#Power of Businesses l 2021-03-01
Now it’s time to take a look at a Korean business bringing about changes in the global economy with some new ideas.
Today, we’re going to introduce you to WellsCare, a provider of smart healthcare devices that can be used at home. Let’s hear from company CEO Lee Sung-won.
WellsCare was established on June 1, 2018, with the purpose of providing various self-care products that would contribute to improving the quality of life for modern people. The company has a goal of becoming a leader in the global homecare medical equipment market. It provides pain management solutions that enable people to diagnose and treat their pain at home without having to visit hospitals.
Lee has an experience of carrying out a number of medical projects at a KOSDAQ-listed firm that produces medical devices used by hospitals. He made a bold decision to start his own business, in the belief that people would choose home over hospitals when it comes to treatment and healthcare.
WellsCare’s signature product is a small, wearable laser therapy device called IASO (이아소). Lee would sprain his ankles while working out, and he often received laser treatment to relieve pain. He wanted to manage pain at home, and that’s why he came up with this product.
Today, many people use mobile phones and computers for a long time. Due to the excessive use of the display devices, they feel an ache in various parts of the body, including the neck, back and shoulders. Many others also suffer from sports injuries. For women, wearing high heels often may cause a painful foot condition known as plantar fasciitis.
In the past, pain-relieving treatment was mostly for older people. But now, the number of young patients who suffer from pain is increasing more than 20 percent annually. Most of the young patients feel minor discomfort at first. But their conditions worsen, forcing them to visit hospitals. IASO helps users prevent their symptoms from deteriorating and relieve their pain, including chronic ones, conveniently in their daily lives. It can ease pain that cannot be treated by conventional electric massagers, massage guns or LED products.
Shaped like a pebble, IASO only weighs 28 grams. Initially, Lee considered a device that would be as large as a mobile phone. But he accepted advice from his wife, who suffered pain in her wrists and shoulders frequently because she had to take care of three young children. The result was a smaller device with a round shape.
Amazingly, this small machine features cold laser technology that is actually used in pain treatment at hospitals. Various clinical tests show that a cold laser or low-intensity laser therapy is effective in treating or easing chronic and acute pain. Cold laser technology can also be applied to the treatment of hair loss, reduction of surgical scars and diet plans to help people shed weight.
But it was never easy to incorporate the technology into a tiny, wearable device. WellsCare did this challenging job successfully. In recognition of its technology, the company received the Minister of Science and ICT Award in 2018. The key technology applied to IASO is protected by 16 global patents.
IASO is 12 millimeters thick and 50 millimeters in diameter. I’d say that technology used for larger medical equipment at hospitals is concentrated in this tiny area of space. Its features include multi-wavelength lasers, heat therapy and massage capabilities. We changed the product design seven times and also modified the mockup more than five times before completing the final product. Laser treatment equipment to be placed on the body should pass the test of biocompatibility, which is the most difficult part. Our product passed that test and overcame other obstacles to create the world’s only wearable laser pain relief device.
IASO has found markets in the U.S., where it is rather hard to access hospitals, as well as Japan and Southeast Asia. It is drawing an enthusiastic response from overseas markets, where a cold laser treatment is considered very costly. Exceeding its funding target by over 300 percent in the U.S. and Japan, the company was selected for the Amazon Launchpad program that helps startups and emerging brands introduce their innovative products on Amazon. Late last year, WellsCare also became the first Korean startup to sign a contract to enter Best Buy, a large consumer electronics retailer in the U.S.
Innovative medical equipment is highly valued in the U.S. Starting with sales on Amazon, we now sell our products at about 15 local stores as well as 19 b8ta shops, a famous American store dedicated to innovative products. We’ve recently inked a contract with Best Buy to secure orders worth 1.6 million dollars for this year. General consumers like our products, and local clinics and hospitals are also purchasing them in large quantities. It seems the concept of a wearable laser therapy device is well received by consumers in the U.S.
Encouraged by IASO’s great performance, WellsCare has completed the development of a new product, ready to release it in the market. It is also preparing to launch another product for professionals in the second half of this year. Taking a step further, the company is working on the development of a pain management application using AI technology and a digital healthcare platform.
I believe that WellsCare will be able to take another leap forward in 2021. The company grew significantly in 2019, thanks to institutional investment. This year, we plan to grow even further by attracting additional investment. We’ll expand our business in the U.S., in particular. Apart from our entry into Best Buy, we’ve received various proposals from multinational companies in the U.S. We have a goal of leading the global healthcare device market that is currently dominated by firms in the U.S., Europe and Israel. By providing convenient healthcare solutions that are indispensable for people afflicted with various diseases, we’ll grow into a global leading company that gains recognition both in domestic and overseas markets.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has aroused public interest in health, many people are reluctant to visit hospitals. More and more consumers are avoiding contact with unspecified individuals but rather choose to manage their health and beauty at a safer place, namely, home. As a result, homecare equipment is emerging as a hot topic in the healthcare market. Armed with carefully-planned strategies and high technology, WellsCare have met market demands successfully. The company is growing as a global healthcare brand representing Korea.