Having suffered a few broken bones himself through the years, Zeeshan Khan knows there’s an important mental aspect to recovery.
“You have to push,” he said. “You have to remain mobile.”
Those who have suffered injuries can work with a physical therapist, but insurance only covers so many visits, requiring patients perform “homework.” And, Khan learned, only about 35 percent of patients actually do physical therapy at home. So he and a partner came up with a web platform designed to motivate users to continue their rehab.
Zoetic Motion would act as a portal, enabling physicians and physical therapists to assign exercises, with notes and visuals. Users can watch video demonstrations and get real time feedback from matching the motion.
“We’re trying to add confidence and a support factor to the user outside of the clinic,” Khan said.
The initiative is now gaining a boost in the Incubator Program at Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE). The 2-year program helps startups by providing mentorship, connections to investors, an advisory board and more.
Khan’s startup began as a senior project with a different name and goal. Working with another computer science student, two mechanical engineering majors and a business student on a senior project, he co-founded Muscle Ninja, a muscle monitor that was more preventive than reactive.
“What we were trying to do specifically was work on reducing the likelihood of injuries and alert users of the potential for upcoming injuries,” he said. “Specifically, users who are very active. For example, triathletes and extreme runners.”
When multiple members of the project team found jobs and moved on, Khan and mechanical engineering graduate Ivet Avalos forged ahead, taking their idea to the CIE’s Summer Accelerator Program, which provides support to budding businesses.
Once in the program, they began to reflect and then transition after speaking to numerous athletes.
“We actually learned a lot, and we realized the real thing we wanted to try to solve was not necessarily preventing injury but more helping people recover the right way,” Khan said.
With startups, the team is often more important than the initial concept, said Tom Katona, a faculty mentor at the CIE.
“Almost every startup has to pivot and learn their way through initial challenges to find what we refer to as ‘product market fit,’” Katona said. “Zeeshan and his partner Ivet have already pivoted during their journey, which I see as a positive sign because it demonstrates their capacity to learn and adjust to meet the needs of their customers. Many entrepreneurs get married to their original concept and keep pushing it despite mounting evidence from actual customers that they need to modify their business model, so people who avoid this trap are far more likely to be successful.”
Khan and Avalos eventually graduated to the CIE’s Incubator program with their idea. Since it opened in 2010, the CIE has launched over 120 companies that created over 1,000 jobs. The startups currently in the Incubator program focus on new mothers, winemakers, first responders, bakers and artists.
Zoetic Motion targets those with physical injuries, including athletes. Their platform seeks to improve patient adherence while “gamifying the process and rewarding our users,” according to its website.
Jordan said Khan and Avalos work and communicate well as a team – and they brought a useful idea to the table.
“It definitely reminds you to remain mobile,” Khan said.
Having suffered sports injuries that include a broken knee, nose, thumb and wrist, Khan understands the recovery process. He also has a diverse background. He’s currently the president of Color Coded, which provides support to traditionally marginalized students who code; he has served as an ambassador promoting the College of Engineering; and he speaks six languages.
“Zeeshan brings a diverse, well rounded, and unique point-of-view to his startup, which provides a great advantage when thinking through company culture, working through the customer journey, and the overall business strategy,” said Lori Jordan, a Cal Poly alumnus and CIE advisor to Zoetic Motion.
“I like that their idea gives people flexibility and control when it comes to their physical therapy needs,” Jordan said.
Leading a startup suits Khan well. Even before coming to Cal Poly, he envisioned himself as a CEO of his own business.
“I don’t want to be a cog in the wheel at a larger company,” he said.