Caring for patients using virtual reality

With is neurological rehabilitation system, MindMaze is now worth over a billion dollars, making it the first Swiss unicorn.

MindMaze is a spin-off from the EPFL which has revolutionized neurological treatment with a technology that facilitates and accelerates the rehabilitation of CVA (stroke) victims via virtual reality.

"In the event of lesions on the brain, the first three or four weeks afterwards are absolutely critical," explains Pierre-Emmanuel Meyer, CFO of the company. "The MindMaze team, who all have a neuroscience background, have therefore looked to develop a system which can act rapidly on neurological rehabilitation."

Thus was born MindMotionPRO, a platform which combines brain sensors, cameras, and artificial images; it enables patients to follow a series of exercises, see their movements reproduced on a screen by an avatar, and then correct them. Performances are shown as scores, like in a video game. This fun software is available in two formats: one for hospitals, and the other – which is portable – for clinics or rehabilitation at home. Both versions are now being used throughout Europe.

MindMaze has 75 employees, around 60 of them in Switzerland, and has opened a sales office in Germany and one in the UK. The company has also decided to try to conquer the USA, purely for clinical trials at the moment, however.

Market availability is limited to Europe at the moment with the exception of India, which is where founder and CEO Tej Tadi hails from. Indian group Hinduja has invested 100 million francs in the Vaud-based start-up, enabling MindMaze to reach the billion dollar threshold and making it the first unicorn in Switzerland.

Tadi arrived in Switzerland in 2004 to begin his studies at the EPFL. Three years later, he presented his invention in an article entitled "Video Ergo Sum" (I see, therefore I am), published in the Science journal. While he was still finishing off his thesis, the first MindMaze tool saw the light of day in 2011 at the CHUV. In 2016, Tadi won the prestigious Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur of the Year" award in the "Emerging Entrepreneur" category.

The start-up was aiming for a turnover of 10–15 million francs in 2017, and in the future is looking to provide systems for degenerative neurological diseases and pain management, as well as establish themselves in the US market.

A valuable support from the Economic Promotion

MindMaze has received various awards, including ones from Venture Kick and Venture Leaders in 2010, Innogrants in 2011, and the IMD business school in 2012. "All of these different kinds of financial support encouraged our growth," explains CFO Pierre-Emmanuel Meyer. "We have received a lot of aid from Switzerland overall and from the canton of Vaud in particular." The company also received a grant of 100,000 Swiss francs from SPEI. "That enabled us to invest in training, build our prototype, and take part in exhibitions abroad".

MindMaze maintains very close links with the EPFL, which constitutes an important source for recruitment in a specialized sector, and some of the company’s research is still carried out on the campus. "We are one of the leading start-ups that emerged from the EPFL and they still often cite us as an example." "The Foundation for Technological Innovation (FIT) also gave us incredible support," adds Meyer. MindMaze is incidentally one of the first entities to have paid back the entire 500,000 franc loan which it benefited from.