Where are they now?: Walk With Path

Walk With Path is on a mission to create inclusive innovations that make a positive impact and create products to empower people to take charge and move forward.

Walk With Path began when founder Lise Pape saw the effects that Parkinsons' Disease was having on her father. The startup’s first product was Path Finder, a shoe attachment with a green laser line that projects visual cues onto the floor that guides the movement of the opposing leg. The aim of this product is to reduce Freezing of Gait (FoG) and patient falls which are often caused by FoG. FoG is a symptom of Parkinson’s Disease that causes an individual to feel as though they are frozen to the ground.

Startups Magazine featured Walk With Path back in 2018 in our third-ever edition of the magazine, so we wanted to check back in and see how the startup has evolved, and what lessons Pape has learned these last few years.

What’s new at Walk With Path?

When we last spoke to Walk With Path, it had one product out on the market, the Path Finder, and it was working on its next product that it wasn’t able to speak too much about, but that has all changed.

“The big thing really is that our focus has shifted somewhat. Our first product had a Parkinson's focus, which was very driven by personal experience for me because my father had that condition. But really, as a team, our focus has shifted to this insole product that we're developing that is more focused for people with diabetes,” Pape commented. “In 2019 we got a significant grant from the European Commission to develop that, and that really kickstarted the product as it allowed us to be a lot more focused on it. It also allowed us to start clinical trial work on that product with Manchester Metropolitan as a partner.”

The startup is currently undergoing a lot of clinical trials, Pape divulged: “I'm doing a lot of clinical trial project management. We work with a lot of researchers to validate the efficacy of our solutions. We also have a lot of projects where we can test our products. The core focus for us is the insole product that is essentially an insole that goes into shoes that has a range of sensors that can collect data about somebody's walking, and other parameters, and we're doing a lot of testing with that in people with diabetes. We have a trial at the moment with the NHS at the Royal Free Hospital in Camden, where we're testing with patients and looking at the usability of the solution, which is the insoles, app, and the dashboard for the clinician. We also have trials in other areas with Imperial College and some in the US.”

These clinical trials have meant a shift in the business: “We've also become a lot more digital and a lot more data-driven. Whereas in the past, we were very hardware-focused.”

The highlights

Being a founder and watching your startup grow comes with plenty of highlights, and Pape’s journey is no different.

“We’ve shifted, in 2018 we were a very small team, but we have been able to advance and scale, and move faster in the last few years on development,” Pape mentioned. As the startup has grown, so have the number of people involved, which has meant that Walk With Path has been able to grow and develop on a faster scale, and that was down to securing further funding.

Another highlight, Pape mentioned, has been the clinical work and results that they are gaining from this. “With all this clinical work going on, we have started to see a lot of positive results. We're actually getting the results that we expect, and our hypothesis was correct. So, for instance, we can see that vibrational feedback to the feet, which is what the insole can provide, can help with gait and balance, which is key in the users we are developing for. It’s incredibly rewarding to see that the hypothesis we had can be proven by an external university partner.”

What lessons have been learned along the way?

The startup journey is never straightforward and there can be bumps along the way, but these can lead to founders learning lessons they may not have otherwise.

Patience is a virtue when it comes to the healthtech field, as products can take years to get approved and launched into the general market.

“We got this opportunity to work with Manchester Metropolitan in 2019. We've been working with them on clinical trial work and now we're just about to send something in for publication. So, from 2019 to 2023, it's quite a long time to wait for something to potentially be published (this was also influenced by COVID-19). It's an industry that requires a tonne of patience, and maybe I wasn't considering that so closely when I started out.”

In the long term, healthtech products are worth the wait. Especially when target users feel the benefits of these types of products. Tomasz, a user of the original product, Path Finder, and a Parkinson’s Disease sufferer reviewed the product, saying: “It really helps me move about and stay mobile when in freeze phases, and I feel better protected from potential falls. I like that it's hands-free, not like a stick or DIY solutions I've heard of before.”

Further down the path

“At the moment we have all of these trials and we’re trying to finalise our pilot production of our hybrid tool. But the plan is to launch in the US next year with a commercial partner within the diabetes field that we have signed an agreement with. We're on the cusp of going from being very R&D heavy, to becoming more commercially driven, which is going to be a big change and an exciting one, for sure,” Pape beamed.

This article originally appeared in the November/December issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe