Written by Seamus Kelleher.
When you think about physical therapy, you probably don’t think of fun and games. Timocco in Akron, Ohio, wants you to do just that. Timocco is a hands-on, motion-based gaming system designed to develop motor, cognitive and communication skills in developmentally disabled children and adults. The Akron startup is helping patients undergo important, effective therapy while still having fun.
“Our games are designed to get you moving and work towards improving motor, communication and cognitive skills like balance and range of motion,” said Eran Arden, CEO of Timocco. “Our software detects the movement of any rounded red, green or blue object— from something as small as Mike and Ike candy to as large as an exercise ball using a standard webcam.”
Timocco’s 50-plus games are designed to help individuals with a wide range of ailments and debilitations. Individuals with cerebral palsy, for example, can play games designed to help them strengthen muscle groups that have weakened. A typical game might include rock climbing motions to stimulate muscles and improve strength. Individuals on the autism spectrum, similarly, can access activities centered around improving communication skills. New games are continuously being developed, and the company recently launched a rehabilitation platform geared towards adults.
The idea for Timocco started with Sarit Tresser, an occupational therapist in Israel, who noticed improved therapy results when patients seemed to be comfortable and having fun. Along with Shai Yagur, a motion tracking engineer and eventual CTO, they decided to develop a game-centered therapy for children, but needed help. The duo sought out the mentorship of Arden, who operated a startup incubator in Tel Aviv, Israel’s ‘startup capital.’ He was so impressed with the idea that he came on board as CEO. What happened next was a twist of fate.
“I saw a business card lying on a table for Akron’s Mayor, Don Plusquellic. The name caught my eye because Akron looked like ‘Ekron,’ an old city of Israel,” said Arden. “I met with him when he visited Israel and he told me about Akron, Ohio, and the Akron Global Business Accelerator. It sounded a lot like the incubator I was running, and when I finally visited to see for myself, I was even more impressed with their ability to connect entrepreneurs with the surrounding community.”
Technical operations for Timocco are still based in Israel, but Arden decided to explore the potential he saw on his visit to Akron, and in 2015 moved business and sales efforts to northeast Ohio. The company now operates out of office space inside the Akron Global Business Accelerator, a northeast Ohio regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier. The accelerator, Arden says, was instrumental in facilitating Timocco’s smooth move to Ohio, connecting them with investors and potential customers.
Arden has been working to get Timocco into major school districts and hospitals, and has found great success in the short time since the company relocated. Timocco is making a difference in children’s lives in the two largest school systems in the United States, New York Department of Education and Los Angeles Unified School District, as well as closer-to-home school districts like Cleveland and Akron. Arden considers Timocco’s move to northeast Ohio the best decision the business has made.
“If I could give advice to anybody thinking of moving their business, I would say, ‘Forget about New York, forget about Los Angeles. Ohio is where you should come,’” said Arden. “The cost of living, the people here — there is amazing opportunity in Ohio.”