When Matthew Rosato’s son was born with cerebral palsy, he took a break from his career to support him. That break turned into Rosato launching a health tech startup that aims to help not only his son but also millions living with osteoarthritis and mobility challenges. Now, the DeGroote MBA graduate is catching the attention of numerous organizations and investors — including the Arthritis Society, which recently awarded him $50,000 to grow his venture.
“My son drives everything but if I can help millions of people in the process of helping him, that’s fantastic,” says Rosato, who completed his MBA in 2012 and also holds a Bachelor of Engineering from McMaster. “I want to change the standard of care. In the coming years, osteoarthritis will put a burden on our healthcare system. We need a way to do personalized medicine.”
Launched in 2018, Rosato’s PROVA Innovations is a startup at The Forge, McMaster University’s business incubator. PROVA has designed the first ever non-invasive, home-based device that guides movement in patients with osteoarthritis, reducing pressure on the hips and knee joints potentially slowing the progression of the disease. By sending cues in small vibrations to the foot, the “smart” in-soles, called WithinStride®, act as a virtual trainer — making them useful for gait rehabilitation.
“I saw gaps in my son’s therapy where the therapist could correct his gait using her hands but when we left therapy, he would forget,” says Rosato. “Our device works in real time, throughout a person’s daily activities.”
To bring his vision to the market, Rosato leans on both his undergraduate education and his MBA. In fact, he says that his time in the MBA program prepared him for the entrepreneurial route through its emphasis on strategy, group projects, time management, and wide-ranging business knowledge.
“The MBA gives you a different way of thinking and helps you consider all angles,” says Rosato. “I had courses on patents, governance, strategy, and evaluation and fundraising, for example, which are all relevant to my business. They gave me a foundation on which to build. Today, as part of the Forge, we’re still very much a Mac-centred company, and I’ve hired 10 McMaster students for various internships and co-ops.”
Currently in the seed round of financing, Rosato is busy finding investors and pitching to community. He says this latest recognition from the Arthritis Society’s first-ever Arthritis Ideator Awards is meaningful. In addition to the $50,000 prize, the win incudes access to expert advice from the Arthritis Society and the broader arthritis ecosystem as well as to people living with arthritis who can support beta testing or provide feedback through focus groups or surveys.
“This win is truly validation for us,” says Rosato, who has also received funding from organizations such as Google and the Ontario Brain Institute.
“They really put us through a due diligence process. When you are an entrepreneur in this space, there are so many components to understanding the business, and the MBA was a great place to pick up those skills. With PROVA Innovations, I know it’s a solid business case because I have the skills from DeGroote to prepare it.”
Clinical trials for WithinStride® are scheduled for next year and Rosato hopes to launch to market soon after. He has already received more than 120 preorders.