Hx Innovations got off to a quick start by proving that a compelling idea that addresses a real problem – in this case, letting coaches and trainers track and manage performance and improve return-to-play plans for optimal player health and safety – can gain widespread traction.
In the last few years, Hx Innovations, the Wilmington-based biotech company has been selected as Technical.ly Delaware’s 2021 Startup Business of the Year and as a member of the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation’s Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (E3). It’s also received funding from the National Science Foundation, $50,000 in Delaware Technology Innovation Program bridge funding and $60,000 from the Startup302 pitch competition.
Chief executive officer Nicole Homer, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in logistics and holds an MBA from Liberty University, co-founded Hx with her husband, Dr. Von Homer, who developed The Homer Technique, which pinpoints the exact muscles that are susceptible to injury. The couple’s roots run deep in Delaware. Both graduated from William Penn High School in New Castle, Nicole earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Delaware in Newark, and Von earned his doctorate and is an assistant professor at Delaware State University in Dover.
Hx’s neuromuscular technology lets coaches and trainers measure human movement analytics using artificial intelligence within a portable wireless camera, giving trainers and coaches the information they need to keep players safe and protect against sprains, strains, and joint injuries.
Nicole, who was named 2022 Young Woman Professional of the Year by the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, recently shared her thoughts on innovation:
You need the support of the community to grow and develop, right? Delaware was perfect for us to scale and have the collaborations and the partnerships needed to do that. Within a hundred-mile radius of Wilmington, there are more than 1 million athletes, so our target audience is right here. There are many athletic teams, colleges and professional sporting teams within a two-hour radius that could benefit from our technology.
Delaware is just small enough to make a really big impact and has great networks here that we’ve taken advantage of. Being embedded in the community, having connections with the community already and having so much reach and access to our target customer is why we decided to be here as opposed to other places we could have chosen.
You need to see beyond the weeds and get out of the lab. A lot of scientists really want to perfect the science. They want to perfect the product, but you can’t cross that plane of commercialization until you put it out there in the world. We found we were using too much jargon to explain “neuroergonomics” and used our first $15,000 grant to focus on getting the marketing messaging together.
You need more than one type of marketing messaging. You need a long pitch where you can have a whole conversation about what you do and dive into those details, but then have a short and snippy, boom. Our short one is “We test your movement” while our longer one is “We use computer vision technology to collect movement and our propriety software to measure neuromotor activity to help coaches and trainers evaluate player performance and injury risk.” That’s a mouthful, but there are some people who want all that.
You have to be able to go granular or broad. You also need to be able to see where you are and who you are and then find the resources that set you apart as a business innovator as well.
Take the time to brainstorm a business plan that includes sales strategy, pricing strategy and market analytics. You can have your business plan, but then you must test that hypothesis. We didn’t take into account how long that process would take. I would encourage new innovators to take the time to really do a lot of market research and then allocate time during the pre-launch stage to test your assumptions. Also, I’d advise innovators to be extremely patient and allow yourself the grace that you’ll need to grow into whatever role you’re going to ultimately become.
Around the company, I’m known as the guardian. I’m the “no” person. I say, “Let’s look at the liability and the risk and make a plan. Let’s assess the whole thing. And my co-founder is more of a “let’s just put it out and see what happens” person. I think you need both types of people to be successful.