For individuals working in fields heavily affected by physical performance, bodily protection is important in ensuring safety and longevity. Athletes, especially those in high-impact sports such as football, have to be on guard against injuries that can jeopardize their careers and health. Skelo Wear, a startup out of Columbus, is helping players enhance their performance and increase their skill development with AI-powered protective equipment and devices.
“Right now, we are working on bringing our flagship product to market, which aims to prevent hand and finger injuries, but we’re also testing and optimizing other products as well,” CEO and founder Kenny Anunike said. “We’re extremely cognizant of what athletes go through when they experience an injury, and our technology can help prevent those injuries so they can perform at the highest level as the end user.”
The technology was inspired by Kenny Anunike’s own athletic background. He played college football at Duke University and professionally in the NFL for both the New York Jets and the Denver Broncos, winning Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos in 2016. Throughout his career, he experienced the effect of sports injuries firsthand, something that inspired his vision for the startup.
“I filed for my first patent when I was a student at Duke,” he said. “I studied biological anthropology and anatomy, so with that and my career, I understand what players and coaches would like to see to help keep athletes on the field. We’ve loved the challenge of starting this company from scratch and organically growing this technology.”
The next part of bringing that vision to life is the testing phase before commercialization. For Laila Anunike, Skelo Wear’s chief research and development officer, that means utilizing her background and experience in biotech and clinical trial implementation to ensure the products are reliable, safe, and effective for users.
“We’re undergoing testing that shows the efficacy of the products and their ability to withstand the high-impact forces that athletes experience on the field,” she said. “The experience of being a part of teams that have been at the forefront of bringing new treatments and community initiatives to light has helped me plan out and develop a testing process based on standardized metrics for our products, so that the user can be sure of reliable results.”
Skelo Wear has big plans in the works. It was recently awarded Rev1 Ventures’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Grant, Ohio Third Frontier-supported funds that will help the startup in developing prototypes and protecting its intellectual property. While funding of that caliber is crucial, both Kenny and Laila Anunike are also passionate about the networking and mentorship connections that have brought them to the next level.
“The Grow to Scale initiative at Rev1 has been great in connecting and matching us with diverse mentors as African-American founders,” she said. “It’s been so important to have financial support and mentors who understand what we need to thrive and what we’re trying to do, which is to inspire a global impact through innovation.”