suitX: “The benchmark for exoskeletons”

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After meeting the suitX team for the first time at SCI Connections in August, PNP Blogger, Nick Struthers, met up with suitX at their facility in Emeryville. As well as reporting on the work they are doing, he was able to catch up with Steve Sanchez, suitX Test Pilot and Nick’s roommate from his spell in SCI Rehab at SCVMC. You should also check out the interview on YouTube Nick carried out with his new friends at suitX which goes into more details about the company itself.

I drove to Emeryville to meet with Steve at the Doyle Street Cafe in Emeryville before visiting the suitX facility. Prior to our brief encounter at the SCI Connections meeting, the last time I saw Steve was one week into my SCI Rehab at SCVMC some 12 years ago. Steve had just completed his six-week stint in Rehab and was leaving to return home. The cafe staff were very accommodating and found a good spot for us in the front of the cafe where Steve would have easy access. Just after 11am, Steve arrived and he greeted myself and my wife Julie with an engaging smile. Surprisingly enough, this was also Steve’s first time in the cafe and it took us sometime to work our way through their extensive breakfast menu. It was great to catch up with Steve and we both gave a whirlwind tour of what we’ve been up to over the last 12 years. Admittedly, Steve’s story was far more interesting than my own. At the third time of asking, the server was finally able to take our order as we were more intent on catching up than concentrating on the menu. Eventually, I ordered an unadventurous egg breakfast while Julie had the Crab Cake Benedict and Steve ordered the Coconut Creme French Toast.

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Steve enjoying the French Toast

Steve has been engaged with suitX now for over 4 years and he is very prominent on all of their media. He’s traveled around the world demonstrating the Phoenix exoskeleton in 4 continents with the suitX team. On top of that, he’s traveled with his partner Ashley Lyn Olson, CEO and founder of  wheelchairtraveling.com and racked up an impressive amount of destinations that would be the envy of any experienced traveler. We then left the cafe in time for our 1pm meeting at suitX and in the parking lot, Steve gave us a sample of the lemon bar he had made himself. BTW, I did try it later that afternoon and was not surprised when it tasted rich and delicious. Steve explained that the new suitX facility in Emeryville which is 180,000 sq ft, is almost 10x larger than the previous Berkeley location and I was impressed by how spacious the facility was. It certainly will be able to accommodate any expansion as the 23 employees only take up a small fraction of the facility. As we approached the main workstation area, Yoon Jeong, one of the co-founders came over to greet us. She then introduced me to Michael McKinley another co-founder and some of the staff members as well as the CEO Homayoon Kazerooni  known as Kaz. We then took a tour of the facility while we left Steve deep in discussion with some of the development engineers.

suitx-team
Raghid Mardini, Steve Sanchez, Brad Perry, CEO Homayoon Kazerooni,       Michael McKinley, Jose Chavarria, and Yoon Jeong with Nick.

As I said earlier, the facility was impressively large and there were multiple areas for all aspects of the design, development testing and manufacturing of the exoskeleton product lines. Yoon showed us the soon to be main entrance to the building, with product display areas and administrative space which when finished will give the organization a more corporate look and feel.

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Yoon, Steve and Nick (Don’t confuse Nick with the test dummy)

Yoon, Kas and Steve were all very accommodating when I requested a brief video interview. Unfortunately, I deleted the video files during my editing but both Yoon and Steve were very understanding and I was able to record Skype Interviews with them both which are now on YouTube. I highly recommend watching the video as it gives a good overview of what suitX are doing now, as well as the exciting direction they are headed in.

I would like to thank Kas and the entire suitX team, especially Yoon and Steve, for taking the time to show me the great work they are doing. I personally am excited about following the progress of this impressive startup organization which has a potentially game changing product line.
NOTE: The San Francisco Spinal Network’s monthly meeting taking place on Thursday, Sept. 22 will feature a demonstration of the suitX Exoskeleton. For complete details, check out our calendar of events.

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