forward