The tagline goes, “Use it anywhere, anytime, on the spot.”

This probably would seem cliche for any many products but what about for a portable electrotherapy machine? That is what Taiwan startup U-GYM is offering.

Mark Yu (余福浩), founder and CEO of U-GYM, says that rest and maintenance after working out is actually more important than doing the exercise.

U-GYM helps people massage and relax their muscles right after working out to prevent injuries, and is as effective as receiving electrotherapy at a chiropractor. It is also one of the startups showcasing in TechCrunch Disrupt NY this year.

The News Lens spoke with Yu to learn more about creating the portable massager and what difficulties the company has seen so far.

The News Lens: What inspired you to start U-GYM?

Mark Yu: It started out with me having to go to physical therapy a lot for my shoulders. It was a waste of time and I didn’t have the time to go to the chiropractor for electrotherapy that often.

So I began thinking if it would be possible to build a portable electrotherapy machine that people could use anytime, anywhere, and was effective. Not like the low-frequency ones on the market.

TNL: What are the difficulties you have been seeing?

Yu: First of all, a lot of people didn’t care for the look of our prototype. Second, most people don’t know what electrotherapy is, so our product is very hard to sell. Our biggest challenge is finding the simplest way to make consumers want to buy our product.

We have a high product cost so our unit price is also higher. After a lot of re-targeting, we found that the appearance of our product was most important. The look had to at least reach a certain standard so that users would purchase it after finding out that it is effective.

Our current business model is to let consumers experience our product, whether they are marathons runners or coaches, and asking them to share their experience. We already know that people who try our product are definitely going to buy it. We know this much already, so we need to lower the threshold (for people to try their product) that comes before this.

We also know who are target audience is and what strategy to use, so we need to build our brand, which is what we’re mostly doing now.

Daily health care is what we’re promoting, and when we go to the U.S. and say our product is for preventive and daily maintenance, they get it. But consumers in Taiwan haven’t fully understood this concept yet. They don’t know the restoration and maintenance after working out is more important that the exercise itself.

I think startups that are promoting a certain concept or campaign need to work very hard because of the bad economy. But I think we will survive by doing whatever we can to sell our product.


Photo Credit: Taiwan Startup Stadium

Mark Yu (right), founder and CEO of U-GYM.

TNL: How are sales looking so far? And what future plans do you have in mind?

We have sold nearly 2,000 units starting from last July, and we just launched our Android app. The app integrates social media elements and allows you to share any massage rhythm you create with the app.

Our second product, U-GYM mini, will also launch in May. That will be targeting non-athletes, like office workers, and is only for relaxation.

TNL: What are your expectations of TechCrunch Disrupt NY?

Yu: We’re looking to find the right influencers and partners, like gyms, because one-on-one branding takes too long. We’re hoping to enhance the initial perception of our product at TechCrunch Disrupt. If we have the endorsement of the right influencers, our brand will take off faster.

Finding strategic investors and future agents or marketing channels is another thing we hope to achieve. In Taiwan, we’re focusing on the running industry because that’s the exercise most people are doing at the moment; if expanding overseas, it will depend on what kind of partner we find. Maybe we will start from the body-building industry.

TNL: How do you think the government could better support startups?

Yu: I think Taiwan Startup Stadium (TSS) is doing a good job, but we need more than TSS. It would be great if there were more organizations doing what TSS is doing. Startups don’t need talk of support but help in selling their products. The government uses too little budget in doing work that matters.

It would also make more sense if the government’s KPI for subsidies were, for example, the number of influencers you get with the money, and not just written reports.

The News Lens was sponsored by Taiwan Startup Stadium to attend TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017.

Editor: Edward White