We are back with part two of the icho systems story with CEO Steffen! If you missed part one make sure to go and read that right here on the News Portal. In our last instalment, Steffen introduced icho systems and the first impacts that him and his team felt on the business, including how their decision to re-locate their production at very short notice enabled them to continue even during the first lockdown.
Today the story continues and we find out what 2020 was like for Icho systems, how they diversified their activities and their plans for the future.
How did you diversify your business in response to COVID-19?
In 2020, ichó was introduced in the professional elderly care sector in Germany. Here, ichó makes an important contribution in supporting the social care of nursing home residents and enhances their quality of life.
As we are still very much in the early stages with our product and ichó is in its roll-out stage, diversifying quickly was a big challenge for us. We have used the time to expand our product range for the many requests from the field of disability care and support for children. We had already identified this potential for diversification a while ago, and saw this as a good opportunity to expand the product range with new apps.
We are currently in various pilot testing stages with ichó in new settings. This includes the rehabilitation of stroke patients as well as speech therapy. The first feedback from the pilot phases looks very promising, but Covid also affects these specific use cases quite significantly and all processes run much slower than usual.
At the same time, we have noticed that our online formats for courses and product demonstrations are much more in demand and much better accepted. We are very happy that we had already gained initial experience in this area in 2019 and were thus able to build on it and continue to improve in 2020.
How do you see the future of your company?
I think we are have not seen the last of, nor are we over the Corona peaks, but overall these times have built up our confidence and resilience. We are very excited about the pilot stages of ichó and the upcoming results with people with disabilities and especially with children. We cannot wait to get going again, and for us that just means working with people directly.
I think that the pandemic has made one thing extremely clear: social care for people in need of assistance is not a luxury, but an essential part of life. I think many people have become aware of this through the periods of forced isolation. As humans we function in communities, we need them, for the social exchange and social environment. If we lack this, we fall apart and develop psychological health problems.
At ichó we all feel that we are on the right track to being able to make a big impact and to create an offering to improve the way we serve this demand. Things are slowly getting better thanks to vaccinations, but we are still far from getting back into a reliable planning mode. This modus may be a strength with young start-ups, but we are still very much looking forward to the first trade fairs and conventions being safely open again.
Thank you to Steffen to sharing the icho story with us! To find out more about icho and what they do, be sure to visit their website.
Do you have a story to tell? Do you know of inspiring entrepreneurs and SMEs that have pivoted and adapted? Get in touch and help us tell their stories right here on the News Portal.
Today on the News Portal we are re-introducing you to a familiar face: Steffen Preuß, CEO of icho systems GmbH. We first met Steffen when he represented Germany during Ideas from Europe in 2017, and again when he was the German representative in the Secrets of Success brochure 2018-2019 edition.
We are catching up with Steffen to see how icho systems GmbH has developed and how he and his company have been navigating the challenges and uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your company?
I am the co-founder and CEO of icho systems GmbH. Our young company develops smart therapy devices for the healthcare market, especially for people with dementia. The ichó therapy ball is our first product, the therapy ball combines different therapy methods with the advantages of digital products in one device. Equipped with state-of-the-art sensor technology, ichó detects all interactions, no matter whether it is caught, thrown, touched, shaken or just held. ichó reacts to these interactions with a colourful light, vibration, sound and music. On this basis, the ichó apps enable various individual training activities, according to the needs of the user.
What is particularly exciting here is the possibility of data logging. Since ichó can measure continuously during the application, the data obtained can provide useful insight into disease progression and developmental progress. We have already received several awards for this innovation and have been able to succeed in a wide range of competitions. ichó has therefore already been exhibited in the USA and has also been able to gain recognition in Europe through “Ideas from Europe“.
It inspires us as much as ever to see how dementia patients start singing, laughing and dancing again with ichó. It is amazing what abilities can be brought back through the right encouragement and how vitalising this is for all involved. Not only do the residents benefit from this, but also the nursing staff. Relaxed residents and a less stressful environment simplify the work in many ways and enable a fulfilling and collaborative atmosphere with each other.
What was the first impact of COVID-19 on you and your business?
The ichó therapy ball was launched at the beginning of April 2020, but we experienced the first effects of Covid much earlier. We were just in the final stages of serial production at the end of 2019 when the first suppliers began to experience difficulties with delivery, which is why we transferred all ichó production to our offices at relatively short notice. This turned out to be the right decision, as we went into the first lockdown only two weeks later.
By transferring our production, we were at least able to maintain our serial production, even if only to a limited extent, and to produce the first ichós. This helped us to successively supply all pre-order ichós over the course of the next few months, even if only in stages.
The thing we immediately experienced was, obviously, the access to the market and to the customer. All the fairs and conferences we had planned for 2020 were cancelled, but what was particularly difficult was the closed care facilities and having no access, due to people in need of care naturally being part of a particularly high risk group for infection.
This put us in a difficult and complex situation, as our product and what it offers applies not only to the end recipients but also to all volunteer caregivers or relatives. With the lockdowns the need for social care increased enormously, especially for people suffering from dementia.
These were and are still very difficult times for all those in need of care.
To find out what came next for Steffen and the ichó systems team, and to learn more about the experience make sure to come back to the News Portal for the next part of our interview with Steffen.
Have you read our other COVID Stories featuring Catherine Lorent, a Belgian seamstress who helped out by making masks and hospital gowns, or the e-heath solutions developed in the Netherlands or COVID specific hackathons in Greece and Turkey? Read more right here on the Portal.